Clinging to the past can make your business obsolete

You might be selling something that people no longer want

In Summary

• Diminishing fortunes of souvenir photography are a sign of the changing times


Looking around at various tourist attractions during the Easter weekend, it was interesting to see the photographers who print photos touting for customers. Sadly though, the business is outdated.

Most of us want our photos in digital format so we can share them with friends on social media. Printed photos are not shareable unless one scans them, or takes a picture of them with a smartphone. Either way, the scanned copy will not be as good as the original image.

"Even if I buy a picture from you, it will just end up in a drawer and I will forget about it," one woman told an eager photographer at one of the beachside coastal resorts.

Most sightseers have smartphones. They can take as many photos as they want without paying anybody. The diminishing fortunes of souvenir photography are a reminder of how changing technology and a shift in consumer preferences can make a business obsolete.

It's hard to believe now, but there was a time Kenyans used to pay cybercafe operators for Hotmail or Yahoo email accounts. Each time you got an email, the cybercafe would print it for you at Sh50 per page. Email is now on our smart phones. Cybercafes that failed to adapt have since closed down.

Video libraries that lent out video tapes were replaced by shops that burnt CDs, which are now being replaced with movie shops copying content onto USB drives. DVD players were rendered redundant. Businesses that were slow to adapt became obsolete.

"Evolve or become obsolete" is the title of a book by UK-based marketing consultant David Shaw. The book might as well be referring to today's uncertain economy. "The truth is, things are not going back to the good old days," Shaw states. He adds that the business landscape has changed forever and a new way of thinking is required.

If you had a product or service that was profitable but customers no longer want it, there is a real possibility your business is getting obsolete. It is no longer relevant to the needs of the market. Like the photographers at the beach, you might be selling something that people no longer want.

The key to remaining relevant is to stay in touch with market tastes. The strategies that worked a year ago may no longer work today. Customers have become very sensitive to price changes, and a Sh20 increase can force customers to switch to cheaper alternatives. This means businesses should guard against being tied up with one supplier.

If your customers keep asking for particular products or services, explore how you can profit from those items instead of dismissing the requests. Of course, viability is key. It is not possible to satisfy every request because customers are not always right.

Another key source of information is learning from your competitors. If they seem to be thriving when you are struggling, they must be doing something right. Find out the secret to their success and how you can implement it. Perhaps you missed a change in customer preferences.

WATCH: The latest videos from the Star