Tag Archives: retail

Post Cold-War Retail

Every retail client I ever had doubled as a spy.

Wow.  Look at all those SKUs

That is, they all spent time mystery-shopping competitors to see what they had and how they did things.  My Sam’s Club clients, for instance, might have spent more time in Costco’s warehouses than their own with the result that their warehouses started to look like Costco’s.

For decades, a cold war-like situation held sway with retailers keeping tabs on each other and reacting quickly.  More recently, I’d argue that online retail, particularly that other Seattle-based retailer, has effectively ended the cold war and made it harder for bricks-and-mortar retailers to know what’s going on.

Witness the example of fidget cubes.  Where they came from and how they got there speak volumes to the new status quo in retail.

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I see your Dash Button and raise you a kiosk

Walmart recently announced a test in some Texas markets that suggest a new hedge against Amazon: in-store kiosks.

…the retailer is testing a new program that would allow customers to immediately place an online order for an item that isn’t in stock…

…Walmart CFO Brett Briggs unveiled the tests during an investor conference Wednesday, describing the system as an “endless aisle-type concept.”

Walmart being Walmart, this otherwise straightforward pilot could take on any number of overtones.  It doesn’t take too much imagination to wonder if the kiosk represents an initiative to reduce labor costs.  As a former contractor who worked on the Sam’s Club business, I can attest to their emphasis, which I think you could fairly call an obsession, on reducing costs of any kind.

However, I think the kiosk has another goal: countering Amazon’s Dash Button. Continue reading

A Jersey Shore Conversation

Lou Reed recorded a ditty (can’t quite call it a song) for his 1972 album Transformer called “New York Telephone Conversation.”  Some 34 years later, I heard something that I’ll call a “Jersey Shore Conversation” that humbly reminded me why marketers really ought to listen to consumer closely.  Really closely.  Like close enough to smell the sunscreen closely.

Over the course of about five minutes, I heard a conversation that gave me fresh perspectives on the two dominant trends in retailing today: experiential marketing and, of course, online purchasing.



I don’t want to infringe (too much) on Lou’s estate, so here’s a cover version

Let me set the scene: Monmouth Beach in the great state of New Jersey, the Saturday after Labor Day.  Two 60-ish folks enjoying a chat footsteps away from the storm-tossed Atlantic.  She: trim, well-kept and brassy lady whom, my wife recalls from a previous conversation, sells some kind of industrial product.  He: silver fox type reading “Private Empire,” a book about ExxonMobil.  She’s unmarried, as far as we know, so that makes him…friend?  Boyfriend?  Relative?  We don’t know.

He: Shopping is going to change forever.

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The Unified Field Theory of Creepy

When marketers discuss using consumer data to drive content or offers in addressable communications such as email, apps or on-site messages, sooner or later the word “creepy” comes up.  Front-and-center stand such examples as the New York Times’s infamous “father learns of daughter’s pregnancy via direct mail” article.

However, even ordinary consumers in ordinary situations may feel that a marketer has violated some form of privacy when it reveals too much about what it knows in an email or SMS.

We all agree that we want to avoid creepiness, but I don’t think we marketers, as a group, have established a working definition of creepy.  While no one would deny the creepiness of the lubricant example above, would an offer for sports equipment or kitchenware have raised an eyebrow?  How can we create a standard for what kinds of data are off-limits?   Continue reading