When we see industries change quickly, the reason is usually obvious with hindsight. Whether the sector is banking or home furnishings, there is always an innovation or event that makes the transformation possible.
Ordering a mattress online is feasible because of the tech that enables Purple, Casper and others to shrink-wrap a mattress and allows the consumer to expand it later. Smartphone capabilities increased dramatically once mobile speeds could unlock the potential of new apps. Where change occurs, consumer demand follows.
The Modern Banking Platform Is Here
You might think that banking services are omnipresent, but according to the FDIC, 22% of U.S. households are either unbanked or underbanked. Lacking bank accounts and access to other traditional financial services, such households have tended to rely on cumbersome and costly financial instruments like money orders, check-cashing services and payday loans.
Today, technology is presenting better, more accessible alternatives. The biggest sector for growth in financial services is digital-only banks like Chime and Bambu or digital-centric ones like Germany’s Opel Bank. The last two are powered by FIS’s new Modern Banking Platform. The fintech giant has been around for 50 years and is now powering a new wave of banking ideas.
As consumers of financial services, we are open to new alternatives once we realize that all kinds of banking functions can be done online or through an app. Even before the pandemic, Capital One was running ads that de-emphasized the need for the in-person branch.
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With its new SaaS product, FIS is opening up possibilities for banks of all shapes and sizes. The cloud-native platform allows its customers to customize and scale capabilities, achieve regulatory compliance and get creative offerings to market quickly, enabling banks at all levels to compete successfully.
As in any industry, once the backend technology catches up with consumer demand, the changes accelerate. Expect most people to be banking on their phone and exploring other digital solutions over the next few years.
Shopping for the Home Has Changed for Good
It wasn’t too long ago that people were afraid to buy big items — say, couches — online. Wayfair, Article, Poly & Bark and their kind overcame this reluctance by offering a plethora of choices and unparalleled convenience.
The combination of quick shipping, customization, low prices and relaxed (even free) return policies shifted customer preference away from brick-and-mortar toward these direct-to-consumer options. Now the same is happening with large wall art.
In the past couple years, there have been more than a few entrants into the space once dominated by Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target and Home Goods. Yet these sellers weren’t providing the custom options and styles that Gen Zers and Millennials craved.
BIG Wall Décor has found the right solution for the Instagram generation. Building on its successful commercial signage and light box business, BIG prints art on a new woven material that clicks into ready-to-assemble metal frames. This allows the company to ship 4×6-foot wall décor in a compact tube direct to the consumer.
Add influencer-curated styles, fast shipping and the ability to swap out art quickly when new styles emerge, and BIG is growing quickly as an alternative to the home retail mainstays. Each piece of art on its site is by a real artist looking to promote their dream career. The story behind the art speaks as much to today’s online consumer as the art itself.
A Pandemic Changes Schooling Forever
When 2020 began, Schoology, a leading online learning platform, was a valuable complement to in-class instruction. At the time, the learning management system (LMS) vendor provided a nice-to-have product to 10 million users in school districts across the country.
Then Covid-19 struck. With kids sent home and teachers scrambling to master online instruction, portions of the LMS experienced a 400% increase in usage over previous highs. Today, the ongoing pandemic continues to drive demand for distance and hybrid learning options. As a result, the company’s user base has more than doubled to over 20 million and counting.
Schoology has had to work hard to make sure its product could handle this flabbergasting increase in demand. It’s upgraded the product’s infrastructure, enhanced its auto-scaling feature, improved communication capabilities and beefed up controls. It’s unlikely the company was anticipating this level of tech investment at the beginning of the year.
With effective Covid vaccines on the horizon, a return to “normal” school is something we can start to envision. But it’s unlikely that things will go back entirely to the way they were. More than half of teachers and students now prefer online education for its flexibility, so distance learning is, in some form, here to stay.
We live in an ever-changing world; sometimes this change is incremental, and sometimes it’s cataclysmic. In either case, consumer demand changes in response.
The banking and retail examples highlight how changing technology capabilities can unleash nascent consumer demand. The online learning example shows how a tsunami of consumer demand can drive changes in technology. Whether you’re facing a tech change that’s transforming your industry or a demand-doubling year, you need to be constantly innovating and thinking through new challenges.