Spending the past two days at The Mobile Show – a conference for brands trying to understand the huge shift in consumer attitude towards mobile technology – has reminded me of quite how easy it is to think that you are at the cutting edge, when in fact your knowledge is long since obsolete. I went in already knowing that mobile consumption, media and marketing were today’s biggest technology trends, but assumed that there were still a few years till people completely switched away from desktop and living room experiences towards tablets and mobiles. Two days later, it feels like my understanding has been fast forwarded through these years I thought we had, and I see how different the true picture is to my original perception.
Both worrying and interesting was how large that same knowledge gap was for companies relying on these consumers to generate their profits. One would think that brands and retailers will have already done the research and discovered how much more valuable mobile customers are, and how many innovative strategies there are for engaging with them through these channels. And yet, many large companies still haven’t made mobile optimised sites, or applications which make the user feel excited and connected. As these late adopters fall further behind, a whole plethora of industries has arisen to facilitate the knowledge transfer between them and the people who are truly at the cutting edge. From mobile advertising networks able to target the phones of specific customers, to creative rich media agencies able to create interactive cross-channel campaigns, intelligent entrepreneurs have spent the past few years filling this gap.
This is not the first time, or sector, in which such a knowledge gap exists. The same concept lies behind the majority of periods of successful wealth creation. When communism collapsed in Russia, and industries were privatised, the population had no knowledge of equities or how they should be valued. Companies were undervalued, and those investors who knew to buy into them were able to make fortunes. The same situation is happening now in small Asian countries, according to Warren Buffet who has spent his life working hard to get knowledge about individual companies, and investing in them knowing that they were worth more than their publicly known value. And let’s not forget the travesty that was the Millennium Bug – how many companies were able to use the fact that the general public had no idea about technology to get them to pay to have a compliance sticker put onto their toaster or microwave.
But this is not an easy way to riches – it takes discipline, dedication, and an element of being in the right place at the right time to acquire those skills and knowledge, and a willingness to tolerate and surmount risk and adversity to then be able to act on it. Over the past year I have been building a team and a strategy to create an analytics software platform. The lack of understanding and slow adoption of mobile technologies that I have experienced over the past few days, and the success of those people who have been ahead of the curve, have brought me inspiration and confirmation that I am on the right track. In our careers, or as entrepreneurs, we all strive and push ourselves to get further in life. Spotting and acting on the next knowledge gap will make all of that effort truly pay off.