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Category Archives: business model

Spam. Sigh.

I really need to get back to blogging.

That being said, I just disapproved/marked as spam two comments to this blog.  They were ghost written on behalf of two businesses, both from the same domain, bigstring.com.  Apparently this was a free email site which is now owned by some GoDaddy user that is spamming blogs.

I’d like to read the “get.rich.quick” plan that the poster read that claimed they could make money by spamming blogs on behalf of small to medium businesses.  Worst is the small to medium businesses that are actually paying for it.

And just how stupid was this person… to spam a blog, twice in the period of four hours, that has been inactive this long.  What, you don’t think I’m going to notice that you’re promoting a business under the guise of pretending to be interested in my blog, when you use the same email address and the blog postings both mention businesses?  I’m not that desperate for posters or followers.

IMHO the days of this sort of simple minded “guerrilla marketing” are long gone.

So, if you’re one of these companies that fell for this (and I’ll send an email to them to point out the waste of their hard earned dollars), I’m sorry, but you’re not using my blog to promote your business.

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in advertising, business model, spam

 

Observations on Retail in the United States today

Last night and today my wife and I ran around getting errands done… shopping.  As a result, I’ve got a few observations:

  • Retail staff are obviously getting spoken to about customer relationships.
    – At Kohls last night, I had possibly the best cashier I’ve ever been served by.  At the end of the his service, he pleaded with us to complete a survey on his service to us.
    – At the Sears hardware store multiple floor personnel greeted me and offered me help.
  • The SKUs that stores carry is still abysmal.

My assessment is this:

  • At least in my case, I’m so used to store personnel that in the past just didn’t give a damn, I really don’t know how to react to these newly caring personnel.  I’ve learn to become so self-sufficient when I’m shopping, that I feel like these folks are intruding on my shopping experience.  Strange, eh?
  • Retailers next threat is a new threat from Amazon.  In the New York Times article “Amazon, Forced to Collect a Tax, Is Adding Roots,” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/12/technology/amazon-forced-to-collect-sales-tax-aims-to-keep-its-competitive-edge.html?smid=pl-share), David Streitfeld reports “Amazon will soon be able to cut as much as a day off its two-day shipping times, said Jeff Bezos, its chief executive, in an interview. This will put the much-rumored same-day delivery — the elusive aspiration of every online merchant — potentially within reach in some metropolitan areas.”  Amazon has an almost endless lists of SKUs… almost everything I could want for less than retailers have fewer SKUs I really don’t want so much.
  • Helpful personnel are only great if you’ve stock something you can sell your customer.

It only stands to reason that the following use case would be more optimal than Amazon’s next day shipping:

  • I go online, say to http://www.BestBuy.com, find what I want, but see that it isn’t available in my local store.
  • I place an order for NEXT DAY DELIVERY (or if early enough in the day, SAME DAY DELIVERY) to be delivered to my local store.
  • When item is delivered to my local store from a district distribution center, I am notified and go and pick it up.

Lots of retailers provide delivery to local stores now, but to the best of my knowledge, none of them do it in one day.  There are lots of advantages of this to the retailer and me:

  • The retailer better competes with Amazon.
  • The retailer has an extended set of SKUs available at a short time.
  • Since I’m coming into the store to pick up the item, the retailer has an opportunity to cross-sell me something.
  • And for me, I don’t have to be home to accept the delivery: my item is securely delivered to my local retailer.

This means that retailers are going to need to tune up their distribution centers and online systems, because without that, their local presences, with limited set of SKUs, will matter less and less in the face of Amazon’s next day “retail lite” model.

 

I don’t need those ads anymore… I already bought that!

This will be short rant.

While I was reading the New York Times I was served an ad for tires for my car from Town Fair Tire.

I was served this ad because well over a week ago I was searching for tires and in particular BF Goldrich dealers… because my BF Goodrich Traction TA radials died a premature life and my warranty said I needed a dealer to inspect them before I could get compensated.

The problem is that I bought the replacement a week ago.

