October 11, 2012

Gliebers Dresses: The App Economy

Gliebers Dresses is a fictional story about a catalog company struggling to keep up with changes in the marketplace.  If business fiction is not your thing, then please move along, there's nothing to see here.  If you need a diversion on a nondescript Friday, enjoy!

Glenn Glieber (President, CEO):  Good morning everybody.  I'm certain all of you have many interesting topics to bring up today, so let's just get started.  Roger, you wanted to go first.

Roger Morgan (Chief Operating Officer):  In my left hand, I am holding a $495 report from Woodside Research, titled "The App Economy".  I don't think I have to tell you, folks, that this report represents our future.

Pepper Morgan Pressley (Chief Marketing Officer):  Here we go again.

Roger Morgan:  You see, in the future, everybody is going to be doing everything via apps.  Want a taxi cab?  You'll contact @uber via an app.  Want to listen to music?  You'll fire up Pandora on your Nexus 7, or on your internet enabled car stereo.  And if you want to buy a dress?

Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer):  You'll flip through our catalog?

Roger Morgan:  No.  Wait.  What?  No!  You'll access the Gliebers Dresses app.

Meredith Thompson:  That's what I will do?  A woman past sixty years old?  I'll just fire up the Gliebers Dresses app?

Roger Morgan: I paid Woodside Research $495, why would they mislead us?  Yes, you will fire up the Gliebers Dresses app.

Lois Gladstone (Chief Fiancial Officer):  I don't want to listen to Pandora.  I like listening to WFNQ.  Sure, the signal is a little fuzzy when we drive through the rolling hills of New Hampshire, but that's the station I have listened to for years.  They play the greatest hits of the 80s, 90s, and today.

Roger Morgan:  I think you should create custom playlists on Pandora.  It's better than the 80s, 90s, and today.  It's a app that tailors music to your individual tastes.

Lois Gladstone:  Can I listen to Gomer and Gabby on Pandora?  They do the morning show on WFNQ.  They're funny.  Gabby really zings Gomer.

Roger Morgan:  You'll probably listen to their podcast on another app.  You'll time shift, you'll listen to their show when it is convenient to you.

Lois Gladstone:  Why would I do that when I can just listen to Gomer and Gabby live on WFNQ?

Roger Morgan:  We're getting off-topic a bit.  Woodside Research says that we need an app.  Oh, and they are suggesting that our existing business model is dead.

Meredith Thompson:  Our business model of selling dresses to women is dead?

Roger Morgan:  No, our business model of selling via e-commerce is dead.

Meredith Thompson:  We are a cataloger, Roger.

Roger Morgan:  Catalogs have been dead for a decade.  Woodside Research is now saying that e-commerce is also dead.

Pepper Morgan:  Tell that to Amazon.

Meredith Thompson:  But according to our matchback reporting, 70% of our sales are caused by catalogs.  How can it be that our business model is dead?

Roger Morgan:  Look, we can quibble over percentages for hours, or we can listen to the advice of experts.  The point is, we need an app, now, or we're in big trouble.

Meredith Thompson:  What is a Nexus 7?

Roger Morgan:  It's a tablet, running Android 4.1.  You download apps from Google Play.  Games.  Music.  There's even a Kindle app.  All in the palm of your hand.

Lois Gladstone:  Why do I need Nexus 7 with a Kindle app when I can just buy a Kindle?

Meredith Thompson:  Why do I need a tablet when I have internet access on my desktop computer at home?

Lois Gladstone:  Or why even buy a Kindle when you can just purchase a book?

Roger Morgan:  You're all missing the point.  The kids are using mobile devices everywhere, and we need an app to connect with the kids.

Meredith Thompson:  My customer is sixty years old, Roger.

Roger Morgan:  Why are all of you fighting me on this?

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  We're not fighting you, Roger, though nearly everybody in here wants to unleash an open hand across your partially shaven face from time to time.  We're just sick and tired of the pundits at Woodside Research telling everybody what to do.

Roger Morgan:  No!

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  Yes.  They told us that podcasts were the future.  Remember that nonsense?  Brands lacking the ability to produce authentic podcasts were destined for the scrapheap?  Remember when they told us that CEOs would be blogging every day, and customers would be so enthralled with this level of authenticity that they would open their wallets in approval?  What about widgets?  We had to have a widget, or we were behind the curve.  Or F-commerce?  We were told that our e-commerce site wouldn't have any traffic by 2011 because Facebook commerce would thoroughly consume e-commerce.  Then it was mobile, remember that one?  We had to have a mobile website by Holiday 2010 or we'd be out of business by the start of 2011.  Now a mobile website is useless unless we have apps built on top of the mobile experience.  Where does it end, Roger?

