Humanising the Numbers

As they grew ever-larger, the toll taken on high street shops was massive. Local greengrocers, butchers, bakers all shut down as the lure of huge choice and competitive pricing enticed us in.

The rise of the car made travelling to out-of-town sites very manageable, and we turned our backs on the local shops which served us so well, and so personally, for many a year.

The rise of the supermarket followed a passion for efficiency, for low prices, for the convenience of being able to buy anything we wanted – even fruit imported from far away lands to slake our thirst for all year-round supply of our favourite things.

But in the process we de-humanised the whole experience.

We rarely interact with team members or colleagues when we visit a supermarket – we even now prefer to self-serve instead of letting a human scan our purchases.

Now of course technology is a driver here – it promotes the shift away from human contact towards self-serve

So we’ve sacrificed the human contact in the pursuit of efficiency

And of course that’s all fine until we do need some human contact in a supermarket. Do those who serve know us and our needs? Of course they don’t. They can usually point us to the correct aisle but they have no idea about our preferences and foibles.

But we’re prepared to sacrifice that de-humanisation for the upside of price and variety.

Is it time to change?

Or are we now seeing a kick-back?

The trend towards local is not especially new. Just look at the supermarkets, whose whole business plan is now centred around the rise of the local smaller store. One of the consequences of recession is that trends accelerate really quickly, so the move back to local has suddenly gathered pace.

With supply chains disrupted there’s a strong argument for local supply which, while it may cost a little more, its provenance is 5 miles away instead of 5 countries away. And the fact that we’re supporting local businesses instead of a behemoth makes us feel good.

But it doesn’t end there.

We still crave that social interaction – we’re social beings so that human touch still has a crucial element to play in our lives. Those who harness technology really well but provide a strong human touch in the process are forming really strong 21st century business models.

In the supermarket world, what this means is that we may well see a rise in local shops – greengrocers, butchers, bakers all selling locally produced goods direct to consumers with a great human touch.

How nice does it feel when we step into our local shop to be greeted by a friendly face? How do we feel when our normal order is already set aside for us? How do we feel when we get a quick text telling us our favourite item has just come into stock?

So while we welcome technology, efficiency, choice and convenience, we also crave the human touch. And we’re prepared to support local, to give back to a local business, even if that means a few pennies more, to have our experience humanised.

Humanise the numbers.

Doug Aitken

Doug has been a regional manager for Royal bank of Scotland, set up an successful accountancy network, and launched Ascendia Growth. Knowledge is useful; developing a skill from it even more so; but its making that skill habitual that is the real secret.

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