Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sold out.

All it takes is a quick taxi ride around New York to see that something is rotten in the state of retail.

On some blocks it seems there are more storefronts empty than filled. And every day it seems that some retail denizen has turned belly-up and their neon has been replaced by a giant TO LET sign affixed to their plate-glass.

Many people, consultants and other sundry experts among them, attribute this condition to Amazon and their technical prowess. Amazon, after all, can get you anything cheap, faster and with less hassle than anyone else. So competing retailers are told they must modernize and technologyize in order to survive the Amazonian juggernaut.

I can take nothing away from Amazon's technological acumen. But I think the reason for Amazon's success is not their modernity, but, instead their old-fashion-ness.

What Amazon does better than anyone else is digitally replicate the virtues of shopping in a small American town a century or so ago.

First, like an old-fashioned shop-keeper, they greet you by name. Imagine that, a store that knows its customers. Can you imagine that in a Target, or a Home Depot, or even a local boutique?

Second, they know what you've bought before. And so, can make appropriate and astute recommendations. Again, in most retailers today you can't find sales-help, much less sales-help who are knowledgable.

Third, there are times when after you've bought something, the price has decreased. What does Amazon do? They surprise you by refunding you 27-cents or two-bucks or a nickel. It's a   s e m i o t i c   way of showing you they're looking out for you. 

Above are just three examples not of modernity but of a sort of Andy Griffith/Mayberry old-fashion-ness.

My two cents says as agencies try to streamline efficiency and call "getting an ad done," delivery, they should think not ahead, but behind. What was it like 75 years ago going to a small sign-painter and getting a poster done?

Of course technology changes so our world changes today more in a minute than it used to change in a century. But most people hunger for connection, personal service and respect.

If that's delivered technologically and digitally, all the better. 

If you can "scale" service, friendliness and being polite, no matter what business you're in, I think you're on the right track.

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