In 2005, the average person never would have believed how social media platforms would completely transform the way humans interact. By 2010, that same person never would have dreamed that ride-sharing apps would overthrow the taxi industry within a few short years. Cue 2015, and that person — who had seen countless industries transformed by online platforms — would have doubted whether cryptocurrency like bitcoin would become acceptable tender at companies all over the world.
Today, all those things (and more) have come to pass. Online platforms continue to change the way the world works, yet people continue to doubt the extent of these platforms’ power to disrupt. By now, the question should not be whether online platforms will change an industry, but when.
Modern consumers depend on online platforms to order their groceries, work their jobs, watch movies, listen to music — even sell their homes. And, with the rise of IoT technology and sensors, these online platforms are getting even smoother. Smart home sensors sound the alarm when the eggs run out, and users tell their kitchen speakers to remind their spouses to get more.
It’s not magic; it’s the power of online platforms, and before long, no aspect of human life will remain untouched.
Why Online Platforms Make More Sense
People depend on platforms for two primary reasons: functionality and data.
Online platforms eliminate the constraints of time and location to make collaboration easier. Office workers, for example, can work together using platforms like Google Drive to edit spreadsheets and co-create documents. On a more tangible plane, online platforms empower companies to streamline their shipping operations, minimizing wasted effort and saving money.
Amazon’s shopping platform made consumers familiar with personalization. Now, consumers expect businesses in every industry, from tool sales to dentistry, to cater to their preferences and remember their past activity. Further, consumers are becoming more comfortable with predictive recommendations, which means the companies that anticipate future needs earn more business.
Through online platforms, companies provide unprecedented levels of customized service. Even industries that people assumed were safe from online influence — groceries, for instance — have begun to integrate with new platforms. Now that Amazon owns Whole Foods and delivers groceries right to its customers’ doorsteps, nothing is safe.
Online platforms will change everything about the way humans live and work. Those who doubt the ability of these platforms to reach any untouched niches do so at their peril.
Where Online Platforms Will Strike Next
People used to believe that essential functions like food service and healthcare would never fall prey to absorption by the internet. Obviously, that’s not the case. Every industry should prepare for further disruption from online platforms, but these three sectors should be ready sooner rather than later:
1. Financial Guidance
Back in the day, financial advisors held the keys to the investment kingdom. The average person was only dimly aware of market fluctuations and trusted an advisor with a firm handshake to make the right choices.
Today, online investment platforms like Robinhood and E*TRADE make it easy for anyone to act as his own financial advisor. Blog posts recommend investment strategies to laypeople, and message boards are full of people recommending index funds over individual securities. Cryptocurrency wallets empower ordinary people to become part of the cryptocurrency revolution. Users pick their favorite coins and hope they strike it rich, using an online platform that most financial advisors would have called a pipe dream a few years ago.
2. Higher Education
Long gone are the days of cramming for finals in the library. Today, online education isn’t limited to unaccredited for-profit universities on TV commercials. Big schools, including those in the Ivy League, offer both fully online and blended online/offline degree tracks to meet the shifting needs of modern students.
The concept of online school isn’t new. However, as younger generations reach college age — and as more adult professionals seek continuing education — the discerning students of the future will begin to give more of their money to the schools with the best online platforms. Before long, even the most prestigious schools may need to provide students with full online degree programs or find themselves losing top minds to more internet-savvy institutions.
Not all online platforms are strictly online. Neos, a home insurance company, provides its policyholders with several sensors to place around their homes. These sensors detect issues like water leaks and potential fire hazards, reporting that information through the Neos platform for customer service reps to contact homeowners and discuss the problems. This reduces the number of claims Neos needs to process and keeps costs low.
Lemonade, another online-based insurance company, operates almost exclusively through its app and AI assistant, Maya. The bot walks potential policyholders through the process, helping them catalog items in their homes and identify things that might need additional coverage. Insurance agents might remain on every street corner in America, but convenient platforms like these could force those numbers to plummet in the coming years.
Plenty of niche industries believe they’re insulated from the disruption of online platforms. Those industries should be cautious: Grocery stores never thought customers would start ordering eggs from Amazon, either. These industries have already begun to see dramatic changes from the rise of online platforms, and if history is any indication, they will be far from the last.