We live in a digital world, where technology is more pervasive and becomes a bigger part of our lives every year. The Pew Research Center found that more than 93 percent of American adults under 50 use the internet, and a recent survey showed that 35 percent of people report their first thought after waking up is of their smartphone (10 percent thought of their significant other).
But as entrepreneurs, it’s important to recognize that even though more and more of our lives move online, there are some industries that will never become fully digitized. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses aren’t going anywhere.
We live in a physical world.
Part of the reason brick-and-mortar business are here to say is that we’re flesh and blood beings, living in a physical world. A virtual dentist can’t fill your cavities, and you’re probably actually going to the salon the next time you need a haircut. It’s much more satisfying to sit down in one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants than it is to watch him cook on TV — though both are enjoyable. While technology can certainly help augment many industries, there are plenty of businesses that can never be fully digitized. Facebook may have claimed a similarity to chairs, but you can’t actually sit on it.
Some things are just better offline.
When you think of some of the best experiences of your life, it’s probably pretty likely that they weren’t centered around a screen. Another reason brick and mortar is here to stay is — let’s face it — some things are just better offline. People want authentic experiences, and very rarely is seeing a picture the same as being there in person.
Whether it’s exploring the great outdoors or breaking bread with friends and family, we increasingly want a complement — or sometimes an antidote -- to our digital lives. Even millennials, the most digitally savvy, digitally immersed generation yet embrace real-world experiences. They actually go out to eat more than any other generation in history, and are more likely than older generations to appreciate offline learning experiences.
Savvy startups can bridge the gap.
Over the past few years, some of the most successful startups, like Airbnb, Seamless and others, have emerged as bridges between the digital and physical worlds. Tap a few buttons, and you’ve booked a stay in a centuries-old castle, or a meal appears at your door from the restaurant around the corner. Delivery companies like Seamless have increasingly found ways to help traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants expand their reach and supplement their business offerings. And many business-to-business software companies in a huge array of areas have helped make service and operations at traditional brick-and-mortar companies run more efficiently and effectively, and can allow us to connect with them more easily, schedule, pay, order and much more.
People want to keep having great experiences in the real world, and by necessity, a lot of great businesses will remain offline, at least in part. Brick and mortar is here to stay, and it represents a huge opportunity for savvy entrepreneurs.