Adjusting to the new digital economics

Let me first start off this piece by saying that the digital industry is screwed.

The impending state of screwedness is nothing new, the general manufacturing, car, financial and certainly public sector ‘industries’ have or are all suffering from the same race to the bottom.

Digital is being led by marketers who (quite rightly — because that is their job) are creating technology that is focused on people buying stuff — feeding the great beast of consumerism that keeps the world (at least most of it) turning. So what? every industry is led by marketers, right? and by creating tech for consumers we create tech for health, charities, safety, exploration and education.

The problem the digital industry has (and one that will need addressing) is that it is completely saturated with resource in a world that is not saturated with clients. There are not so many banks, car manufacturers, public sector bodies any more — the survival of the fittest has enforced industry Darwinism, but in digital we have not yet reached the point of over saturation — Charles has yet to put quill to parchment for digital yet.

Digital has changed the world — its changed the way we communicate, buy, learn, remember. It creates and removes jobs in society, it can start revolutions (and wars) it adds and removes emotion from everyday lives.

It is as much a part of people’s lives as eating and sleeping, but what will happen when things stop happening, what will happen when digital eats itself, when technology removes jobs, reduces the workforce, shrinks the economy both within digital and the wider global environment?

If you were to take a look at the digital market and specifically the agency space you would think that there was no problem, money is coming in, companies and growing and people are gorging themselves on their success — but there is change coming and by being wise and not afraid to change we may be able to accommodate, adapt and grow even in a shrinking economic environment — not survival of the fittest but survival of the smartest.

So by considering the Digital Economy — specifically how individuals pay for items and manage their finances — maybe we have a clue as to how to change our expectations of future work and the the type of work we may do.

Clearly at the moment the UK economy is flat (apart from as usual the areas of house prices, bankers bonuses and CEO’s wages), people have multiple jobs, contracts and therefore skill sets to allow them to earn a standard of living. This is only going to continue — this excellent piece in the Guardian explains how the advent of technology is only going to further disrupt the historical world of having a ‘career’ — therefore it is how we as both individuals and digital agencies adjust to this that will define our future success.

So as an example — the advent of micropayments — led by the gaming industry — and the creation of the contactless payment method mean that people are used to making payments easily and quickly for the purchase of small purchases for a product (an ‘in game life’) or completion of an inevitable task (getting a tube train).

These changes in financial behaviour have been driven not by user need — but by technological advancements. Digital has created a series of new transaction methods for large parts of society to use and it has moulded their behaviour when using them.

What does this do? How does this behavioural change in respect of an acceptance of small one off actions and transactions within a wider whole effect the digital economy and those that client inhabit? I think it tells us everything we need to know.

Smaller financial transactions in many cases cause less anxiety for people — they have less negative psychological effect on if you think you have done the right thing or not — ‘Why did I do that?’, ‘Can I afford it?’, ‘Am I using the right provider/service’ all come into mind when making a larger purchase — either consciously or sub-consciously. Making a smaller purchase causing less anxiety — in many cases the risk is less and in many cases the transaction is soon forgotten as part of a bigger piece (a single train journey as part of the working day).

Blend together this everyday use of small tasks and transactions alongside the fact that people will need to look toward balancing a number of jobs we have an answer as to what we as digital professionals and digital agencies need to do — we need to mirror this economic, social and behavioural change. Not only that but we need to use our experience in developing tech, and solutions that support and grow this new model for work and life.

Our clients will employ staff on a part time or contract basis for specific pieces of work — we need to replicate and enable that change. Less disposable income could become the norm — our marketing effectiveness may be reduced — so who are we selling to and why? We need to recognise and adjust our own marketing approach accordingly.

This is a piece in development — as all blogs and thoughts should be — but as a started maybe we should look at making plans such as;

  • Focusing on and delivering smaller pieces of work, large scale projects will start to disappear over the next 3–4 years (except for the 100+ employee agencies and global brands) identify, pitch for and win ‘chunks’ of work that we can deliver on.
  • Realign our own individual career goals and broaden our skillset to not just digital but also understanding business, human behaviour, psychology and of course, economics all to varying extents.
  • Recognise that digital is no longer a thing, it simply ‘is’ —and that nobody is impressed at anything for very long.
  • Be prepared to retrain yourself and your staff.
  • Embrace the end of a career ‘path’ and the start of a career ‘lattice’ for you and your agency.

These thoughts could be wrong — they are very fluid, but digital has changed the world - now it has to be aware that the world will change it.