Thursday, October 11, 2007

phewwww... what's that smell?

That would be the smell of a STALE BLOG I believe.

Good GRAVY! Can't believe that I've slipped so much on blogging... was it REALLY May 19th since my last post? UGH.

Thanks to all of you who have commented since then... and to the 4 or 5 of you that have stopped by pining for a new post :-) I've got plenty of topics that I want to cover as the last minute holiday plans are prepped. I'll be posting again soon.


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Online research... creates offline sales

More proof that if you as a retailer AREN'T making a seamless offline/online experience the core of your growth strategy (including budgeting, staffing, product strategy, etc.) you should be by now.

This article in BrandWeek sums up the latest Forrester Research on the subject. Tamara Mendelsohn, a Senior Analyst with Forrester said that 51% of consumers are researching all of their purchases online prior to buying offline. That's a HUGE amount... and according to reports... this is an average across all verticals.

What does that mean? A couple of things: First, sharpening search strategy is even more important than ever. Next, you MUST have a web-to-store, store-to-web integrated strategy at LEAST on the drawing boards... if not implemented. Systems and processes need to be able to support this trend (which by the way the report cites as continuing to increase) and you are leaving more than enough money on the table at this point to justify the cost. Finally... the last traces of doubt about an ecommerce site and strategy should be gone from your organization. This is as important as operating your stores... it is VITAL to your overall success as a retailer in the US, and even more so abroad.

Why Cutter & Buck doesn't need 'help'

Okay... I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I'm a bit of a "golf shirt snob." And anyone in the golf business well tell you that Cutter & Buck is one of the best all around shirts you can buy. Their color selections... fabrics... very well done. However, their online marketing efforts sometimes leave room for improvement.

Case in point. I'm on their email list. I get one roughly once a week. It is usually well designed... good links... etc. Here's a quick picture of it.

But... in the address "from" field... the address it comes "from" is Now... I don't know about you, but... when I get an email from "help" at any address... I immediately think of one of two things:
  • whooray! I got my question answered by support. I'm so happy.
  • OR
  • who's spamming me from a help address? I didn't ask for any help.

In this day and age... inboxes are scanned by consumers QUICKLY. They define spam as "everything they didn't ask for, looks like SPAM -> Delete Key."

Which brings me to the point here. I'm normally not a betting man. However, with emails coming from an address like I'm willing to bet they have open rate problems. It is VERY straight forward to get this changed. Working with your Email Service Provider and your network support team, this should be a simple DNS record change. Should be ready to go in 24 hours tops.

I hope they get their act together and get this changed. I want to see them succeed online so I can still wear their great shirts!

Wanna talk about it... MEEBOME or leave me a comment.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

is m-commerce finally ready?

M-commerce; is it something you're thinking about? If not... it might be time to look more seriously into it. An article on along with some other articles about how some big entities are getting into the mobile banking/payment game started me thinking about this subject again.

There are a lot of things starting to finally converge that make this something to pay attention to. Some of those include:
  • better displays on the newer mobile devices
  • faster data services provided by the mobile providers
  • the capability to via hosted services, build a mobile version of your online retail store with a small investment in time and effort.
  • the generation that has been text messaging like crazy for 3 years or more... is either about to graduate from college or is out... and is now starting to have money to spend.
  • the ability to behaviorally target the user with context relative information real-time (ads, prices, etc. based on your physical location)
I think that the Apple iPhone, the wifi Zune and the plethora of devices like it will be driving people even further to this mode of shopping sooner rather than later.

I have to admit though that my own use of my Treo 650 as a mobile device has been... well... underwhelming at times. I chalk this up to the capabilities of the services that I've tried to use rather than the capabilities of the device.

In general though, if you don't have a mobile store within the next 8-12 months... and you're looking for a leg up on your competition, it might be time to check out a service like mPoria to see if you can design an experience that is very relevant to your customer. The convenience of the mobile store, combined with the improvements in the user experience and the adaptation of the mobile device as an everyday necessity might just be pushing mobile commerce to a tipping point explosion.

