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The Commoditization Of Everything-The Tortoise and the Hare

publication date: Apr 26, 2013
author/source: Social4Retail - Internet & Social Marketing For Retail




Most everyone remembers this classic Aesop fable. The story concerns a Hare who ridicules a slow-moving tortoise and challenges the Tortoise to a race. The moral is that “slow and steady wins the race.” Not true – anymore. Rarely does going slow win any races. Going slowly is a good way to be careful, but that’s not what retail is about today. In fact, the real lesson is not about the tortoise at all, it’s about the hare.

Some retailers think that a slow and steady strategy wins the race to acquire new business in today’s “wired world”.

I think NOT. Being cautious, or ignoring the speed in which the internet has changed consumer buying behavior could be a recipe for disaster. As I always told my kids while they were growing up:



You cannot think yourself into acting; 
You must act yourself into thinking. 


Everyone knows that a great website wins new customers, but many don’t want to do it because it costs a lot of money to do it right. Many know that being on several social platforms wins new customers, yet they don’t do it, or worse, they do it wrong. We know that blogs and great content (done right) creates 57% more leads than any other platform, but we don’t do it because it’s a lot of work. We know awesome customer service creates and maintains new customers, but we don’t invest in people and processes, because it costs too much money…Blah, blah blah, whatever, that costs too much money too.

The safe solution is to continue with our old “traditional – slow and steady” habits, plug along, and “hope” that our past successful methods of doing business will win the race.

Today, nothing is done slow. Texting, email, likes, pins, shares, check-in, reviews, and blogs…are you seeing a pattern yet? Today, we share “FAST” everything. We are not writing it down in a letter, picking up the phone to call a friend…we are wired for “instant” and “fast”; communication on smart phones, tablets and more.

Let’s take a look at the slow and steady grave yard: Borders, Blockbuster, KB Toys, GameStop, Talbots, Foot Locker, GAP and more, and that’s in 2011! As for furniture stores: Robb & Stucky, Roomstore, Carls, Linders, Lacks… these are just a “few” of the larger furniture retailers. In the last 2 years, we’ve had over 60,000 retail stores bite the dust, because they didn’t run “fast enough” and they became irrelevant on the retail landscape.



If you’re not scared yet, this should scare you into change or to irrelevance. 
On July 11th, Amazon announced their new platform: 
“I Want It Today”.
(Read The Announcement/Article HERE - The Slate)


Click The Image To Read The Article
What is this you ask?

Well Amazon is giving in on the fight to pay local taxes because they are embarking on their most significant expansion…ever. Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately—in as little as 2 hours after you hit “Buy”.

They are going to build massive local distribution centers near your business and offer customers instant gratification. Consider these interesting facts. They are investing over $130MM in New Jersey, $135MM in Virginia, $150MM in Texas & Indiana and over $500MM in California…and these are the ones we know about.

So you’re slow and steady…50% off everything….yelling Sale!, Clearance!, Hot Buys!, whatever  - it will become irrelevant, (as if it isn’t already), because you cannot compete with Amazon with that strategy, PERIOD. Amazon will win the race in search, product selection, price and now delivery. The commoditization of “everything” is now your largest competitor.

But, you say furniture is different. Technically you’re right, and technically you’re wrong. On-Line furniture sales are increasing at an annualized rate of 6% per year, BUT that is expected to increase to 9.9% per year to over $8BN per year

Consider this; On Amazon’s website, under “furniture” there are 681,587 items for you to search and shop…and shortly you may be able “get it today”. Wayfair (CSN Stores) is a $400MM+ on-line retailer of home furnishings and they have over 275,000 items just in furniture. So between the two, consumers have a choice of over 1 million items to choose from. (This number does NOT include accessories, just furniture) Think consumers will find what they’re looking for? Believe me, they will and this holds true for any “big ticket” item: electronics, appliances, cars and more….anything that can be bought in a brick and mortar retailer can now be bought on-line….anything and everything!

So Tortoises, the Hare(s) are not going to take a nap! You better start eating your carrots and understand the Who/What/Why & How your 126,000,000 Gen X and Gen Y consumers are searching for products, connecting with products, educating themselves, reading reviews, watching videos, sharing ideas and ultimately - how/where they want to buy.

Are you scared of technology, confused with all the psychobabble on the internet and social marketing strategies? Or are you subscribing to a strategy of HOPE that everything will be OK soon like the good old days….maybe the internet will go away? I Don’t Think So!



Consider these 3 simple ideas to compete with these huge on-line predators:


  1. Price tier #1 - See it, buy it, wait for it and save $$$$ - Use your suppliers and white glove delivery services to perform "direct ship" options to the consumer from the supplier’s warehouse by passing on the savings you’d have with handling/stocking and incremental shipping costs. The suppliers can essentially "cross dock" the product and deliver to the consumer.... (You could offer curbside, threshold or complete white glove. Geez, isn't that the Amazon Model?
  1. Price tier #2 - Buy it today - take it home today. Charge consumers a bit more for the convenience of having it in-stock. Show the consumer at the POS how much more they will pay vs. buying on-line and waiting. Either way you win here, think about it
  1. Guarantee the pricing formula. Consumers will shop around, BUT if they believe the low price guarantee platform, they will gravitate to what/who they know and trust first, especially if they can see/talk/interact with a real brick and mortar person/platform should they have a concern or problem. No one wants to be put on hold, go through the ubiquitous PRESS #1, etc, especially on a big ticket item, and especially if you’re having a problem.
If your goal is to implement a great brick and mortar strategy, you need to develop a compelling promise! Much like traditional marketing, the goal for a brand is to promote their brand/product as a promise. Give them all the information, resources, everything they want and need to help them with their buying decision and convince them your store is the place where they will achieve ALL of their purchase and service objectives. If you don’t, believe me someone else will! 



Take a look at Sheely’s Furniture on-line internet presence and how they promote their “Brand”. 


Click The Image To See Sheely's Web Platform
Sheely’s has made an investment to educate, inspire and motivate the consumer to do business with them. They’ve integrated an awesome website with thousands and thousands of items for consumers to shop, videos that educate the customer as to why Sheely’s is different and why you want to do business with them. Just take a look at these three videos on their website:



#1 - “Why Shop at Sheely’s”



#2 - “We Service What We Sell”



#3 - “A look inside Sheely’s Customer Service” 



The on-line “only” sellers don’t and really can’t do this and Sheely’s is taking them head on. KUDO’S To Sherry Sheely!: http://www.sheelys.com/

If you truly study the way consumers shop today “on-line”, understand what they want, how they want to receive the information, where they want to find it and the platforms they want to receive it on, the consumer will respond to your strategic investment with a visit to your store and hopefully purchase your product….if you fulfilled your brand promise. What’s a brand promise you ask? That will be our next discussion. It’s not what you think it is, believe me, the meaning of a Brand Promise has significantly changed today too.

There are many more ways to win here, but I don’t want to write a book in this blog. (You can read and download tons of marketing ideas, internet and social strategies, retail marketing plans and more on our website: www.social4retail.com).

You must change and change requires a lot of time, passion, commitment and yep….money to win. 


Consider the alternative; you are the tortoise slowly moving toward the finish line. As you cross the finish line you realize: “You lost the race”. Now you must invest your remaining resources in a Liquidation Sale so people will come and buy your product”. 

Guess who’s runni ng the sale? The Hare

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