Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory

It’s 2014 and we now live in the world after Willy Wonka created the Wonkavision.  Today, at any time of the day or night, people can reach into the glowing screen in front of them and grab whatever they want. Today, the distance between a consumer and a vendor is now about the length of an average arm. 

With eBay offering same-day deliveries in many urban markets, and Amazon promising that within the next five years anything with a barcode will be available for delivery anywhere in North America within 24 hours, we’re already not far off from the promise of Mr. Wonka’s invention. Add to that Amazon’s vision of aerial drone delivery (something that is apparently already well on its way to being reality in Australia), or that Google may be developing driverless delivery vehicles, and the idea of beaming products across television waves doesn’t seem that far-fetched.

The Wonkavision is here. But we haven’t seen anything yet.

The next generation of 3D printers will change everything, even dinner. Commercial Makerspaces have the potential to do so, as well. Boutique micro-manufacturers close to home will be able to make just about anything that you want, and deliver it to your door within a very tight time frame.

Hyper-customization is coming on in a big way. Major companies like Levis and Nike have embraced it, and small companies like Timbuk2 have been good at it for a long time. You can get custom, hand-built wheels for your bike from QBP, and – for that matter – you can get a custom-painted bike built to your exact specifications from Trek. As consumers get more and more used to buying items that are customized for them, they will demand it more as well. And timeframes for custom items will shorten dramatically.

It goes without saying but we may as well say it anyway: These initiatives are primarily direct-to-consumer.

It’s time to examine the idea that business models that have existed in that space between a brand and a consumer – we’re talking retailers of all sizes, independent reps, PR, advertising, and media (among many others) –  increasingly may just be in the way. The question everybody in these niches needs to ask daily is: “How do we add value now that the Wonkavision has been invented?” 

Because it’s here.

Is the Wonkavision the end of the world for specialty retail? No, not hardly. But it’s the end of the world as we know it.

We are living in a time of ongoing disruption. The new normal will be constant change. Get comfortable with this idea, and learn to thrive on it.

It’s 2014. Get on it.

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