Would love to hear your thoughts... feel free to meebome on the right or comment.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

In-Stock Re-Defined, and the "Experience Chain"

Saw a very interesting article today that spurred some thinking (again... for the three or four of you that read this thing that should come as no surprise ;-)

The article is from those really smart folks over at Knowledge@Wharton (you might have heard of Wharton???). It talks about that consumer's definition of what it "in stock" has really changed dramatically, thanks to the advent of strong multi-channel seamlessly integrated retailers. In a nutshell... "in stock" no longer means "on the store shelves" but rather "somewhere in your enterprise." It is the experience that I was driving the powers that be towards at FamousFootwear when I was there, and it is the experience that consumers are starting to expect and get delivered to them by leaders such as Circuit City, Best Buy to name but a few.

The article goes on to point out that the weakest link in the success of this experience might be the employee they talk to at the store. If your person on the front lines doesn't know how to use the tools at their disposal to meet the customer's demands... your can STILL fail the customer's expectations. It is a great article and I commend it to you. However, it also got me thinking about a new concept; "The Experience Chain"

As I've said before, this superior customer experience, no matter what service you provide or goods you sell... is EXPECTED to be in the DNA of your organization at this point. Without it, your customer has too many choices and too much power for your organization to continue to succeed. Today's customer has Demandments according to one of the people I admire a lot Kelly Mooney at Resource Interactive. The customer's Customer Satisfaction as measured by ForeSee and the American Customer Satisfaction Index has a DIRECT correlation to the performance of an organization.

Your organization will meet these expectations only if your "Experience Chain" is humming along with the same efficiency as your "supply chain" or your "operational chain." If it isn't, your going to miss your "mark" with your organization's goals. In short, you could really look at all of your business functions, as part of your "Experience Chain." I'm going to better define this... what it includes, etc. but for now, here's my first crack at a definition:
"The Experience Chain: The sum of all your organization's strategies and activities, that provide your customer(s) with a superior customer experience."
Remember, the phrase "The Experience Chain." I'll be writing more about it soon.

Got any thoughts? Love to hear them. MEEBOME or comment.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Why I just paid $79 for an Oil Change...

It is always easy to talk about your superior customer experience when you buy a new pair of shoes... or that piece of high fashion... upper end electronics... even your morning coffee/latte. But... I bet not many folks talk about their superior OIL CHANGE experience... Time to break some new ground ;-)

I paid $79 for an oil change today. I normally pay $44 for an oil change. I could pay $19.95 a lot of places, but... I don't. I pay the extra money. Every time. Why? Because I trust the Valvoline Instant Oil Change place will do it right, and keep my car running great! I trust that they will do it efficiently, on time, and won't pressure me into anything I don't want. I also trust that they know what's best for my car.

How'd they earn this trust? They have a simple formula. Their shop is clean, always. They do what they say they will do. They are very easy to use, with excellent systems for POS, a great CRM/Loyalty club, etc. And, they have a great product.

So today, I went to get the oil changed on the element. I use 5W-30 Durablend (a blended synthetic oil). It costs a little more but I want my element to last a long time. When I pulled in, I'd been wanting a place to get the tires rotated on it... but had put it off because... well... I didn't want to go to another place to do it. Well... at the Valvoline Instant Oil Change they do that... and the helpful service tech pointed it out when I came in. Boom... I spent $25 more for a rotation. They got it done in no time.... top to bottom I was out in 30 minutes.

Like clockwork they went through their routine... "Bay 3 Filter Verified!!!" "Bay 3 ready for oil!!!" came from the techs as they went about their work. When all was done, a quick review, speedy payment process done right there in the service bay, and a friendly reminder to fill out a quick telephone or web survey on their performance... and I was on my way.

I'm sure that someone could say that this is their job... and I'm just noticing someone or a team doing their job. But... I've changed the oil in my car before... and I've been to quite a few of these places... what keeps me coming back and paying more for this service is... the consistent level of service and the ease of use. In short... they get it right.

So... next time you get your oil changed... you might want to check out the level of service you get. Can you count on it every time? I know I can...

Feel free to comment or MEEBOME in the right column. If you need me, look for me in about 3500 miles... at a Valvoline Instant Oil Change.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

ATG & Kelly Mooney - they get IT

While my very near future employer might not appreciate this... I have to say that when I was evaluating platforms for the integration of the customer experience in retail and B2B, one company kept coming back to the fore; ATG. They truly are at the "thought leadership" position in terms of how the digital technology of today can change the success of your organization. Their platform gets to the DNA of many specific areas in a retail or B2B operation, and it plays extremely well with others ;-)

It is time for their annual conference, and this time they've got an impressive lineup of speakers, from Chris Anderson to one of my favorites; Kelly Mooney. If you're lucky enough to have some time and a few extra $$$'s, you might want to check this event out.

