Doing digital
or being digital?

Digitalisation and the Internet have changed retail sales enormously and further changes will occur according to Cor Molenaar. As a professor of e-marketing he studies the influence of the Internet on buying behaviour at Rotterdam Erasmus University.

 How about the history of digitalisation?

“In digitalisation there are waves. The first wave included automating company processes, for example shops with cash registers and barcodes. Since 2000, people have used the Internet more frequently for information and to buy goods. The rise of the iPhone and Facebook accelerated this development. The Internet became a daily routine for millions of people leading to more transparency, more communication and more Internet sales.

The next wave is creating platforms on which a product manifests itself, which will accelerate in 2019, renewing culture, processes, relations, retail, etc. People buy Nike’s at Alibaba, because at Alibaba Nike manifests itself. AirBnB only facilitates house rentals. So why go to a bank if you can secure a loan from a private entity on the Internet?”

How about the floral industry?

“Until now, companies were ‘doing digital’ instead of ‘being digital’. Doing digital means monitoring processes and improving digitally. Being digital means building a business model, based on digital achievements.

Growers are doing digital in their growing process when influencing humidity in their greenhouses. They could be digital using the Internet of things to create new trade changes. Why must fresh products be sold by supermarkets? Why can’t growers do so themselves? Why do breeders base most of their activities on the input of growers, wholesalers and florists instead of digitally approaching consumers? Why doesn’t every rose carry a chip so the grower knows when his flowers end up in the garbage and can react to that. Being digital is about your added value in this process of changes. The Internet enables you to be proactive.

As in other industries, unnecessary parts of the floral chain will disappear. This displacement, by the way, is a major cause of current low inflation rates. Banks, for instance, have shiploads of offices and managers and a matching cost level. Their new digital competitors have no offices and managers, thus operating much cheaper.

Being digital means being approachable, flexible and transparent. It means fishing where there’s fish, at Alibaba or Amazon. Yes, they can sell fresh flowers when you help them to. Yes, they will ask money for that, but only if they sell your flowers. And they will reach more consumers than you can imagine.”

So if you were a grower…?

“… I would start a platform on which anyone could hitch on. But remember this: per each unique market there is only room for one or two platforms. Only when you can unite buyers and sellers will you survive. If you cannot be a good front runner, you’d better be a good follower. And if you start a platform, act like a start-up. Being digital means creating a company that acts digitally, without buildings, trucks or people. The more flexible, the better. In fact, you don’t even need a greenhouse.”

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