They say that the only constant in life is change, and there is perhaps no better example of this adage at work than the world of technology. Technology is, after all, an agent of continued disruption. What once was will – at some point in time – no longer be, as innovation continues to rip the proverbial rug out from under our feet with one digital makeover after the next.
As new platforms and processes emerge with each passing year, our understanding of the world (and the way in which we interact with it) is subject to constant upheaval. We saw dial-up internet become high-speed connectivity, we saw the Walkman become the iPod, and then we saw the iPod cannibalized by the iPhone. We saw Blockbuster pushed out by streaming services like Netflix, and we witnessed (and likely partook in) the widespread embrace of formerly outlandish concepts like Uber and Airbnb. These evolutions represent incredible moments in history. In many cases, they also offer an important lesson to technologists and business owners who are eager to remain one step ahead of the continued technological revolution. In fact, the most valuable lesson of all can be gleaned from a brand that once dominated its respective market: RadioShack.
What Exactly Happened to RadioShack?
Initially founded in 1921, RadioShack was hailed as an industry leader in the tech world of the late 1970s and early 1980s with 4,300 franchises across North America. At that time, RadioShack was a beloved, one-stop-shop for all things electronic – from walkie-talkies to radios, stereos, cell phones, CD players, camcorders, and more. That is, until 2015. After decades of service, RadioShack made headlines as it underwent bankruptcy proceedings, and the brand was sold off to entities around the world. There was no denying it – RadioShack had made a fatal misstep and had failed to secure its place in the future while other tech brands surged ahead. So, what exactly went wrong?
From a product standpoint, RadioShack primarily focused its offerings on cell phones and various “gadgets” and components. While this initially worked, the retailer notably missed out on the personal computer revolution and instead chose to lean heavily into cell phones. The only problem? The sign-up process took 45+ minutes per customer and, as the cell phone market evolved, carriers began opening their own stores, which directly impacted RadioShack’s primary revenue stream. But, perhaps, the real nail in the coffin was the rise of the iPhone.
The iPhone is, quite literally, a jack of all technological trades. The individual items that once lined the shelves of RadioShack (and therefore were sold separately) were suddenly rendered obsolete by a smartphone that could offer users everything – right in the palm of their hand. Personal stereo? iPhone. AM/FM clock radio? iPhone. Calculator? iPhone. Portable music player? iPhone. Handheld camcorder? iPhone. The list goes on. Back in the 1990s, a consumer would need to spend thousands of dollars to purchase all of the individual gadgets and items that are now encapsulated within one central, easy-to-use device.
By consolidating core features of popular gadgets and streamlining service delivery via a singular, connected device, Apple had …….