Why doesn't my Agency Get the digital space?

Little different than online retail but I think related none the less.

My last stint was at a "traditional agency." They did an excellent job at DM, B2B and essential print marketing. But... their idea of a truly integrated digital, video, and DM campaign failed miserably. The concept was presented to one group and supposedly approved. The development of the digital component was never "headed" so much as it was batted about like a shuttlecock in a world championship Badminton match. The people who were supposed to "lead" the project... hadn't built a website in their lives... let alone an integrated campaign. The digital portion of the project was a PORTAL, which never had a single requirements document written for it. From the description, you would figure that this agency was a 20-person shop, with smaller clients. It wasn't. It is in fact a "network agency" with one of the biggest agency groups out there. The client was... um... really big.

The results... the root concept presented by the creative team, was axed by the client... only after 6 figures had been spent on a "digital experience" to match that "vision." The campaign and site however rolled out with that root concept in tact because... well... it was too late to change it. The results were... um... underwhelming. The level of integration was... well... not integrated. I left the agency shortly after the project rolled out, but this agency and network group have since participated in another high profile... hiccup... in the digital space.

So... why the dysfunction? Well... I read this MediaPost article today... and I think that the warnings to "traditional agencies" part of it pretty much summed up the experience. The article talks about the silos that exist in agencies... and the barriers these become to the truly integrated campaign. It also says that it is imperative that the "traditional agencies" figure this out now... or risk not surviving, because today's consumer... younger for sure but even boomers at this point... EXPECT INTEGRATION. They expected in the message, in their customer experience... they believe one brand, one vision. Most agencies are not setup to handle this.

The agency I was with, had creative groups lined up around verticals... and clients. DM group didn't consort with the TV, etc. They "worked together" on projects but... did not have an integrated approach... and for the most part while well intentioned... the creative group had little or no large scale experience with digital experiences. Meanwhile, the Account Service layer had been very used to controlling all aspects of the project; planning, production, execution. Very much like running a DM project. They had NO experience with running a project the level of variables involved in a digital project, but had all the authority and responsibility for it. Then you had the technical group, which was very talented, but also did not have the analysis layer to produce and effective large scale digital experience. And finally... getting this large, disjointed team on the same page... on ANYTHING... was nearly impossible.

So... what's the lesson... the solution here? The lesson could be best learned by looking the mistakes of their clients... especially when it comes to how THEY'VE mishandled integrated experiences. For example; no longer does retail operations work in a vacuum with regards to what the marketing team is doing for a campaign, or the digital team is doing on their "biggest store" the website. These teams are together... working as one on singularly focused campaigns and improving the customer experience. I think the reason you're seeing the upper tier digital agencies start to become the 'agency of record' in more situations... is that the RG/A's of the world GET the integration needed organizationally to achieve integrated marketing. It has been my experience that the "network approach" or even the siloed-mid-agency approach has some challenges focusing like this.

My advice to agencies that aren't yet integrated... is you can't do an effective integrated campaign until you yourself are integrated. If you don't change now... the clients are going to pass you by.

Love to hear your comments... either via meebome or below.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Are you experienced?

Retailers and really anyone that needs to sell you SOMETHING are more focused on the customer experience than ever today. They're starting to realize that in a market where something can become a commodity so fast it can make your head spin, your survival might rely on it. There are all kinds of thought leaders in this area. I tend to keep track of Kelly Mooney and the gang over at Resource Interactive as folks that have some great insights, but there are countless examples out there. So... when my daily NRF SmartBrief came to my inbox yesterday with an article from the NYT about the Samsung Experience store in Manhattan and I thought it was a great time to chime in for a minute about what it means to have an "excellent customer experience."

Now, I'm sure that someone could write a long case study on this stuff, in fact I'm sure many have. But, really it boils down to this; If your customer's demands are met, then you've provided a good customer experience. If they begin to choose you over your competitors on a regular basis, you're providing a great customer experience. If they choose you so often that your competitor either starts to copy you, or loses market share, you are providing a superior customer experience. What happens... the "customer" begins to "trust" you. So... I think of a superior customer experience as one of "trust" of you, your service, your product(s) and your ability to meet their "need."

