Cape Town - The gap between good users of digital technology and bad ones is getting bigger, as those that use digital well are accelerating ahead of the rest, according to Michael Fertik, founder and chair of Reputation.com.
In the modern world everything is becoming digitised and appointing a chief digital officer is like appointing a "chief gravity officer” he said at the 60th Global Summit of the Consumer Goods Forum taking place in Cape Town this week.
Rather than focusing on the inevitable use of digital technologies, companies should ensure that they are using data to help customers define their specific needs, and set about meeting those needs, Fertik explained.
Vivienne Ming, co-founder of education technology company Socos, added that it is all about the people.
“There are impressive and wonderful ways in which we can change people’s lives, and there are intrusive and creepy ones,” she cautioned.
Companies that use the data that they collect about people effectively and with sensitivity, rather than just to “sell them more stuff more efficiently”, will do well going forward, in her view. Those that don’t use the data to make life better and more convenient for their customers in an increasingly time-starved world will be left behind.
Companies that currently design, manufacture and distribute products like clothing and ready-made meals will have to decide what business they are in once consumers are able to print those products in their own homes, she explained. Such companies may end up selling intellectual property, rather than finished goods.
The companies that can adapt most quickly and effectively to this ongoing change will be those that will still be thriving in 20 years’ time.
South African entrepreneur Ludwick Marishane, founder of Headboy Industries, said large companies must keep an eye on what seemingly insignificant small companies are up to, because it is they who are most challenging the status quo.
Headboy Industries manufactures and sells its Drybath Gel globally and challenges the makers of traditional soaps that require large quantities of water. Marishane was listed by Time Magazine as one of 30 people under 30 who are changing the world.
“Take us very seriously,” he warned corporate leaders at the summit.