Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The web disintermediates. Retail is mediation.

Image courtesy The Drum
Retail is mediation.
Where-ever there is mediation there will be disruption. This is not just the lesson of an economic downturn - it is the structural reality of the networked world - of an Open Economy.
I write as I hear about Blockbuster hitting the great DVD eject button, just a day after HMV called in the receivers. Comet came crashing down just before Christmas, Jessops last week.
The analysts tell similar stories about HMV and Blockbuster - what they both trade in was more easily and cheaply available online.
The same is true of Comet and Jessops. Just because you can't download a washing machine (give it time as 3D printing ramps up) doesn't mean the web doesn't offer an easier trading environment.
So. The High Street is full of fail.
Except it isn't. Apple has the highest value retail floorspace in the world.
Reasons: 1 Products people really want.
We will happily swop good product for ease of trading. Think of Marks & Spencers in its heyday. It was incredibly difficult to trade with. Out of stock in the food stores by a Saturday lunch time and refusing to take credit cards. The products made this acceptable.
Reasons 2 An understanding that the experience is as important as the product.
Apple's stores re-invented the shopping experience. Or perhaps they just learned from a quality car show room. They elevated the products, put them in their best light and let you test drive them (ask a car dealer how much more likely someone is to buy if you can get their butt on the drivers' seat).

If you have products worth celebrating and provide the setting for experiencing those products then you have  an opportunity. You have earned the right to be the mediator.

If you don't then expect users to find ways around you, to go more and more directly.
If you are in the middle, unless you are adding value, they want you out of the way.

They are on a journey in pursuit of connection with the makers - something the blandness of the supermarket experience makes attempts to layer on (pictures of farmers on packaging spring to mind) but would much rather massage out. The web disintermediates - and retail is mediation.