Tradition Vs Technology: The Agent & The Internet
As we continue with our review of tradition vs technology, this week, we discuss and compare the agent and the internet. An agent is a person who acts in between others, typically a representative, negotiator, business manager or go-between. When you consider any business arrangement or relationship you generally always think of the simple one: the buyer and the seller. Is technology changing this relationship as we know it?
The buyer traditionally purchases from the seller, at a listed or agreed right price. However, normal practice may mean that the buyer cannot always find what he/she wants. A search is often made by the agent. In this instance, the agent is employed by the buyer to find the exact offering required.
However with the digital age, the internet and other new technology, are the days of the agent numbered? We need to evaluate the business offering of a few agents to understand their role in the future. Will their demise mean that the middleman is cut out and that the buyer, by using technology will reduce time and effort and as a result reduce their expenditure while searching for the chosen supply/goods.
Let's investigate a few examples:
Recruitment Websites have been developed and are now operating (e.g indeed), which allow the employer to post jobs and deal with the full recruitment process for themselves. This is done via listing a job ad. Applications, responses and other communication is done via the employer or the candidate. All other activities need to remain in place such as interviews, references and selection, however the website means that you are effectively taking the recruiter out of the equation and the search is direct. This vastly reduces the price to what might be a small fixed fee rather than as a percentage of the initial salary. Headhunting and search is now becoming the recruiter’s marketplace. Searching for jobs for the potential employers is made that much easier as well.
Travel The way in which we search, book and manage our travel is now centred around technology. Price comparison sites allow us to scan deals quicker than ever, book flights and hotels directly with the provider. The need for a travel agent to organise your trip is fast becoming redundant. This means that airways and hotels are becoming extremely competitive with their terms and rates. The flexibility of finding exactly what you want via the web is becoming increasingly attractive and you are effectively becoming your own travel agent. Discounts, loyalty prizes and deals are the order of the day. Travel agents are only brought in to action for bespoke trips and tours when detail and specific activity is sought.
Property Estate agents have often been under fire. They have a shop front with an attractive presentation of properties on offer and for sale. The question is often asked what do they add to the process, apart from a valuation and the potential negotiation? Many might consider that they add little more and if you know your price and can negotiate then perhaps they are not required. Internet estate agents are developing their trade. Cheaper fixed fees are available compared to the % of sales price. The estate agent must redefine his marketplace, perhaps offering much more in terms of buyer verification or even conveyancing services to re-establish their uniqueness and positioning.
Advertising Campaigns are now available via various providers with technology based services. Advertising agencies who placed adverts and ran campaigns cannot command the fee nor position they once did. Direct access to the availability of the media including newspaper, magazine, TV and radio are readily accessible and overriding all of this is the pay per click offering. Transparency with clear pricing charts and menus provide those wishing to advertise to make their choice. The software available can analyse and determine the results of those campaigns. The advertising agent is being phased out by digital, although a new opportunity is created in its place.
The agent has to evolve to survive. Tradition no longer has a stronghold on people, and is being replaced by technology and the endless supply of opportunity that comes via the web - But does this technology really work?