Expert insights: an interview with John Morris, CEO at UK2 Group.
From the early days of internet adoption to today’s mobile world, the way we live our lives in both the business and personal space has changed beyond recognition. We had a discussion with UK Group’s CEO John Morris – which makes him WestHost’s CEO – about how digital disruption has shaped his career, and is likely to shape the careers of this generation.
How has the digital landscape changed the way entrepreneurs do business over your time working in the industry?
I spent the early part of my career working for a large travel company at the time when the office was still full of typewriters, filing cabinets and paper everywhere! The launch of email had an immediate impact on improving productivity and revolutionized the way we work. Whereas the launch of the internet at the end of the last century of course was a massive turning point, but it took longer than I envisaged for it to transform the way many industries operate and for many, such as Fintech, that change is just now gathering a pace.
Giving customers access to pictures of hotels and beaches from their home PC was great, but I think it is the investment and re-engineering back-end processes that have made the real difference. It was all well and good giving customers the ability to bundle a flight and hotel together to create a weekend break online, but if the back end process meant that a fax is generated and a travel agent needs then to call the hotel the true benefits were yet to be realized.
So for me it is the streamlining of the whole buying process where digital transformation has had the biggest impact. With entrepreneurs cutting out or automating the steps between the customer purchase to product or service delivery, making it faster, cheaper and more profitable.
What do you see in the future as far as digital trends go?
The importance of building an online presence or brand I think will be of increasing importance for individuals not just businesses. With the increased ease of building and managing websites I think we’ll see many people merging their social media presence (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), into one manageable entity.
With regard to emerging digital trends, I think the much-discussed Internet of Things will be a main player in the technologies we see changing our lives over the next decade. With technologies such as Amazon’s Dash Buttons and smarthome technology like the Nest device hitting the mainstream I think there’s great potential for our lives to become more connected and streamlined than ever before, as well as increasingly mobile.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you would give to a company undergoing digital transformation?
First impressions count. In today’s digital age, most small businesses will still receive the majority of their custom via referrals. This has of course been true for a long time, although thanks to instant communication and an “always-on” business ethos the power of referrals has been given its own digital twist. Whereas once a referral would lead a potential customer to check out your shop window, today’s referrals send potential customers to your website, so it’s essential that you online presence is up-to-date and up-to-scratch so as to turn browsers into buyers.
Create a virtual shop window to be proud of; one that will engage with your customers on a personal level and ensure that they are provided with everything they need – even if it’s just contact details for your physical store.
Do businesses really need to be online?
Absolutely. Even if your business has just a Facebook page or a simple, one-page website that works, it’s worth the effort of getting online.
In your opinion, which breakthrough technology of the digital age has caused the most digital disruption and why?
As far as transformative digital technologies go, for me email had the quickest impact on our lives. Communication became instant, meaning decisions were made more quickly, allowing the bold entrepreneur to move even faster. However, on the negative side the sheer email volume, even in small companies, and the ‘always-on’ nature of the product will still often drown all but the most focused manager.
The launch of the internet was more slow-burn and it took several years for the disruption to start to take hold. But as the first ‘millennials’ start their careers, I am sure we have only seen the beginning of this digital disruption, who knows where with the likes of wearables and the Internet of Things will take us next.