There are two things I am absolutely certain of:

  1. I am not the first person to comment on this stupid behavior of the system.
  2. It is mostly impossible for web based ad servers to automatically know what I bought.  This isn’t strictly a technical problem.  I’m sure that it would be technically possible to create an opt-in service such that consumers would give their permission for the credit card company to push transaction data to web advertisers.  The only problem is the people part: who in their right mind would tell an advertising firm what they are buying?

I’m quite sure that this has been proposed, but why can’t ads have a “I bought that already” button so that more relevant ads would be served up?  I’m just asking…

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in advertising, business model, privacy, technology

 

I miss CompUSA

I was reading Brent Leary’s posting Christmas 2011: a Great Example of Smarter Commerce in Action | SmartData Collective tonight and it got me thinking.

I remember going retail shopping with the only motivation being to find something cool to own and bring home.

I don’t do that anymore.

I suspect there are a lot of reasons: I’m older and more careful with the family coffers.  I’ve got all the stuff I need.  But honestly, I think it all boils down to this:

Retail outlets, because of their reduced SKUs (stock keeping units), have less interesting stuff for me to buy. There is less variety in the stores.

And I think this is a vicious cycle that is eating retail.  Retailers, with the high cost of distributed inventory, reduce the number of SKUs to only those items with the most mass-appeal. People go to the stores, can’t find what they are looking for, go home, get on the web and buy it.

And web retailers are getting much better at fulfillment:

  • shipping is increasingly free: 93% for this past Christmas vs. 85% for the season before (let’s be real: it is built into the price) (see USA Today article quoted by Brent)
  • shipping is increasingly fast

Let’s dwell on the last bullet.  My younger son had a small fender-bender with one of the family vehicles requiring a turn signal lens to be replaced.  On Friday, I placed an order with www.partsgeek.com, with normal, non-expedited shipping.  I received the lens on Monday.

I miss CompUSA (the retailer not the current web store).  Toward the end of CompUSA’s retail existence it was awful, but there was a point that they had a wide variety of SKUs and I could always walk out with something I needed but didn’t go in to buy.

Microcenter, the closest of which is over two hours away in Boston, is still like the old CompUSA somewhat. That being said, the last time I was in one, I was disappointed that they, too, had cut back on the SKUs.  I haven’t been to a Fry’s for a while, but suspect it is the same story there, too.

For a reality check, have a look at this article in the NY Times about the problem of malls.

Short of Star Trek transporters or replicators, I’m not sure what the answer is to change this transformation.  One thing that I wonder is whether there is a point when the current just-in-time mass-appeal SKU/local inventory system breaks because of the cost of fuel for 18 wheelers.  One could imagine a point where it is actually makes sense to spend less money on fuel by having very full trucks of goods go to retail stores and create larger local inventories that have to be replenished less often.

I wonder, also, about the fabric of society that shops local retail less.  Is that a good thing?

If you’ve got some opinions on this, I’d love to hear from you by way of comment.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in business model, internet, retail

 

Google can’t afford to sell people’s personal data

You can’t believe the number of people that have asked me about what I think about Google’s new privacy policy.  I’m sure this might not attract a lot of fans, but here’s my take:

  • Plenty of other media sites already integrate tracking of people’s experiences across their offerings on the web.  Google goes out of its way to actual say they are going to do this… and they get criticized.
  • I know of plenty of commercial and educational sites that use Google Apps as the foundation for their business.  I personally know a well regarded security expert at one of the world’s largest medical supply companies that conducted a security and privacy review of Google Apps.  The fact this company now uses Google Apps is a testimony in itself.
  • If a company shares personal data inside the company (say, for example, Verizon sharing people’s wireless and FIOS usage inside of itself) is it really a breach of privacy?  When Verizon does this, they call it bundling and its customers save money.  When Google does this, it is called evil.

I hear now that members of Congress want to call Google before it again because of this issue. I’m not sure this is the best use of their time with lots of other important issues before it… and I’ll leave it at that.

More than anything, I think this fear is about the fact the Google is very big.  I can’t remember which of the talkshows I recently heard this on, but the observation that was made was that right now, Americans fear anything that is big: big government or big business. We fear that which we do not understand.

