May 05, 2013

Dear Catalog CEOs: The Distraction Advantage

Dear Catalog CEOs:

Your competitors are being seriously distracted.  This gives you a major advantage, the first time you've had a significant advantage over the competition since the late 1990s.

Retail:  Retail executives are being told that they must digitize the physical store experience.  Oh boy.  Do you honestly think there is one clear, easy path to accomplishing that?  Vendors/Management Consultants will say "yes, it's called omnichannel!!!"  You could spend a decade trying to do this, with a low probability of success.  Retailers will spend a decade trying to do this.  Channels will trump merchandise for the near future, based on what we are reading.

E-Commerce:  E-commerce executives are being told that mobile will revolutionize their business.  Well, that's partially true.  If your core customer is 45, no, mobile will not revolutionize the business in the short term.  Long-term, mobile will create the same problem for e-commerce that e-commerce caused for catalogers.  It's the way the world works.  Either way, some Vendor/Management Consultant will tell you they have the solution, and e-commerce folks will be distracted/frightened.  eBay mentioned mobile 127 times in the Annual Report (click here), they mentioned omnichannel 0 times.  Mobile is going to obliterate e-commerce (among customers age 18-40) in the way that e-commerce obliterated catalog marketing.  It's going to be interesting to watch, no doubt about it.  It's going to be a distraction.

Any time your competitors are distracted, you have a major advantage.

Catalogers, you have a major advantage today.

You already know that you have to make a choice.
  1. Double-down on the Baby Boomer customer, and ride the gravy train into retirement.
  2. Make strategic changes to migrate the business model, over the next five years, from Judy (age 60) to Jennifer (age 44).
You get to spend the next five years implementing either choice.

Your competitors get to think about how to "digitize" the omnichannel experience.

Take advantage of this opportunity.