The Innovation Mindset Missing in Jamaican Retailers

Jamaicans aren’t online they said.
Jamaicans aren’t using this social media platforms they said.
Jamaicans aren’t into that technology thing they said.
The businesses that had been saying this, now find themselves behind the 8ball – out of business, or on their way there. They clearly got complacent, ignored the trend data, and kept hoping for things to go back to the good ole days, when part of being successful in business is to anticipate and adapt.  That’s the game.
Here are a few facts about Jamaica
1. 60% of Jamaicans have internet access
2. 100% have mobile phones with over 50% with smartphones
3. There are 1.2 million Jamaicans  on Facebook.
4. Jamaicans have been buying online for over a decade.
What I just wrote above is what immediately came to mind when I read this article  I found in the Jamaica Observer with the headline
E-commerce forcing out local businesses”. The first sentence of the article was a quote from a Jamaican retailer “ To be honest, we were forced to. Sometimes you change things because you foresee things or because you are forced to.”

Fact is e-commerce which is defined as the buying and selling of goods online has been disrupting retail globally, regionally and in Jamaica for over a decade. Brick and mortar stores are closing because the consumer wants more information on what they are buying, where it’s from; they want to compare prices by using a simple search facility; they want to know what’s trending, what their family and friend think of the brand, the product.

Reality is and have been for the past decade, that the global customer buying decisions is starting and ending online, a lot more. And Jamaica is no different. It’s an island nation, only 90mins flight to Miami, Florida and Jamaicans are used to flying to shop for what they want, or searching online, buying it with a card, having it couriered to their door. The goods are brought into Jamaica, mostly by local courier companies who also provide additional services for those without a credit card and those who need a US address to do online transaction.

So why didn’t these retailers see this coming years ago so they could have adjusted and still win in the marketplace? Why has an e-commerce trend that started over a decade ago globally, has them responding reactively versus being proactive?

It’s not about how good you are, or how big you’re business is…fact of doing business in the context of the Global Digital Economy, means things will always change and fast. New players will eat the lunch of industry pioneers – with ease – if they chose to stick their head in the sand, versus innovating to have a future where they thrive.