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Left2MyOwnDevices

The new stories of social computing are shared here. We're exploring mobile devices, embedded computing, wireless sensor networks, and social business from the perspectives of technology, business, and societal changes.

About Don Dingee

An experienced strategic marketer and editorial professional, and an engineer by education, Don is currently a blogger, speaker, and author on social computing topics, and a marketing strategy consultant. He's had previous gigs at Embedded Computing Design magazine, Motorola, and General Dynamics.

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We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

Posted May 31, 2012 2:30 PM by dondingee

A couple days ago, I wandered down to the local Barnes and Noble to get out of the house, see if I could prove I still exist, and to add to the pile of research for the next story I'm writing.

Let's see. Marketing. S for Safko. The Social Media Bible, 3rd Edition. Chapter 21, Interpersonal Tools. Yep, I'm in there, technical editor; the words I wrote look familiar, the screenshots I took look nice, even spelled my name right. I like it when a plan comes together. (Disclaimer: didn't get paid to write it, don't get paid on sales of the book, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to have it in my portfolio of work. Call it perfectly unkept hope.)

Then I went looking for a couple favorite new titles from my Pinterest page of business books. No luck on the shelves.

Time for human interaction. I stood at the information desk playing the may-I-help-you riff a couple times. It doesn't work as well as it used to. Someone finally showed up from the back to assist me, and typed in the titles I was looking for.

"Ahhhhhh. Those are print-on-demand. We can order them and have them delivered here for pickup, or you can order them online."

At that moment, the only thing I could think was: this is a tough, tough world right now. The entire value chain is wildly disrupted, and it's getting harder, not easier, to find and purchase goods in the physical world. Demand is being driven online. That, paradoxically, has put a lid on economic recovery.

Showrooming - where a consumer visits a product in a physical store, then shops around and buys it online, often cheaper - is on the rise. It's creating a much more difficult environment for retailers. Borders and Circuit City disappeared beneath the waves. Best Buy is noticeably listing to starboard. Target dropped Kindle just to try to make a point to Amazon.

We saw a lot of this coming, and it's not about just books and computers and music. All the talk during Web 1.0 was disenfranchisement, where the middle people would disappear from transactions as more and more things went online. This was supposed to reach into the way people and businesses bought goods. It was very interesting to see one of these new-marketplace companies from Web 1.0, Ariba, acquired this week by SAP.

Long term, the online shift has brought structural changes that we didn't see coming, and the middle people who are being eliminated aren't the ones we thought. While FedEx and UPS are in good shape supporting all those online shipments, the US Postal Service is doomed. Swathes of commercial real estate sit vacant, jettisoned by retailers struggling to adapt, and there's more on the horizon as Sears and JC Penney continue to struggle. Unemployment has swelled as many people find themselves in the middle, including 27,000 HP associates announced this week.

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#1

Re: We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

06/01/2012 1:39 PM

The process in inevitable, as new ways of doing business are created old ways are left by the wayside. Remains to be seen whether the new will in the long run be better. Do not forget that these changes may not be irreversible, consumers at some time in the future may tire of selecting products from pictures and written descriptions and return to brick & mortar sites. Meanwhile those cast aside must come to terms with the fact that major changes in retail are happening and will continue. The choices for all are adapt or die.

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#2

Re: We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

06/01/2012 3:18 PM

I see this as breaking down into 2 areas: things we need or like to touch before buying, like clothing and food, and hard goods, like a new TV. The first is going to continue to have multiple local vendors. But the hard goods stores are doomed. Here's an idea: one or two local places where you can see the products, then order them online right there from your choice of vendor. The places, called showrooms, are supported by the online vendors. This eliminates duplication of real estate, staff, warehousing, price wars, etc. And it makes life much easier for the consumer.

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#3
In reply to #2

Re: We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

06/01/2012 4:17 PM

Great comments so far. One item this brings to mind is the entire model of TV selling has changed. Folks used to buy from dealers with things like extended warranty and local service techs for repair. The things by and large are no longer field serviceable. If they die in warranty, you box them up and send them back, and they send out a new one. If they die after warranty, you replace them. This removes a service component that used to be a revenue stream for the local types.

As I pointed out in the post, I just worry that when the local stores implode, the choices for most consumers will dwindle as a result. What seems easier and better now may not be in the long run.

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#4

Re: We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

06/03/2012 5:08 PM

I for one do most of my big purchase item shopping on line. The local stores get my business for groceries and perishable goods and anything that would cost more to have shipped to me than if I bought it locally.

A few of my latest online purchases were an Ipad for the wife where I saved about $350 over buying it locally and got the same factory warranty and a new 55" LCD HD TV that retails for about $1900 locally and I got it online for $650 with the same factory warranty as well. What I saved on the TV alone more than paid for the wifes Ipad!

I got my big TV and she got her Ipad and the bank account still has money left.

The thing is I don't believe is waisting money to support anyone other than myself and my family. I just cant afford/cost justify it.

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#5

Re: We'd Recover Faster With Less Showrooming

02/18/2013 12:31 AM

The Post Office could survive simply by putting all the mailboxes on the same side of the street. My postman drives by my house 4 times every day!

FedEx and UPS have small vans to do large residential areas re-supplying themselves from a larger parked truck near their delivery area.

Someone with the Post Office needs to re-think their lack of efficiency and traditional ways of doing things and adapt themselves to online buying and very expensive fuel.

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