How Franchising is Keeping Up with the Times

21/08/2018 18:00 | Start a business

How franchising is keeping up with technology

All businesses need to keep up with the times if they’re to maximise profits and give themselves the best chance of success. Here, we take a look at how the franchise system is attempting to adapt to new technological realities.

Finding a franchise

Historically, how did franchisees find the perfect franchise? Franchise exhibitions? Printed advertising? Word of mouth? But it's all so inefficient! The internet has revolutionised the franchise search process – creating an entirely new and wonderfully versatile advertising space and drastically reducing the importance of traditional mediums in the process. Whereas it used to be hard work finding the right franchise, now potential franchisees can do all the groundwork from the comfort of their own sofa. With so much information at your fingertips, it can be difficult to refine your search and narrow the field, but it's certainly easier than walking around an exhibition centre for hours on end hoping you stumble on the right franchisor.

Greater access to information

The internet has provided us with a new platform on which to advertise and review businesses, products, and services. The great thing about this platform is that it’s relatively inexpensive (although everyone has to pay internet bills, so it’s not entirely free). People can post what they want, where they want and it doesn’t cost them anything to do so. We can also find these posts relatively easily. This means that we're able to access far more information about businesses – including those things they don't want us to know – much more quickly. Successful franchises are those that carefully manage their reputation and understand that the internet can be an unforgiving place to be if you don't live up to expectations.

No space for scam artists

Which brings us on to those franchises that don’t deserve the name. Once, the franchise system was home to a wide range of scam artists, hustlers, and thieves. Now, the internet has reduced the potential for such trickery. Shams are quickly exposed on franchise websites and there are whole sites dedicated to reviews of particular franchises and franchisors. Anyone that's not providing franchisees with the support they were promised or reneges on the promises made in the franchise agreement is likely to be quickly found out. There is another side to this ability to publish freely and crack down on scam artists, though. It's currently a hot topic, too…

Not true

Otherwise known as ‘fake news.' While the internet has given individuals a (nearly) free platform on which to publish the truth about franchises and franchisors, it's also given individuals a platform on which they can publish misinformation. Much of the online world is defined by the absence of fact-checking or referencing. Generally, people decide whether something is true or not based on the source, their gut, and their established worldview. Confirmation bias runs rampant and gossip is taken as gospel. All this means internet users struggle with constant trust issues. It also means that franchises have to struggle against those who would unfairly tarnish their reputation.

Social media, the pace of change, and over-exposure to the public

One of the biggest technological developments associated with the digital age is social media. It has changed everything. Many franchises are still racing to catch up. Not only has social media become the main channel through which many businesses advertise themselves, it's also the forum in which trends are created, spread, and ultimately destroyed. It's a new way of communicating directly with customers, as well as a publishing platform for original content. It's also the space in which your reputation can be made or broken. And we mean seriously broken. One wrong step and that's it – social media will rip you to shreds. A large number of franchises are still getting accustomed to this type of extreme exposure to the public, though many have begun to utilise social media to full effect.

Diversity of marketing

Before the digital revolution, your means of advertising were pretty limited. There was television, print, radio, advertising boards, and the town crier. You made a video, jingle, or poster, and it reached a very small, select audience. Now you can do anything you want and instantly distribute to an incredible number of people. A video can go viral within minutes of being released. An amateur podcast can receive hundreds of thousands of listens on the first episode. A Twitter post could hit the front page of Reddit and reach millions. Everywhere you look, franchises are stepping up their online game and embracing new digital advertising techniques. They’re reaching new audiences, using new mediums, and are reaping the benefits.

Franchise networking tool

Digital technology has also allowed to franchisors to develop more powerful networking tools for their franchisees. Franchisees can now communicate much more easily. They can learn from one another, arrange physical meetups, share information, and improve their services. Many larger franchises are already using the internet to deliver training programmes, buddy franchisees up in a mentor system, and ensure the latest industry developments are disseminated quickly and efficiently throughout the network.

Online only

Finally, the franchise system has also been revolutionised by the emergence of the online franchise. Internet franchises are those franchised businesses that require only the internet to function. There's no physical store, no overheads, no need to be anywhere in particular. Everything is run via the internet. Online franchises include things like website designers, web marketers, e-commerce outfits, travel sites, and internet consultants. Though they often require some specialist skills, they're usually relatively simple to run and have managed to really shake up the franchise market.

Conclusion
As you can see, franchising is racing to keep up with the challenging pace of technological change. In some areas, it's ahead of the curve and in others, it needs to play catch up. However, different businesses are responding to technological shifts in different ways. Some have fully embraced new technologies. Others believe they can remain profitable without them. Though this may be the case in the short-term, it seems clear that long-term success depends on moving with the times.

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