retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Walking through our neighborhood shopping center the other day, my wife noticed something that in years past was completely unremarkable, but today seems completely irrelevant. It was a delivery many leaving new phone directories at the door of each retail establishment.

Janice (my wife) was stunned. “Why do they even bother? Do you even remember the last time you used the Yellow Pages?”

I had to admit she was right. I have nothing against the companies that produce the Yellow Pages or all its competitors, but why exactly do they still produce it in the day and age of Google? It reminded me immediately of a scene from Ocean’s 13, and I promise this isn’t a gratuitous way to reference the new book Kevin and I have co-authored: The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies.

In the scene, master thieves Danny and Rusty (played so wonderfully by George Clooney and Brad Pitt, respectively) admit they are stumped. They have countless ideas to beat the new security device at the hotel they hope to rob, but their British consultant Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard) keeps explaining why none of their ideas will work. In short, they just don’t get it because, as Nagel says, their thinking is antiquated.

“Basically, you are analog thieves in a digital age.” (Of course, this being the movies, the gang figures out a way to beat the amazing digital security device named the Greco by its inventor of the same name.)

Analog in a digital age. I can freely admit that there are times I am an analog guy in a digital age. For instance, while I own and frequently wear a digital watch, I know I’m much quicker at picking up the time by simply looking at a watch face. And I still find it off-putting somehow that my car tells me my speed in a digital read out, which allows my wife or kids to tell me with specificity just how much I am over the speed limit. Somehow, the old dial seemed friendlier.

But in business, we can’t afford to be analog people in a digital age. Again, I know nothing about phone books, but I have to believe that if Yellow Pages wants to defend its franchise they had better figure out a way to deliver the information to my computer in a format that somehow blows Google away. Use geography, use creative search terms or use something, but don’t drop a seven pound book on my doorstep. (And, as my wife pointed out, the only people who might actually use the book can hardly read it anyhow because the type is always too small!)

Retail must do the same. I find it fascinating that people who look up my book on Amazon are also visiting What Would Keith Richards Do?: Daily Affirmations from a Rock and Roll Survivor. But that’s how Amazon creates creative sales and positive linking of shoppers to information. How can brick and mortar retailers do the same?

More importantly, how can brick and mortar retailers afford not to?

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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