Computers were once stand-alone products like stereos or television sets. They were limited in function: You turned them off when you were done doing work-related tasks or playing games with simplistic neon graphics. Activities such as shopping took place in the real world. No one could have imagined otherwise.
Then, along came the dot-com era, a period that spanned the ‘90s through the year 2000 when the whole world became connected. Humanity’s love affair with the internet was born. Companies such as AOL, Yahoo, and AltaVista began to earn astronomical profits. They were overnight success stories while whole industries that people took for granted were demoted to “brick-and-mortar” status and had to reinvent themselves. The following are a few industries that have radically changed as technology has boomed.
McMillan, W.W. Norton, and Random House were three of a handful of major publishing houses that largely decided what books were purchased at large chain stores or borrowed from neighborhood libraries. Being in the New York Times Sunday Book Review section was critical to a writer's ability to become successful. Publishing was considered stodgy and dominated by editors with specific tastes.
A lot has changed since then. The industry has updated its culture and business model dramatically to adapt to the crowd consensus of the digital age. Book lovers can read from glowing devices, and the website Amazon is now the most powerful force in publishing. Some bookstores such as Barnes & Noble have held on, but online sales continue to dominate the market. “Sales in our mall stores are down this year from 30 to 60 percent,” Bill Streur, the owner of a once popular Wisconsin bookstore was quoted as saying in 2017. “The Internet is killing retail. Bookstores are just the first to go,” he added.
Records you dropped on turntables, cassettes, and CDs were once the only formats available to enjoy the music of your favorite artists. Along came MP3s, however, and the world changed. They weren’t products you stood in line to buy; they were files you sat and downloaded, which meant that they could be consumed with just a mouse click. Music piracy became rampant, and the music industry has had to evolve now that CD sales don’t bring in as much money as they once did. The iPod will always be associated with the obsolescence of CDs. The music industry’s continuing volatility will require creativity to inspire young music lovers to hit “buy” buttons and compensate the artists who create music; only 1 in 10 people who stream songs actually pay for it according to recent data from GlobalWebIndex.
Macy's and Toys R Us are two major names in retail that everyone in the United States knows. They’re iconic stores whose significance in American culture once seemed permanent. Macy's Herald Square location is its most legendary, taking up 1.1 million square feet of 34th Street. It appears in scenes in famous Christmas movies and conjures up holiday spirit like no other brand can. Toys R Us is another name in retail that’s highly associated with parties and holiday gifts for kids, but it recently announced that it’s closing the last of its branches. Macy’s is struggling and shutting down dozens of stores. Some people call it the e-commerce effect although others feel that Walmart is to blame for obliterating the retail landscape. "They wrecked every other form of retailing because it was a race to the lowest price, and they were the lowest price,” Jan Kniffen, a business expert, remarked in 2016 on CNBC.
Although it's hard to imagine eating being completely replaced by technology, ways that diners and food establishments connect has been as radically transformed by it as other industries. Franchises were once most efficient at neighborhood delivery logistics while mom and pop delis and small cafes struggled to keep up with managing orders coming in by phone. Apps, however, have changed all of that. Seamless, UberEats, and GrubHub are just three companies that facilitate the urge to pig out on Korean barbecue or pizza after just a couple of swipes of a phone screen. Apps don't just mediate the delivery process; they introduce new eating establishments to those who use them, which is a boon for smaller restaurants that can’t afford to place expensive ads in subway stations and along the sides of buses. Supermarkets, on the other hand, are struggling to stay relevant as delivery apps urge consumers to choose the most convenient options for foods brought right to their door.
Most Americans don’t have positive attitudes toward nursing homes, and many prefer to age independently. Furthermore, a crisis in the nursing home industry that will lead to a shortage of beds for aging baby boomers is anticipated. Technology is providing some cutting-edge solutions as a new generation of smart devices especially helpful to seniors who live independently are becoming available on the consumer market. Sensors that can be worn around the neck, wrists or legs now help patients to stay connected to loved ones and emergency services. Some of these devices are smart enough to detect falls and send an ambulance out in response. Seniors who aren’t savvy about programming and responding to digital instruments can use them due to user-friendly sensors. Appliances such as refrigerators can be programmed to alert loved ones that elderly family members are running low on milk and other groceries.
Data shows that 64 percent of Americans don't have wills in place in the event of their death. Estate planning has always been a pricey legal procedure; attorneys who handle it have been known to charge flat fees that can go well beyond $1,000. Technology, however, now enables people to create wills and trusts that bring down the cost of dividing assets and property among family members. LegalZoom and the Tomorrow app are just two of many that are user-friendly and allow trust funds to be set up within minutes.
The changes that technology has brought to traditional industries are looked at through a critical eye by some while others welcome the increased functionality that innovation has brought to doing business. Those who worry about this new reality should keep in mind that technology doesn’t just disrupt businesses: it creates new ones.
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