Roger Morgan:  It doesn't end.  This is part of our omnichannel future.  These things all work together.  The sum is greater than the individual parts.  When they all work together, it's a lot like free marketing.

Glenn Glieber:  I love free marketing!

Meredith Thompson:  They don't work together.  This is a myth.  My customer is not listening to podcasts.  She doesn't use widgets.  She doesn't care if Glenn Glieber writes a blog.  She's on Facebook to see pictures of her grandchildren.  She doesn't understand why anybody would communicate using only 140 characters on Twitter when they can use email.  She barely uses more than eleven text messages a month.  She'd rather have in-person relationships than digital relationships.

Roger Morgan:  Is anybody listening to me?

Lois Gladstone:  Yes, you're telling me that I can't listen to Gomer and Gabby in the morning the way I want to.  You're telling me that I have to do everything your way in the future.  I just want to push preset number three in my car.  It's easy.  I don't want to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on every song on Pandora, trying to teach a computer to learn how to like me.  Enough is enough.

Roger Morgan:  Feldman, help me out.

Dr. Gene Feldman (Vice President of Global Brand Direction):  In Back to the Future, Part II, we're presented with a world where cars travel in the sky.  Hoverboards replaced skateboards, though as we learned, you can't take a hoverboard over water, because you have no power!  Some things remained the same.  Greed, money, and power were as common in the eighties as they were in the future.  But some things never came to fruition.  We don't convert garbage to gasoline do we?  Amazingly, a third of the world is starving, but we choose not to feed people.  Instead, we chose to convert corn into gasoline.  You couldn't possibly have seen that one coming.  And while we're at it, the movie promised us clothes that auto-fit the dimensions of the person wearing merchandise.  Why can't we do that?  Why can't we create a dress that is flattering no matter the body shape of the person wearing it?

Glenn Glieber:  Feldman, what the heck are you talking about?

Dr. Gene Feldman:  I'm talking about the future.  Nobody knows what the heck is going to happen in the future.  We only know that things won't be like they are today.

Roger Morgan:  Woodside Research knows what is going to happen in the future.

Dr. Gene Feldman:  We predict what we think we might like, then we extrapolate, and soon enough, we're operating in a world of science fiction.  Watch Back to the Future, Part II today, and you'll laugh at how wrong they were.  But when they made the move in the late 1980s, their assumptions were highly plausible.  Same thing with Roger.  He's extrapolating.  To him, the assumptions are highly plausible.  But in a few years, what he is saying today will be ridiculous.

Roger Morgan:  I thought you were on my side, Feldman?

Dr. Gene Feldman:  I am on your side.  We absolutely create our own version of the future.  I wanted Colbie Calliat to perform in a television commercial.  Chicos heard about it, and created something almost identical to my original concept.  Would they have done that if I hadn't said it first?  Unlikely.  Every person makes an assumption about the future, then takes a baby step.  And when billions of people all make different baby steps, it impacts the next baby step we take.  Eight baby steps later, we're going down a different path than the one we imagined when we took the first baby step.  We were influenced by all of the other baby steps!  We can imagine the future.  But each of us imagines a different future, and our imaginations cause each different version of the future to change, unpredictably.

Roger Morgan:  Who are you, Oprah?  Is this Super Soul Sunday?

Dr. Gene Feldman:  You can do a lot worse than Oprah.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  We just spent an hour to prove, once again, that Roger will always be wrong.

Roger Morgan:  Look, you lemonheads can keep creating catalog spreads that speak to a sixty year old shopper that, soon enough, will care more about Social Security than online security.  Or you can start taking the baby steps that Feldman talked about.  Now who's with me?

Meredith Thompson:  That reminds me, I need to leave.  I have a meeting where we'll talk about whether the May catalog will have 64 or 68 pages.  This is an important meeting.  Our inventory folks are really concerned about forecasting demand in a 68 page catalog.  But I think the additional four pages will really make a splash in the mailbox.

Lois Gladstone:  We should talk about the circulation depth, then.  If we're adding four pages, we'll need to trim circulation to stay within budget.

Pepper Morgan Pressley:  I don't think we want to cut new customer acquisition circ.  I'll talk to the co-ops about the new models they are proposing, we'll see if they can squeeze out the same number of new customers on a circ reduction.

Roger Morgan:  Apps, folks.  We were talking about the App Economy.

Glenn Glieber:  Well, it's been an inspiring hour, hasn't it?  By the way, does anybody have a VHS tape of Back to the Future, Part II?  I'd like to pop that thing into my VCR tonight.