During end of the 20th century, when globalization was growing quickly, there were plenty of growth and market opportunities available. As a result, many businesses took this opportunity to expand and grow into new markets and regions. In their quest for growth, a new opportunity was also created. That of the information broker. These became the trading companies. Helping represent smaller companies seeking to expand into new markets. Sometimes, they provided connections and information, other times, resources such as personnel and representatives, and even the occasional funding and capital. In Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight recalls in their early days that the company that saved them after being thrown out of multiple banks was Japanese trading company Nissho Iwai.
The reason for many of these companies was something extremely valuable – information. There was a critical need for assistance in market intelligence and positioning. While connections and deep pockets were useful assets, these trading companies had an essential monopoly on an extremely vital commodity – insights and data.
Let’s bring it down to a more personal level. Depending on your age, you might remember how ordinary people invested in the equities or share market. The typical way was that they went through a brokerage company and called their stock broker. You received advice and placed your orders. The reason you did this is because your broker has unique access to the market. However, most likely, their key value to you lies in the insights they had into market trends or behavior. You expected that they study the market, analyze it and through their experience, tell you what stock to buy or when you ought to sell.
Today, times have changed.
Critical information no longer will be concentrated in the hands of a relative few, but will be available to buyers and sellers independently. The value-add of the intermediary will be diminished across all markets. From established industries to start-ups in the sharing economy, this migration of information will alter the competitive landscape. Imagine trying to call a broker for advice or to buy a stock today!
Recent breakthroughs and advancement in big data science and technology allows systems to consume data from any source and convert it into actionable intelligence on a continual basis. For organizations seeking to gain first-mover advantage or any leverage over the competition, this arena is key. Organizations can find insights and trends to create new marketplaces and redefine complete value chains.
An airline today can now aggregate consumer browsing behavior on travel sites, social media, historical data, flight schedules to make prediction on routes, promotions and capacity planning. Such in depth analysis was difficult before but it is a lot of accessible and available today. We do foresee that there will be a gradual decline in the role of the intermediary. Remember travel agents? They used to make profits on finding you the best flights, the best travel itinerary and hotels. Do you know that you can search, filter, get suggestions all within the Tripadvisor app? Not only do you get real insights and on-ground information, but you can also customize based on your criteria. You can even ask locals for advice! We’ll talk about Trip Advisor’s awesome new interface next time but it is worth checking out.
At the rate of change happening today, it is inevitable that this intermediate role will rapidly disappear. Right now, it is already happening in various parts of certain industries but in years to come, every sector will be affected by these same factors. The one with the most data and insights will win. Now, it seems a lot of people have access to those insights directly. Hang on to your seats – it is going to get bumpy for sure!