Tag Archives for Retail
What can a blog post about search vs. social network influencers turn up about shirt manufacturers and their role in consumers’ jobs-to-be-done?
Here’s a comment from a guy named Carl Mistlebauer at the Fred Wilson blog, AVC, which should show you how observing, analyzing and using data in new ways can make people and products into a success. Carl, as it turns out has done a lot of things.
The owners of an apparel manufacturer retired. They shifted their business to Carl, who decided to pursue a “size-centric” web 2.0 model for selling shirts on the Internet.
When we decided to build our first e-commerce site we did so believing that B2C would only be the “icing” on the cake, not the cake its self (that would always be retailers).
The reality is that even with going into it as an after thought, and even with all the mistakes we made, we still ended up having to shut down our B2C after 6 months because we could not handle the business from an inventory standpoint (our internet efforts not only created a dramatic surge in B2C sales but it also saw a dramatic increase in our B2B sales both from new retailers interested in our product and increased sales from our existing retailers).
Something happened when Carl’s team flipped the switch on the Internet model. They got customers they didn’t know they had, or that they wanted. He had always thought that retailers were in his business model. It turns out, they were not.
Now, our traditional customer has always been a middle aged white male who is middle to working class; we also only sold pocket tees.
So, then the second go at B2C we had added tee shirts and long sleeve tees. All of the sudden we started getting sales from women, younger males, and a much broader racial demographic.
At this point I realized that B2C was definitely in our future and would eventually be our future (I still was not able to accept that our retailers would not account for less than 75% of our business.)
But what accounts for this shift? It turns out that knowing how a very specific kind of shopper does his or her shopping is the key.
The basic problem is that a 350 lb or 500 lb person shops differently than the mass market does. Thus the trouble with dealing with consultants and companies that provide services is that they think “t shirts” and then rely on their own experiences to come up with solutions; I would give them a whole 15 page document of information about our market, our consumer, and the psychology of the big and tall consumer and I would end up being presented what I call “a mass market plain vanilla solution.”
Then a couple of years ago I found out that we were selling more big and tall tee shirts than JC Penney’s did in a year, that all I had to figure out was how to offer the big and tall consumer the same options that the mass market enjoys because first of all, none of the major players in big and tall can provide these options (Threadless, Custom Ink, Cafe Press, for example) due to their size and off shoring all production, and secondly, all I had to do was figure out how to connect with college and high school age big and tall kids (male and female) then I would be locking in their loyalty for years to come (JC Penney is attempting this with their new big and tall retail stores – but again, its brick and mortar and not consumer centric.)
Then again, over the last 6 months I have visited over 15 college campuses in states with a high percentage of obese population and I realize that I need to really focus on women; that’s a whole other world for me.
Right now my real struggle is with the fact that while I have a vision of what I want and where I need to head and I have coders plugging away attempting to turn my vision into reality its obvious that there is a person missing between me and them; I just cannot seem to use the right terminology or something but it sure feels that we are speaking two different languages….
Speaking two different languages. There is what the business proprietor believes the market will do, and then there is how the people in the market behave.
How do you get to the central mental and emotional core of what the individuals in that market do? Jobs-to-be-Done is one of those ways. Slow down the film. What is the person doing, thinking, feeling and wanting at the moment of choosing?
What job do they want the e-commerce site to do for them?
For Carl, it seems his customer wanted the e-commerce site to offer everything that eveyr other t-shirt provider had ever provided, but, for her.
There’s a different business in thinking that way.
An MBA grad might look at the retail business and define success as increasing revenue, decreasing overhead, eliminating cost overruns, etc. The casual observer might even look at stories about the decline of retail and make the judgement that online is beating offline to death simply by offering price satisfaction and ease of use.
It turns out that maybe these are not entirely clear lines in the sand. We have had a series of conversations online and offline with some retailers, consumers and analysts, and we have created a collection of interesting perspectives on the jobs that retail (online and offline) get done for people.
It turns out that success will come to retail box stores and even retail online through the practice of relevancy, something that online media does well and that retailers everywhere are learning how to deliver.
In the offline world, relevancy is the emotional core of choice. It’s like content, but it’s normally delivered through people. It’s subtle. It’s based on a gentle push and pull of asking questions and seeking answers.
