One of the first big Internet companies was Freeserve, it launched in 1998 and the Internet boom started. For years people talked about e-commerce, but nothing happened. Smug people said "I told you so," a few years later than expected, companies like Amazon finally came onto the scene and then the e-commerce boom started.
Then people said e-commerce would have a big effect on the high street but nothing really happened, and the same smug people said: "I told you so." Things have now changed so the big question now is, has the tipping finally arrived?
This year, Retail Week has been busy with lots of stories, and the truth is the next generation has caused a lot of this. Older people like me use the Internet in one way, but younger people have grown up with the Internet and use it in a different way.
The thing that's changed everything is the smartphone. Wherever I go, people have got a smartphone in their hand. People are addicted to it, go on a train or bus and people are looking down at their phones. When I look at my family at home, young and old, they are looking their phones, it's seems part of their lives. Companies that are doing well are the companies that know how to exploit this technology.
The other thing that's changed is the next generation not only live on this technology, they don't think twice about using it to buy something and but they don’t think twice to return something if it's not right. Older people don’t like to send stuff back, younger people don’t have a problem sending stuff back.
I've got three teenage daughters, and there is a constant stream of parcels to the house. I still prefer to go to town to spend my money, but my daughters are happy to use the technology and importantly also return things if they are not right.
When the Internet first arrived, people used it just to surf the Internet, they didn’t use it buy anything. The technology to buy anything wasn’t there. When mobile phones first came out we only used them to make phone calls, the technology to anything else wasn’t there. Remember we only took them out of pockets when the phone rang?
Now I am in a panic when I can’t feel my smartphone in my pocket. It tells me everything. Retailers are only limited by their imagination, every time I pay for my pasty at Greggs using ApplePay, I have a smile on my face, it’s absolutely fantastic.
I am in no doubt the tipping point has now arrived and the companies that are doing well are the ones that know how to exploit the technology. As you read this, don’t forgot what you’ve got in your pocket and which companies are worth a fortune. Don’t be the ones that said “I told you so.”