Recently, Amazon’s CEO Andy Jassy declared that this year he would invest even more capital in the company’s physical stores, even though these are not as successful as had been expected at first. This was one of the major blows that this e-commerce giant experienced in recent years, together with their failed endeavor of end-to-end online supermarkets. How could this be? If people prefer buying electronics and clothes online, why are so many of them still reluctant to buy groceries the same way?
My name is Ofir Bar, an investor with a quarter of a decade of experience in worldwide markets, and a special interest in entrepreneurship and innovation. Naturally, I’m a big fan of people and ideas that renovate existing services, making them more efficient or easy. Nevertheless, I believe that no matter how fast technology progresses, some ‘low tech’ aspects of our lives are here to stay anyway. Well, at least as long as Gen X and Y are active consumers. Buying groceries is one of them, but there’s more to it.
How technology has changed our daily conduct
Our lives changed drastically with the arrival of the internet and smartphones – and that can be felt in almost all aspects of life: When was the last time you asked for directions from a stranger? Or the last time you purchased an actual newspaper, and read a column written by a journalist whose perspective is opposed to yours? These are just two small examples of daily actions that have almost completely vanished from our world because of technology.
Of course, this shift of daily actions from the physical world to the virtual one has benefited us in many ways. For example, nowadays, it’s almost impossible to get lost, even if it’s your first time in an unfamiliar place (assuming your phone’s battery isn’t dead). You have access to vast information about anything, anywhere you go… the pros list goes on and on. That said, all these cool and helpful perks may sometimes make it easy to forget that the virtual world also has some significant disadvantages that cannot (and shouldn’t) be ignored.
A reason to get out of the house
The always-available virtual world has been with us for quite a while. At first, people were enthusiastic about the possibility to perform a wide set of daily actions in a much easier way. That said, after the enthusiasm subsided a bit, many of us found out that all these technological advancements have caused us to drift apart from one another, and the physical world – a significant cause of depression, loneliness, and deterioration of the body and mind.
A good example of this is dating apps: Up until a few years ago, there was a wide consensus that these virtual hubs are THE place to get to know potential romantic partners. These days, however, many people, sick and tired of feeling that they are being played by algorithms, are deciding to abandon dating apps in favor of alternative methods of finding their chosen one. Matchmaking, a profession that has almost passed from the world, is making a comeback. Other people look for their partner through mutual friends who ‘recommend’ them. Some even go entirely low-tech by – heaven forbid – seeking a partner by themselves, in the real world.
Yes, even today, when it’s possible to perform so many tasks in the virtual space, people still strive for ‘real’ existence. They want to seek their partner themselves, instead of relying on some dating app algorithm. They want an excuse to get out of their houses. They want to feel and smell the food they wish to buy before they put it in their shopping bag. They want to use technology as a means to improve their lives, not take it away from them.
How low-tech can you go?
It is possible that Gen Z will completely adopt online grocery shopping. That said, even assuming that’ll happen, keep in mind that a massive portion of your potential clients still wishes to leave some aspects of their lives in a ‘low tech’ status – a fact that no entrepreneur should ignore. For this reason, I believe that some innovations, no matter how groundbreaking they are, are set to be accepted with a cold shoulder from many potential clients. Remember that before investing top dollar in your next idea.