6 December 2018

Africa: 'Embrace Digital Revolution or Be the Next Sears'

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Cape Town — COMPANIES must constantly adapt with the times and evolve with technology or face collapse like the beleaguered Sears, the biggest and most successful American retailer of its time.

This is according to a South African innovator, data scientist and industry executive as the US company continues its free-fall.

Formally known as Sears, Roebuck and Company, it is recognised across the globe for being the disruptive force of the 19th century which ultimately taught Americans how to shop.

The once thriving business is in disarray. It entered bankruptcy in October, at a time as disruptive innovations built around the needs of a technology- and convenience-driven world take hold.

Vian Chinner, the innovator, data expert and entrepreneur, said Sears was the first retailer to provide consumers convenient access to goods at fixed prices.

Sears adapted to the second industrial revolution at a far faster pace than its competitors, taking advantage of - and building on - new infrastructure like railways, the printing press and the telegram," said Chinner, who is also Chief Executive Officer of Xineoh, the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction.

He said the company pushed competitors out of business and grew at an incredible pace but where its evolution came to an end, it did not fully embrace the potential presented by the third industrial revolution or computer age.

"It's application of new world technology started and ended with the introduction of a website and, with the rise of tech-focused retail giants like Amazon, Sears was left behind in the dark ages," said Chinner.

Chinner emphasised that modern day businesses which have survived the computer age are at risk of falling behind and beginning their own decline if they do not look to evolve with the innovations of the current, fourth industrial revolution or digital age.

He hailed artificial intelligence as the most disruptive technology of this age but some businesses were adopting it for the sake of it than truly incorporating the data-centric approach in their operations and shifting their operations to optimise the opportunities it presents.

"Don't get left behind, don't let your business become the next Sears," Chinner concluded.

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