We all know what happened – web and then mobile came, saw, and conquered and established businesses had to react and adapt.
What's far more interesting is knowing the ins and outs behind how large, well known businesses coped with this transition and John Boughton, head of mobile for TUI Group, gave us a glimpse of that in his talk at the Apps World London conference.
TUI Group is a huge tourism conglomerate that acquired Thomson in 2000 Mr Boughton's keynote speech discussed the impact of mobile, and how it can be tricky to predict what the next big thing will be (and if it will have longevity).
The talk was titled 'How not to Predict Future Trends – A Holiday Industry Perspective'.
Thomson on mobile – did they jump or were they pushed?
Mr Boughton spoke candidly about the fact the app store opened in 2007 but it was another six years until they launched the first version of the MyThomson app in 2013.
He said that it can be difficult to predict what will be a fad, and it was clear from the talk that he felt this was in hindsight a mistake and didn't make attempts to give excuses.
However, while the market forced Thomson to act, Mr Boughton said he felt they “reacted quickly enough” and they would have got there on their own steam anyway.
He had some general advice for companies: “Fast adaption of innovation is more important now than it has ever been”.
During the talk, he used the depressing example of Blockbuster.
At one point Blockbuster had stores all over the world. They were offered Netflix for £50m in 2000 and declined. By 2010 they had filed for bankruptcy and now they barely exist.
Google as a threat, not an advertising partner
Mr Boughton said Thomson has a “very close” relationship with Google and Facebook, who they advertise with.
During the Q and A, they were asked about this wonderful relationship with Google.
What happens when Google wants to sell holidays and that makes them more money than your advertising?
Mr Boughton had a pretty candid response – that people are worried about Google (though he didn't say Thomson specifically were).
He said the risk was mitigated for Thomson because they own the customer experience, including the tangible hotels and aeroplanes, and they feel they are fairly well protected from disruption.
He finished by saying “I'm not sure anyone has thought through where this ends up”, which was a somewhat ominous, if honest, end to the talk.