retail news in context, analysis with attitude


by Kevin Coupe

Content Guy’s Note: Below is a commentary on the same subject as the video piece, but it isn’t word-for-word the same. You can look at both, or either...it is up to you. I look forward to hearing from you.

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.

A couple of things on my mind today.

One is the confluence of stories that we had on Tuesday - perhaps it was the first time that we had six stories, one after another, that referred to some kind of virtual marketing. It started with Zappos.com and its influence on bricks-and-mortar retailing, and included stories about how Whole Foods used a daily deals service to build traffic, Peapod’s continuing success, Amazon’s new strategic efforts, and so on.

And it makes me think that there is absolutely no excuse - none - for any retailer not to be engaging with, testing, and embracing these technological innovations, from online shopping to social networking, and beyond.

You might as well as making phone calls with a rotary phone, listening to music on an eight-track tape player, and thinking that the post office is the fastest way to get a message from here to there.

This stuff is real. And to not be developing strategies and tactics that take advantage of these innovations is like playing with one hand tied behinds your back - you’re simply giving away advantages to the competition and leaving money and customers on the table.

The other thing that I’ve been thinking about is the notion of a “Consumer Hourglass Theory,” which suggests that investors should focus on companies best positioned to cater to the highest-income and lowest-income consumers, and that the most successful companies will be those that cater to either end of the spectrum. Forget the mushy middle - this theory suggests that it has become a kind of quicksand for marketers that traditionally have focused on a shrinking middle-class mainstream consumer.

I think there may be a corollary to this - that the key to a great business model these days may the ability to help people deal with shortages...whether it is a shortage of money...a shortage of time....or even a shortage of ideas. It goes beyond the notion of giving people what they need, and says that what smart marketers really need to do is figure out where the shortages are, even if people aren’t aware of those shortages.

These are confusing times we live in. There’s an apparent growing chasm between the haves and have-nots, and yet we still don’t see bread lines while we still see plenty of iPad and iPhone lines. And shifting consumer attitudes and priorities - ranging from an ability and willingness to engage with technology to the ongoing challenge of sorting out needs and wants and priorities - are tough for marketers to handle.

But we can’t run away from these challenges. We have to go toward them, and embrace them ... because that’s the way best way to deal with them on our terms.

That’s what is on my mind this morning...and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
KC's View: