Retail Apathy: Target

On the weekend I went into a Target store to purchase an Esky for a pitch presentation I was doing where the reference was brands becoming generic terms for a product. Rather than walk around a giant retail floor, I thought I’d ask a staff member where I might be able to find one. I approached a staff member and asked. He was friendly and attentive. He almost cared and he said:

“To be honest, that is a seasonal line. I know we have them in summer, but I’m pretty sure we don’t carry any stock in winter. But, to be sure let me check.”

He then reached for his internal walkie talky and spoke with a colleague.

“Yeh, like I said we don’t have them this time of year. Sorry man, maybe try Bunnings.”

So while he was civil, approachable and nice he didn’t solve my problem. He didn’t even offer to to walk to me to where these items would be on the shelf during the warm season. (He was very busy fixing a shelf) He suggested I go to a competitor, which can be a valid customer service response, but certainly was not on this occasion and here is why:

I didn’t believe what he told me. In my 40 years I’ve been in enough department stores and discount retailers to know I’ve seen them ‘out of season’. I know enough about how poor Australian retailers are at selling excess stock to think there might just be a few left overs. I’ve also had enough retail staff give me false information over the years to test my intuition and have a look around for myself. So I did that and below is a picture of what I found. A wall of Esky type chillers.

Esky

And they got my sale, despite their retail apathy.

But it’s a pretty bad situation when the customers know more about a retail store than the people who work there. It got me thinking about how many times this must happen through the entire store. How many customers are sent away, told an item is not in stock, or don’t even know what product the customer is asking for? Multiply this by 305 retail stores, 10,000 items in store and thousands of uninformed, uninspired staff and it is hard to see this type of retailer competing with on-line options. How can a staff member even know what’s in store as well as a search engine can on line? They simply cannot.

For retailer to survive the transition to online the first step is for them to realise that it’s actually not about product and price point. It’s primary about the experience and how much the people that serve customers actually care. Both of which are deliberate strategies that are not born at store level.

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Worlds colliding

In 2013 I think we can all agree that there is no digital. There is only life. We all now move seamlessly between our digital and analogue selves. The transition is unnoticeable and omnipresent. It’s a surprise that most marketers and even some tech startups fail to realize this.

Key hint: If you have an on-line strategy something is wrong. The strategy is the strategy.

The increasing number of layers and channels is just another example of our world increasing in complexity and contextual differentiators. Something that will only continue on its current trajectory. And it is not just about retailers getting their digi-on. It’s also about those who live on line understanding how they can enter the physically world – it’s still where we humans live!

The advertisement below inspired this post. A  great example of a few hallmarks in advertising:

  • Humour when relevant
  • Customer centric strategy
  • Real world integration

Sadly most Australian retailers are still yet to realise we operate in a new world.

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A 2 way revolution

Industrial and bricks and mortar businesses are overcome by their need to ‘get on line’. Guess what? Digital and startup businesses need to ‘get off line’. It turns out that this revolution is a two way street. The new eco system is wide, and we ignore either side at our peril.

Here’s a fun example of the digital getting physical:

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There is no digital

While it is clear that the birth of the omnipresent web has changed our business infrastructure, it’s not clear that most people understand the truth about digital as it pertains to business, brand or startup strategy. Here’s a simple phrase to help remind us:

There is no digital.

There is only ‘life’. We seamlessly move between a variety of technologies in our day. As we have done since the beginning of time with all forms of technology. We don’t have a digital life and an analogue life as much as we don’t have a sitting on a chair life or a sitting on the floor life. A chair is just a piece of technology like the latest shinny thing in our pockets is. And it’s about time we started recognizing that a digital strategy is a flawed one by definition. All that exists is a strategy that makes sense – one which is technology agnostic. One that achieves objectives by considering all of the methods and tools at our disposal.

The days of digital strategy are over. Anyone who doesn’t get digital, doesn’t get strategy. We need start to think again in terms of utility for the audience – it’s only when we focus on their needs that we can ever hope to be a solution in their day.

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Aziz Ansari – another digital direct disciple

After the blog post from yesterday I happened upon a Cool Hunting interview with young comedy powerhouse Aziz Ansari. His approach has also been one of going direct to fans and paying attention to the changes in the digital landscape. His interview below has some cool insights, and a few laughs to boot. Oh, by the way, the Youtube channel from Cool Hunting is worth following as well.

What other entrepreneurial examples of web first & direct are you guys seeing?

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The Bibliography is over

I was talking to someone about a presentation I will be making to his marketing staff in the coming weeks.  I took him through a basic flow of the topics and ideas and explained a little bit about each. But also made reference to the point that it was only about 60% finished. He then asked me when I expected to have the final presentation ready, and I’m pretty sure I surprised him with my answer:

“I’ll just make the rest up on the day”

It wasn’t a throw away comment either. I meant what I said. He paused for a while, and seemed concerned. After all it is a paid for gig. He then laughed and said; “Are you serious?” I told him that I was and went on to explain the following.

“You’ve heard me speak before, which was what lead to you inviting me to speak to your team. The good news is I made up about half of that talk too. So I’ve done it before, and it is pretty much how I roll. The reason I do it that way is it enables me to feel the audience. It enables me to react to the content which is resonating more strongly with them. My job when communicating isn’t about delivering a canned sermon. It’s about sharing information that matters and inspires the audience, and I can only know what that is once I get started. So it is up to me to know enough about the topic to change direction on demand.”

He was pretty satisfied with that answer. But it also brings me to another point.

Why do we teach our kids and our employees that everything must be justified?

Why is it that where we got our information from matters so much in a corporate world and the academic world? The people ‘in charge’ so often like to reference where the facts come from, and all too often dismiss any idea which isn’t justified and verified before by some ‘authority’. As far as I can tell this is another example of old world thinking.

If the real value in life and in business is built upon originality, ideas and inspiration, then it might also be about time that we stop validating intellectual and emotional labour. Just because it’s new thinking doesn’t make it invalid, in fact, the opposite is often true given the pace of change is now so rapid.  If our thoughts only have currency based on research, there’s a good chance we are already behind the crowd.

Startup blog says – forget the bibliography and make stuff up instead.

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the tale of 2 robots

I was recently at the WPP Stream digital event in Asia (hence the serious lack of blogging). One of the sessions that we have at Stream are Ignite presentations. The idea for an Ignite talks is this:

– Tell us, but tell us quickly.

So the format is for 15 slides, where the slides change automatically after 15 seconds regardless of where you are up to.

It makes for entertaining viewing and rapid transfer of ideas. Here’s one that I particularly liked from Stream by Jason Oke which has some really great lessons for entrepreneurs, startups and anyone working in an innovation field for that matter. Enjoy.

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