In the NYT article, they talk about the Samsung Experience store and how you can't buy anything in it (gasp!). You just get to try out cool Samsung stuff. They also talk about the new ATT Experience stores that are coming, which will highlight the new capabilities of "the new ATT" with wireless, voice, web, and TV coming together on one platform. Both of these brands realize that the more interaction people have with your products... the opportunity to investigate on your own... the more they learn about you... and develop a trustworthy relationship with your brand. Once you have that... you have a brand affinity that will follow them.

When I was at Famous Footwear, we learned this lesson to some degree with some store redesign concepts based around ease of shopping and also simple things like the ability to easily sit down and try shoes on. Instead of the "pile it high and it'll fly" approach that was ESPECIALLY prevalent in Shoe Retailing (remember walking into the store and seeing boxes of shoes stacked to the ceiling???) we made more room for benches, better lighting, etc. We differentiated ourselves on this as well as better product. We TALKED about it with the beginnings of the "more shoes more ways" marketing campaign. And guess what? It worked! More sales, happier-more loyal customers... and a record year in 2006 for Famous Footwear.

In short, the "experience" is the WHOLE THING. It is a concerted effort on behalf of your WHOLE TEAM to meet the customer's needs... and building trust in them so that they pick YOU rather than YOUR COMPETITOR.

So... with that discussion in mind... I pose the question (borrowing from the late great Jimi Hendrix); Are you experienced?

Would love to hear your thoughts... either meebome at the right or comment.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Learning that product rules... still.

The news today that GAP will close its Fourth & Towne stores probably shouldn't come as a surprise to most in the retail world. GAP is really struggling with what it wants to be when it grows up. This is well documented with the shake-up at the top, having designers and CEO's leave, etc.

What is interesting about GAP however is that while they have struggled in their stores, their online sales continue to grow (or at least had... they've got numbers coming out any day now that could change that trend). They have a very well documented modern eCommerce infrastructure... and they've rolled out new brands like Piperlime to take advantage of that. Fourth & Towne on the other hand... was a ''brick first, online second" play by GAP. At the time it debuted back in August of 05... the thought was that their target market wanted goods multi-channel. Heck... I remember when it came out... I was saying "smart move" because of their approach for the market. So... what happened?

GAP's products... almost across the board (with the exception of Banana Republic) have been getting HAMMERED as ordinary... or just not exciting... by customers and analysts alike. Piperlime on the other hand is really selling other peoples' products... again a new step for GAP in a lot of ways. Only the Banana product seems to be catching the fancy of their target.

The lesson here is... the best infrastructure can't make up for inferior product. You have to have Trend-right product... in the retail industry... to succeed as a multi-channel retailer... a pure-play... or a brick only variety. It applies to almost all market segments... verticals, etc. Keep that in mind when you're working on that next big ecommerce effort. Don't expect your platform... your usability studies... or your Web 2.0 widgets to make up for bad product. They CAN contribute to the experience... but they can't make up for your BRAND Experience.

Love to hear from you. Comment on this.. or any post... or MEEBOME using the blank to the right when you see I'm online. Cheers!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Sprucing up...

Well, I finally took the time to spruce up the template a bit today. Hope everyone finds this one a little easier to read. More to come soon. cheers!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

From the "not so targeted email marketing" department...

Okay.. I admit it; I'm a Mark Cuban JUNKIE. His blog ( absolutely cracks me up! Here's a guy who's net worth is a bazillion... yet he's not afraid to point out stupidity in the world... in a very public way. Whether it is the NBA... or Donald Trump in this case... he's got enough money and enough clout that I think sometimes you need to listen to him.

Case in point: Today's blog. Mark got an email today from Donald Trump. It seems that if Mark responds to this email, and for only $76... he can learn the tricks that have made the Donald famous.

Uhhh... I'm guessing they didn't scrub that email list too well. Granted they probably wasted about $.002 to send Mr. Cuban the email but a simple check on would probably have yielded suppressing Mr. Cuban's email address as someone who is "outside the target" for this email.

Lesson learned: You might want to make sure you know something about your customers before you send them email. If they get email from you and they don't trust you knowing them... once.... you'll be in the spam box. I wonder if Mark Cuban has reset his spam filters yet for Trump University.

