May 31, 2012

Friday Notes

Let's start with this image to our right.

This was what was in my mailbox.  On a Wednesday.  In Late May.

There are nine catalogs here.

I've previously purchased from three of the businesses.

  1. I bought from one of the businesses, online, twelve months ago.
  2. I bought from one of the businesses, just once, online, nine months ago.
  3. One business I buy from, in store, monthly.
Which means, of course, that the co-ops self-determined the other six catalogs.  

That big algorithm in the cloud made some mighty big decisions.

Ask somebody at your favorite co-op to run you a report.  Have them tell you exactly how many times they decided to contact, in the past year, the customers they selected for your most recent customer acquisition activity, across all of their clients.  Sure, they'll tell you that they're not going to tell you that metric, just like they'll tell you that they aren't going to tell you the secret sauce that goes into their proprietary, cloud-based algorithms (heck, I tell everybody, even my competition, how I do what I do ... it's not bad for business).  This time, when they fail to offer you transparency, do something about it!  Demand transparency!  Because six co-op based catalogs in your mailbox in late May is unlikely to result in an optimal outcome for anybody except the co-op making algorithmic, cloud-based decisions on your behalf.

Retailers Need To Be Liked:  Have you read this one (click here)?  I'll save you a little bit of time by getting to the punchline:
  • "Will it drive sales?  Not likely."
Allow me to communicate a parable.  I was invited to speak at last fall.  That's an honor.  You stand up in front of four hundred people and share your thoughts.  You check your phone ninety seconds after finishing and you learn that your quotes have been tweeted seventy-nine times in the past thirty minutes.  For the next six hours, you're a star, people come up to you and tell you how much they loved your message.

But not one individual hired me for a consulting project following the conference.

In other words, it was fun to be "liked".  But there was no correlation between being liked and making a living.  

You have to spend your time wisely.

The same thing can be said for all of us who are trying to sell something to a customer.  The activities that cause somebody to "like" us on Facebook are not the same activities that cause somebody to buy something from us.  Maybe it is time to focus our efforts on selling something.

Beer Market:  Tell me why this concept wouldn't work on your homepage (click here)?  And I'm not saying you do this with every item you sell, but why not choose a dozen items and then experiment with them?  And yes, I realize, the multi-channel pundits will light me up on this one, suggesting that you have to honor the price in your printed catalog at your call center, and this technology makes it impossible because you have dynamic pricing in one channel and static pricing in other channels.  Fine.  Create a dozen new items that you only sell online and try this.  And yes, I realize that the multi-channel pundits will light me up on this one, saying that the subsequent idea is a single-channel-only solution that doesn't fit in the multi-channel constellation they adore.  Well, fine.  

Maybe lack of innovation is a reason that multi-channel is a failed concept.

Mobile:  You ever notice how one botched IPO causes everybody to view social media differently?  One little line in an SEC document about it being harder to monetize mobile, and all of a sudden, "Facebook is Dead" abounds on the internet.  Experts from near and far are pontificating about this, even though the same reality existed before the public disclosure and the IPO and almost none of the experts bothered to consider the concept as they ran the valuation up and up and up.

When it comes to advertising, folks famously talked about trading analog dollars for digital dimes.  Maybe we're in the first inning of trading digital dimes for portable pennies.

By the way, dear Catalogers, have you noticed the similarities between e-commerce/mobile and where cataloging went in the 1980s?  Catalogers like JCP/Sears/Spiegel sent their 600 page masterpieces, at considerable cost.  Then folks like L.L. Bean and Lands' End obliterated that business model with 124 page, lower-cost assortments, targeted to niche audiences.  Thirty years later, we're in the same place.  E-commerce is the 600 page masterpiece, mobile is the targeted 124 page assortment with much less cost.

Just think of the parallels as mobile obliterates traditional e-commerce among Jasmine's generation.

Speaking of Judy:  Did you read this little gem about Judy and her love for Best Buy's Geek Squad?  We spent a decade chasing channels, when we should have been focusing on customers.  Now that we're stuck with a 55+, rural audience, why not look at ways to meet the needs of a 55+, rural audience?

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