What relevancy in shopping does is it shifts the job of retail shopping from one of just getting a product to one of resolving an emotional “why.” We found this out by asking people about their experiences.
We asked Quora members following the Jobs-to-Be-Done Approach what was missing in the current retail experience in big box bricks and mortar stores, and we found two great answers. I also talked to Alexandra Mysoor, co-founder and CEO of online retailer Generation Orange, an online-only retail store for natural products.
Jason Calacanis has it right: Amazon Prime is a cult, but it’s a highly efficient cult that is revamping how consumers get the job of retail therapy done.
We need to look at two things here. If we re-visit the blog post from yesterday that said Best Buy is not experiencing impending bankruptcy, we might have to revise our thesis — that Best Buy has a long way to go before the end of retail as we know it knocks them into retail’s version of urban blight.
Calcanis tells us why online retail works so much better. In addition to giving people 250 hours of their life back each year, it also gives them ease of ordering, and a slew of products that stuffy-nosed irascible retail guinea pigs prevent us from seeking.
“Let’s call it four to six hours of retail experiences a week, or 20 to 25 hours a month per household. Including holiday shopping you’re looking at 250 hours a year you’re inside a retail location experiencing some combination of time-regret, stress, boredom and/or annoyance.
Cult members understand there is not only no joy in traditional shopping, but that it’s filled with annoyance and wasted time.
Cult members understand there can be joy, and time savings, associated with intelligent consumption.
Prime gives you the joy of consumption without the pain of acquisition.”
The Pain of Acquisition?
I like this phrase. yes, there is pain there.
The pain comes when consumers, who kind of know what they want are assaulted visually and sensorily by a marauding salesperson disguised as a customer service teenager, or grousing middle-aged resentment-filled employee, who is not careful enough, doesn’t care enough, isn’t well trained enough, or not aware enough and maybe even not experienced enough to look at retail shopping as a optential relationship-building experience.
Of course, how could retail shopping be such a thing?
It’s different than a grocery store. Most people go to grocery stores regularly, they get to know the cashiers and the clerks.
Not in things like electronic goods retail. It’s an in-and-out experience. Drop in, get what you need, sortie back at the house. As Larry Downes showed us yesterday, there is a mismanagement of the customer experience in retail. People are not trained well to help consumer’s discover that which they didn’t know they seek.
Of course, as we also said yesterday, consumers don’t necessarily come into retail with the best of moods. Well, whatever, not much we can do about people’s pouty faces.
But if a cult exists, then that cult must be helping people get a job done — for Calcanis this is the easing of the pain of acquisition.
The problem is there is also a pain of retail trade-offs. If we move to Prime and follow that cult, somebody suffers. It’s not the managerial talent. It’s the retail masses, the people we should be training to be better at customer choice and consumer innovation.
Retail outlets and fast-moving consumer companies should be employing a “jobs to be done” framework to train their staff to be jsut as good in person as semantic search, SEO algorithms, and cataloging of products is on the web.
If not, there’s an economic cataclysm about to happen, much worse than a single Best Buy chain going out of business.
Now, the only downside to Prime’s ascendancy is that it’s going to wipe out tens of thousands of retail jobs that are currently filled by the least employable of our workforce.
It’s not a jump to say that many of these retail jobs are filled by folks who have *already* taken a huge career nosedive from the middle class to the just-above poverty level of retail workers.
They’re going to get fracked twice in 20 years: first getting knocked from the white collar or blue collar middle class to the retail working-class jobs, and then to no jobs.
I guess you can’t get massive efficiency like Amazon is building without wiping out massive amounts of jobs.
And I think Amazon’s massive growth will actually crater the real estate business as malls and main streets are faced with unfillable retail spaces. What do we do with the malls, turn them into office and loft spaces? university space?
Playing out the scenario, does this new flood of new office and living space put downward pressure on traditional office space?
The Re-Wired Group helps companies and, by extension, these employees, out of the rut of consumer choice gone unadressed.
Take a look at some of the writing from the Re-Wired Group, which could guide you through this kind of thinking. Also, remember Clayton Christensen, the father of this movement. His work on consumer innovation is eye-opening, to say the least.