My fourth and most important bullet is this:

  • Google has reiterated (though some seem not to hear it) that it still isn’t going to sell  personal data.  And do you know why they won’t sell personal data? Because if they were caught selling personal data, it would destroy their entire business model. Not selling personal data is good business for Google. Let’s be real clear about this: if Google were selling people’s personal data, no one would use Google.  If no one used Google, there would be no way it could sell advertising.  Google is making plenty of money without selling people’s personal data.  The bottom line is simple: Google can’t afford to sell people’s personal data.
 
 

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When “new stuff” is decades old

Of course, this is just going to be the rantings of an old fart… but I guess that’s part of the reason to have a blog, right?  To rant?

Geek alert… this is going to be a bit technical.

The other day we were discussing the need to move an internal website from a rough and tumble, less-than-actively-supported environment to something more mainstream (as in, supported by IT).  I reflected that if the prototype environment was contained to single disk partition, it would be relatively easy to make a virtual image of it and move it to a supported VMware server and run it intact. (Translation: if the website was on a single disk drive, we could copy that disk drive to a file, which could be used by a piece of software to simulate a real computer).

The response I got was to the effect “yeah, that would work and wow do you know your stuff!”

I had to chuckle.  Virtualization, the process of having a real computer simulate one or more computers, has been around since 1967 when IBM created an operating system called CP-40 (and later, CP-67).  I first encountered virtualization more than a decade later when in 1979 I was a system programmer working at Hewlett Packard in their mainframe data center. I was responsible for installing IBM’s then current virtualizing operating system, VM (for virtual machine) on HP’s multi-million dollar Amdahl mainframe.  At that time HP only had one mainframe (hey, they cost a lot of money, even for HP) and if a systems programmer wanted to try out a change to the operating system, you’d need to come in on the weekend for the few hours that the data center wasn’t running. By installing VM, we could run two simulations of our physical mainframe.  One would run our production operating system, and allow business to carry on as usual.  The other we could use to test new versions of the operating system.  No more weekend testing!

Later, as I started to develop PC software, I watched how Intel added capabilities of their microprocessor chip.  By the time Intel announced the 80386 version of their microprocessor chip in 1985, they had added everything needed so that it could simulate multiple computers using virtualization. It wasn’t until 1998 that VMware was formed and created the first software to virtualize the PC.

Being a virtualization affectionado I’ve been experimenting and using VMware’s software since 2001. This included (and still includes) running their Mac OS X specific version, Fusion, on my Mac Book Air.  For those that are PC-only literate, Fusion allows me to run Apple’s Mac OS X operating system AND SIMULTANEOUSLY run Windows 7 on my Mac Book Air.  I can readily switch between the two environments, including cutting and pasting (a version of which had been present in IBM’s VM mainframe operating system in the early 1980’s).

VMware is not the only company that provides virtualizing software.  There are even open source versions.

So, referring back to the comment that set this off… yeah, I know this stuff.  Been there, done that… and even in more than one environment.

But I think the bigger picture is this… in any maturing industry, great ideas are going to be reused.  I’ve watched from a point where computers were so expensive that everyone had to share to a point where computers are so cheap everyone has one (or more!). I’ve watched the data move from that centralized model, where all the data is in one place, to a decentralized model (first with distributed minicomputers and later PCs on local area networks) and now back again… to the “cloud.”

Likewise, social media has its roots in technology that was created in the earliest days of computing.  In the earliest days there was commercial systems like Compuserve, but even before Compuserve there were systems such as Douglas Engelbert’s NLS demonstrated in 1968. Oh, by the way, Engelbert demonstrated the mouse at the same time as part of the user interface to NLS.

Business models need to take this phenomena into account.  Not only do you need to be aware of the side attacks that Clayton Christensen talks about in “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” you need to see where yesterday’s solutions might once again solve the problem’s your product is solving today.

You’ve heard it before: history repeats itself.  Unfortunately, I think some technology companies think they are immune from that law. They are not. And there is nothing more embarrassing than to lose to the past.

Oh, and if you are looking for an industry to model where the past is new again, look west to Hollywood and east to Broadway.  They’ve realized this and profited from it for years.

 
 

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