December 30, 2019

So Long 2010s

You can make a reasonably strong argument that the past decade was a fusion of three key factors:
  • We pulled out of a near-depression.
  • Free and Open Communication with anybody.
  • Demographic change.

From a commerce standpoint, we have the implosion of malls coupled with the rise in dollar stores. That's not a coincidence, that's a consequence of a near-depression. And we accelerated the problem by telling our own customers to ignore stores and "buy now" online. 40% off is the outcome of failing to adjust to a changing world ... failing to account for deflation of the commodities we sell.

"Free and Open Communication" has consequences as well.
  • As messages increase, the value of each individual message decreases. When I started this blog in 2006 I could write something that would resonate across the industry. It was common for ten thousand people to read something I wrote and it was common for 50 or 75 people to comment and interact with what was said. In 2019, up to a thousand people might read something and virtually nobody will interact with the content.
  • The same thing happens in your business ... sum up your email campaigns, your tweets, your Instagram posts, and you'll realize that you sent thousands of messages that virtually nobody interacted with.
  • Meanwhile, your use of "free and open communication" means that third parties are spying on everything you say/do, repackaging it, segmenting it, and then plugging the information into algorithms that even the creators of the algorithms cannot fully understand. The algorithms make decisions. When a customer "engages" with you on social media, the "engagement" has plenty of unintended consequences (for the customer).
  • Finally, when there is no short-term cost for lying, people will lie. Hint - there are serious long-term consequences for lying. In retail, a decade of lies regarding omnichannel business strategy helped accelerate the implosion of mall-based retail. Lies are permeating our society. In business, lies are perpetrated by folks who need to monetize my client base. The result isn't positive for my client base.
Demographic change is plowing through old-school catalog marketing and retail.
  • Traditional catalog brands continue to fold ... and while you can criticize them for holding to a "catalog" business model, demographic changes and merchandising strategy are far more the issue. Baby Boomers are retiring, and the catalogers who followed them for the past thirty-five years have morphed their merchandise assortment so far away from a middle-aged customer that they cannot attract a middle-aged customer. It's a failure of merchandising strategy that is killing traditional catalog brands, and nobody wants to talk about this issue.
  • Traditional mall-based retail is a confection of the Baby Boomer generation. Now that Baby Boomers have largely left the mall, the mall is dying. Toss in financial considerations (customers shifting dollars out of malls and into dollar stores and low-cost brands), and you end up with what trade journalists call "the retail apocalypse".

Nobody can predict what the 2020s will bring us.

But we can spend the start of the decade figuring out our place in a changing world.
  • Most "consumers" have less money.
  • Free and open communication renders individual messages meaningless while tech folks monetize the aggregation of individual messages, which is quite meaningful (and quite negative for our customers). Toss lies into the mix, and you have a toxic slurry of issues to navigate.
  • Baby Boomers will be pulled from the commerce ecosystem over the next decade, requiring us to adapt, and adapt rather quickly.
So long 2010s ... you left us with a unique set of challenges ... as all decades do. We get paid to deal with the challenges. Let's start dealing with them.

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