Or... maybe someone's spamming from an address similar to Mr. Trump's University perhaps? I'm sure there's one of those super-smart-tent-dwelling Apprentices that might be able to solve the problem. Meanwhile... the "Trump" brand name takes another hit either way.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Nordstrom Gets It. (DUH!)

Ever shopped at a Nordstrom? It is amazing. The customer experience is second to none. Their online experience has been good too, but they've been through the typical trials and tribulations of growing a direct e-business (first a stand alone company, then integrated, then... a hybrid) and they've also been like other major retailers and invested in "ecommerce systems" and processes as stand alone entities.

Well... now that they've got this significant direct business that continues to grow, they have taken the bold step to re-tool their core capabilities to become a truly multi-channel retailer. One inventory of products, accessible from anyone in their chain (store,phone, online). No "I can't get to that" or... "that's not in my system" any more. The story in the February Internet Retailer talks a bit about what they're doing but essentially, they've standardized on the Oracle Retailing Suite, are going to do away with redundant systems and inventories... and are going to integrate into their very DNA the notion that the Nordstrom brand is ONE BRAND; with seamless access to that brand from where ever their customer needs it.

They get it. They know that you can charge MORE for a positive customer experience. The way they used to do that is have MORE EMPLOYEES on the sales floor. Today's way of achieving that positive customer experience is simple: a superiorly integrated shopping experience.

Kudos to Jamie Nordstrom and the gang out in Seattle for having the guts to do it right.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Your Next Ad Campaign - YOUTUBE!

Little broader focus this morning... talking about Marketing/Advertising 2.0 kind of stuff.

All 3 of you that occasionally read this blog know that I'm a Big Fan of MEEBO. Not just as a tool, but as a way to start a company, and how they've managed their success to date. Also, how PUBLIC they've been about the whole thing. They just seem like a bright bunch of eggs over there... and I wish them continued success. (BTW: If you IM, and you're NOT using MEEBO, you don't know what you're missing!).

So.. when I logged on to MEEBO this am, I get the daily blog post from the MEEBO team. It seems that they decided (along with some other startups) that it might be time to do an ad for their fine company and products. However, instead of blowing all of their $$$ on the "lone superbowl ad" they've decided to shoot the ad themselves, and go around traditional "media buys" and put it on YOUTUBE themselves.

This got me thinking... sure, you'll have 120m households watching the Super Bowl worldwide this Sunday, but for $3m a minute... are you getting the best bang for your buck on that ad when you could just submit it to YOUTUBE for Free... AND get paid for your ad (if it generates revenue... YOUTUBE's going to pay you for ad revenue now)? Why would you hassle with the inexact science and guess work involved in a complicated national media buy... when you could shoot the commercial... and plop it on YOUTUBE?

You could of course spend millions on your own "platform" to circumvent the traditional media channels (See Bud.TV for that example) but... again... is that going to be the best bang for your buck right now?

Frankly... I don't think so.

At a minimum... I think if I had ANY broadcast ads running right now... I'd have them on YOUTUBE. Look at the economics of this... Your CPM for your AD on YOUTUBE is... well... completely variable but could be just the cost of the ad. You have the potential of putting your ad in front of 82m people a DAY! And, unlike most standard ads, you get these advantages:
  • completely user-driven consumption - no reliance on broadcast or cable/satellite scheduling to see your ad
  • much better analytics on the response
  • the buzz created by being out there
You could of course couple this with an email to your loyalty club... or even get a PR-Generated story in a local paper about "company takes new approach to advertising" to generate some more buzz. The possibilities are ENDLESS.

Check out YOUTUBE for some of your favorite brands today. See what the PULSE of the user-generated content wave is all about. My take is... smart marketers are already doing this but if you're not, you should get on the bandwagon.

Thoughts? Comment or MEEBOME!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Zappos misses mark for 2006

Okay... so I said the other day that was laying down the gauntlet in the online footwear pure-play business.

Well... it seems that Zappos was about $3m short of their "stated plan" for $600m in sales in 2006. Oh yeah... they grew at 61%, which is healthy to say the least, but... I have to think that the gravy train of growth they've been on is starting to run out of steam. According to a story on they only sold $597 in 2006. While the real reason for the press release was to say that they were going to also have free overnight shipping, they always seem to be able to slip in the sales number in their notes somewhere.

