I recently posted this comment on RetailWire in a discussion of e-commerce sites on Facebook:
Any discussion of Facebook’s affect on retail commerce needs to include the social marketing site’s possible future as an actual locus of bona fide online shopping. Today Facebook serves as a marketing and customer service vehicle for most brands and retailers. But the company has made no secret of its desire to become a computing platform, an operating system essentially, just the same way that the web did. To realize this vision, one of the main things Facebook needs to conquer is to handle truly sensitive interactions entirely in its environment in a secure and trustworthy way. Online financial interactions (banking, securities trading, managing your retirement account, filing your taxes, etc.) and online retail are the two most obvious examples.
This isn’t a small matter. Think about the truly transformative effect that the web had on retailing and related services. Remember travel agents? The internet killed them. Remember Tower Records? The internet killed it, too. And every consumer-facing retail segment in the world has been completely transformed by the world wide web. Facebook is going to throw its massive resources at this problem, and forward-thinking retailers will eagerly create storefronts to try and service the 850 million of us who visit Facebook every single day (although sometimes I suspect that 800 million of us are only there to play Words with Friends…
It’s already started. There is a whole cohort of startups trying to provide robust online shopping and purchasing experiences in the Facebook environment. Surely they’ll have their stumbling points, but just as surely they’ll ultimately get it right. And when they do, Facebook will become that much more important to those who wish to sell their goods and services to the masses.
Shortly later I commented on a different discussion about some retailers closing their Facebook stores:
Don’t confuse the tactical moves of specific retailers with the long term trend. Facebook as a platform is used by more than one sixth of the planet’s population. That figure dwarfs the percentage of us who were internet-enabled back in 1995. Yet, at that time we didn’t doubt the strength of e-commerce as a business model. The same will be true for Facebook storefronts.
There were winners and losers in the internet world as well. Remember when Yahoo supposedly had the search engine market all sewn up? That was before Google was even founded. Remember when Half.com was one of the biggest online retailers in the world? When’s the last time you bought something on Half.com? But just because some companies did better and some companies did worse, we don’t doubt the trend.
The same will happen with commerce on Facebook. Big business there, waiting to happen. Maybe not for these individual companies, but that’s not the point.
I recently posted this comment (slightly modified) in response to a RetailWire discussion on the use of satisfaction surveys:
While the instinct to learn from customers and the market is a good one (otherwise we’re just sitting around making things up), there are some definite disadvantages to customer surveys. Not only the irritation factor, but also surveys have sample bias (those choosing to take them are either super involved and therefore biased or pissed off about something and therefore biased) and suffer from the distortion that always accompanies self-reported information. That’s one reason that more and more retailers are going out of their way to gather and learn from the huge quantity of performance data that stores inevitably generate. These data are not just sales at the register but also information about traffic to the store and behavior within the store. By correlating these data back to such factors as marketing and promotions, staffing, cyclicality, and even the weather, retailers have actionable intelligence they can use to improve performance without irritating their customers or suffering from the other disadvantages listed here.
I recently wrote this post on an online discussion about Redbox and Verizon teaming up to go into the streaming market:
I’m bullish on Redbox. It’s a new paradigm that makes movie rental easier for lots and lots of people. It indulges impulse shopping for movie rentals, and it’s friendly to the segment of the populace that views online streaming as a frighteningly technical form of entertainment. The other neat thing about Redbox is that the company already is internet savvy and thinking of using online to augment its experience. You can go online to Redbox, choose your film, and find out which boxes in which locations have this film available for you right now. It’s an incredibly useful and customer-centric bit of functionality, and it makes Redbox an interesting clicks-and-mortar case study akin to how big box retailers are fusing their physical and online shopping experiences.
I’ll be interested to see how this venture comes together. These cooperative joint things are always hard, and many of them have failed dismally over the years. But if they can make this one work, they could do very well.
Sorry, everyone. My bad.
On December 19 2011, I started my new job as Chief Marketing Officer of a super exciting venture-funded startup called RetailNext. RetailNext is like Omniture for brick-and-mortar stores. Which is to say, RetailNext makes it possible to measure and analyze a retail environment to build an optimized shopping experience in the exact same way that an online retailer does. We’ve had customers see store sales go up as much as 20%, at which point the ROI on a RetailNext installation is ridiculously high.
As you can imagine, it all has been very distracting. But I am committed to this blog, and so I’m going to try to be a better poster. Don’t be surprised if my new retail-oriented world winds up giving me new background and opinions and thoughts than I had in the past. And you’ll probably wind up seeing some of them right here.
Last week I had some nice press activity. See multiple quotes from (and a picture of) Tim Callan in this BBC article about new gTLDS. And here’s the Tim Callan by-line about gTLDs and search engine ranking in ClickZ.
Hey folks, today I have a few short, unrelated things to say.
1. Sorry I haven’t posted much for the past month. I’ve been insanely busy with the new job and all. In the past seven weeks I’ve set foot on four continents and have been to the East Coast four times.
2. Speaking of setting foot on various continents, later today I’ll be presenting on the marketing opportunities for new gTLDs at the BrandMAX conference in London. Last week I gave a similar presentation at iStrategy in Atlanta, and it was very well received.
3. And speaking of new jobs, here’s my first ever vanity release.