I think that the way that Zappos has built their business is admirable. They have focused on serving their customers needs, and that has proven to be very successful from a growth standpoint. I'm a big believer in that method of retailing. However, I see this as a signal that there's not a lot of room left in the space for pure-plays shoe stores that want to be the "category-killer" and in fact, that killer may have just been put into place in Seattle.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Dear Office Depot.... Get a clue!!

So... My wife orders some Kodak Photo Paper from They are always one of Internet Retailer's top X00 Online Retailers. They've been featured in articles about how they want to create multi-channel customers... so you would expect that at this point, there shouldn't be any issues with returning something you bought online, to your neighborhood store.

Uhh... wrong.

It seems that my wife needed a different-sized photo paper than she ordered. We were near our Office Depot in Kirkwood, MO last week, so she went in to exchange the paper she bought. When we went to the counter... you'd have thought that we asked to have all of the money out of the safe. My wife HAD her online receipt AND packing list. She asked if she could get credit for the paper, and pay the difference for the new paper. We were greeted by "did you call the 800 number first? I don't know if I can take your return." Call the 800 number? What... isn't this Office Depot? That's what the sign says outside... uhhhh... NO we didn't call the 800 #. So, after speaking with a manager, and seeing that in fact they DID recognize the SKU (I suggested to the clerk that she try scanning the bar code on it and VIOLA! it was there!!!) my wife was able to pick out other paper, charge her firm's Office Depot Card, and we left. The whole process should have taken 5 minutes.... it took 35 minutes. And, not only were WE held up, but the poor 5 people behind us were waiting much longer than they needed to as well.

The moral of the story here is simple: Systems can be in place (and at this point are EXPECTED to be by your customer). The best email marketing campaign can be rolling. You can have a wonderfully effective search marketing campaign. You can call yourself "multi-channel" all you
desire. But, if you don't execute at the store level, it is all for nothing. Multi-channel is not a marketing campaign, it is a coordinated, brand-driven way of doing business. If it is NOT in your organizations' DNA, you're NOT going to make believers out of your customers.

Maybe the loyalty findings about Multi-channel customers have less to do with their price-sensitivity, and more about the "leaders" in multi-channel retailing executing like Office Depot did. Just a thought.

As an aside, on the same trip, we returned some coffee mugs purchased from that were broken in shipping. Not only did the clerk at the return desk know about the whole situation from the packing slip we had, but we were allowed to KEEP the 2 unbroken mugs. Total time in Target, 5 minutes. Maybe the folks at Office Depot need to take a little trip to Minneapolis to see how this whole Multi-Channel thing is done.

Love to hear your take on it. Comment or MEEBOME.

Wal-Mart...err... Amazon... Endless... Strikes Again

Well, well well... the folks over at and have raised the gauntlet even further with the announcement that they will PAY YOU $5 for choosing overnight shipping.

Again... now that has followed suit with the free overnight shipping... this leaves and in a serious bind. Remember that there are only two ways you can compete in the pureplay shoe marketplace; Either more sizes, or easier shipping. The click-brick combos are the ones that can make up the best for the inherent "fear" in online shoe shopping (will it fit me?).

Why would Amazon do such a thing? Simple; They Can. As I said in my blog a few weeks ago, Amazon is VERY serious about OWNING this space. They have pulled out ALL of the stops in terms of features and they have access to almost any brand they want to get to.

The pureplay online shoe market is going to be made or broken with this year's spring business. And it goes to show you that in the online space, it is in fact Amazon, not Wal-Mart, that you should fear the most if they decide to enter your pure-play niche.

Comments or MeeboMe's welcome and encouraged!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sears + Gap? Imagine the Possibilities...

Saw this story today come across about Sears' war-chest of cash and the rumors that at least they have Goldman Sachs' number in their rolodex :-)

Imagine the online retailing possibilities here. Let's take Lands End's prowess, Sears' experience and now throw in GAP's Technology and if someone at GAP could hit a fashion trend or two, you'd have a REAL eCommerce/Multi-channel powerhouse. The integration tasks could be huge, but the upside is too. (Don't forget about GAP launching Piperlime a while back as well.) This would take some real discipline, and a uber ego to pull it off. Maybe someone like Mr. Lampert could do it?

Fun fun fun in the online world.

Care to share any thoughts?

Surprise! Online Retailing Works

Well, in case you hadn't noticed we got more proof today that this year online retailing actually works. (Okay... this shouldn't come as a big surprise but... hey... I like sarcasm every once in a while.)

The folks over at ComScore released their study of the 2006 online retailing results for both the holiday season and 2006 as a whole. For the year, online sales were up 24% over 2005. The holiday season was up 26% over 2005. So... both strong gains. Thinking of this in the ever popular "store-for-store" retail measurement, I'd surely like to be a part of a retailer that has consistently shown 20-plus percent year over year, for the past 3 years. It seems that just over $26 billion was spent this year online during the holiday season. The other noticeable trend was that the spending was LATER this year than in the previous few years.

So, for all of you out there... how did your online business fare in 2006? Were you up the "mendoza line" of 24% for the year and 26% for the holiday?

Comment or MEEBOME on the right. Would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Well... there goes the neighborhood - for shoes...

Welcome to the new year. Lots to catch up on... but I wanted to hit this first.

Yes... it was only a matter of time but the "new wal-mart" has come to the online shoe selling market. Amazon announced that they've opened an online only shoe marketplace called The store pretty much lays down the gauntlet for the online pure play Shoe Retailers like,,,, etc. With it's advanced (and usable!) search, 24/7 customer service, the free overnight shipping and the always popular Amazon personalization, they've pretty much blasted their way into the market. It was only a matter of time before Amazon did this. Their own footwear category has been going well since it's inception, and I'm sure Mr. Bezos and gang have been watching with great interest all the e-retailing media hype about zappos' success every quarter.

Here's why I think the free ride for the online pure-plays in the footwear segment is pretty much over. Think of these online shoe stores as... the local and regional stores that used to populate the rural landscape in the US. Remember... you'd drive through a small town and "dave's general store" or "Robinson's Family Clothing Store" used to be downtown on the square. Then, the bentonville gang started sprouting supercenters everywhere they could. Bringing "always low prices" to the masses, and right off the square where the land is cheap. What happened to the smaller stores? The ones that tried to compete head on... for the most part... went by the wayside. Only the savvy few were able to survive if they had a TRUE NICHE. Walmart won these battles with fair quality goods... at unbelievable prices... with razor-like precision when it came to logistics and operations.

The same thing can be said for Amazon. They have all of the logistics going for them. They set the standard in experience in the online sector, and now they've come to the shoe neighborhood to wipe out the "mom-n'-pop's" of the footwear world. And in the footwear world... Amazon has a "leg up" because unlike walmart... the amazon folks have literally an unlimited access to brands. So in a sense... they're even STRONGER than a walmart supercenter. I think that once Amazon gets going, you'll quickly see consolidation in the online pure play sector. The operating margins behind, and cannot sustain the free overnight shipping that Endless is offering. They eventually will have very little brand exclusivity, and at some point, when Amazon starts "crossing the streams" and using the rest of their apparel inventory to bring you a "full fashion experience" they will have all of the fashion footwear brands in their pocket. Brilliant plans by Amazon. (insert Guinness Guys here)

So... who's going to lose the most? Well... my guess is that you'll see either or start to decline quickly. There's just not enough room in the pure-play market, and now that Endless has raised the shipping barrier to "free overnight" they have the most to lose and the least wiggle room. Both of these online superstores have been under profit pressures since their inception and with Amazon now going after the business, long term survival of these will be tough. at least has Brown Shoe Company behind them. Zappos can only continue to go to the "venture capital" well so long. I think that getting purchased by IAC last year has enough resources behind it, that they can stick it out for a while based on the strength of the rest of their portfolio.

How do you win? Multi-channel footwear purveyors like Foot Locker, Finish Line, even Famous Footwear, have the key to surviving and the position to market against Amazon if they can move quickly to the "Shop online-pickup in store" model. That model resolves the one fear people have of online shoe shopping: What if it doesn't fit? If I were responsible for one of these chains... I'd be looking at how fast I can implement the instore pickup model. Otherwise... well... just ask Mr. Robinson what happens when walmart puts a supercenter in your neighborhood.

Worth just what you paid for them... those are my thoughts. Got any of your own? Feel free to comment or MEEBOME on the right.