Retailing with our eyes wide shut

Do you really want to know what ails our Retailers?

When a group of auto executives returned from a visit to Japan in the 80’s one confided to Peter Senge (world-renowned consultant, academic and author The Fifth Discipline) that they were taken for a ride because they weren’t shown the real factories. One executive told him: “They did not show us the real plants. There were no inventories in those plants. I have been in manufacturing for over thirty years, and I can tell you those weren’t real plants.”

He did not realise that he had witnessed real plants without inventory because that is how Just-in-time production systems worked.

Albert Einstein once wrote: “Our theories determine what we measure.” He was right, because the evidence pointed to theories of relativity and quantum mechanics for many years – before it was ‘discovered.’

This is a universal problem, captured in the fables. We have all read the story of the Emperor without Clothes.

People did not see the Emperor for what he was.

This raises pressing questions for these uncertain times:

  • What do we see? And what is there really to see? Are we merely seeing what we want to see?All the evidence points to the EMPLOYEE being the most important stakeholder, but we hear, see and believe it is the customer. 
  • All the evidence point to retailers not meeting customer needs being the cause of the failures, but we hear, see and believe that it is ‘online’ that is causing the problems.
  • All the evidence point to the fact that we should embrace, even reward, failure, but we are congenitally incapable of admitting failure, never mind celebrating it.
  • All the evidence point to the fact that people don’t buy on price, but every promotion is a price-promotion and we seem compelled to keep discounting.
  • What does this flaw in our nature mean for the things we (think we) believe on all the topics we need to address in order to build sustainable business success? What does the evidence say about brand, markets, margins and distribution? 

The reason we come to believe in some of the things we do, is because once upon a time they worked. But we ended up treating them as a magic formula revealed by ‘our experience’, when in fact they were just a set of conditions that applied at a point in time.

The challenge with dealing objectively with our assumptions, heuristics and mental models, is that they are essentially self-reinforcing: we see what we want to see, creating a confirmation bias that eventually solidifies into unshakeable beliefs.

It is time-consuming, difficult and it may even mess with our sense of identity when we start questioning long-held beliefs. There seems to be very little incentive to embark on that journey. The only reward will be discovering the truth and in the era of ‘alternative facts’ the truth seems to be over-rated.

The reason this is all so hard is because, forgive me for being blunt, we lie to each other and to ourselves.

Some people keep two sets of books: a real one, and one for the tax man. We do the same thing with our beliefs:

We have espoused theories of how the world works. The theories and explanations are offered to all who care to listen. This is what we SAY we believe and tell others what we believe.

Then we have our actual theories of how things really work. Which we don’t share for fear of ridicule or a desire to avoid conflict or whatever.  This is what we ACTUALLY believe.

What are leaders supposed to do about this?

Like any ‘change’ initiative, the starting point is that of ‘mindset’. And let's face it, right now the retail ladnscape is facing massive change.

Leaders need to develop a different mindset about their company.

When a company is run by people with a management mindset, the focus is on planning, organising and controlling.

When a company is run by leaders, the focus and energy is directed towards establishing vision, growing a culture and promoting an openness to learning. You know a company is run by a LEADER by culture that reveals a willingness to challenge existing mental models.

Managers treat their companies like organisations, leaders treat their companies like an organism.

And that is a difference real leaders will know is worth thinking about.

Dennis Price: Co-Founder at WWW.YEARONE.SOLUTIONS


If at first you don’t succeed, F*** it


Amazon is coming and they will force this upon you if there is any weakness in your business model. Why not pre-empt it?

If you want to have a successful, sustainable business, you need to make strategic moves that effectively flips your business.  This is true not just inretail, but in any business.

Let me explain what it looks like for a business to f*** over.

Those who never flipped

  • Kodak did not become Flickr
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica did not become Wikipedia
  • Dymocks did not become Amazon
  • Siemens did not become Apple
  • Cabcharge did not become Uber
  • Holiday Inn did not become AirBnB
  • Blockbuster did not become Netflix
  • Sony did not become Spotify

Those who flipped successfully

  • PayPal – once was into cryptography
  • AOL – once was into Video on Demand
  • Twitter – once was into Podcast Delivery
  • Avon – once was into selling books door to door
  • Nokia – once was a Paper Mill
  • AirBnB – once was a temporary accommodation for conference goers
  • Netflix - once was into mail order DVDs

Take Netflix for example

They launched as a DVD mail-order business.

Then they jumped the curved and ‘flipped’ their business model to get into streaming

Now they are getting into direct creative production

What Netflix did is irrelevant for your retail business. Except to understand and appreciate the scale and the disruption and the commitment.

They were a successful DVD mail order business and was overtaking Blockbuster. To go into the content streaming business required a fundamental (paradigmatic) shift in business model, skills, cash flow, technology, customers, marketing - on almost every level they have to change.

They are going through another iteration now in becoming primary entertainment producers. And they will have such rich data about what exactly people like to watch, they are bound to have more successes than failures.

(I won’t be surprised if Netflix starts offering services  to their customer base. I am thinking email, home automation, internet of things applications etc would all be within reach, and they clearly are developing the cultural capacity to ride the curves.)

The critical success factors

One: A cultural capacity (willingness + ability) for change.

Two: The strategic skills to identify the right flips to make

Each of those are separate topic to explore in their own right, but in brief just a few points on each:

1  Culture Change:

It is not an objective you can delegate to a subordinate. Whilst someone may be tasked with project management, the CEO and directors have to demonstrably own it, live it and be willingly measured against its success failure.

To succeed at change, you have to understand the systems archetypes in business, and how your structure is connected to your strategy, the staff to the skills, the finances to the systems and so forth.

2. Strategic Flips

Imagine the stages of the lifecycle. (Some brief notes here.)

It does not matter what business you have, it is not that unique and I guarantee that you currently find yourself in SOME stage of the lifecycle. The trick is to make the plans, take the decisions about a new, scary future before it is upon you.  

The challenge is often that the decisions and the short-term results are not in the interests of the current management AND the outcomes are not guaranteed, so there is little cultural incentive to take the plunge. Refer to challenge #1 above.

The key issue is this: working on your flipping strategy should be an ongoing focus.

So the question is: Are you currently working on a strategic f*** over?

If not, the future is as predictable as the shape of a lifecycle curve.


Retailers fail mostly for this one reason

Do you want to know what lies at the heart of retail failure?

In every retail failure, there is a failure of marketing, if we understand that marketing is not what some shysters want us to believe.

Many believe that marketing is about branding, and branding is about this:

The truth is more mundane: A brand is created by demand.

Not the other way ‘round.

Marketing is merely about identifying the need, then finding a path to that need.

That is putting it very simply. And it is not very contentious. The problem emerges when Marketing loses sight of that very basic task, because they lose sight of what people really want.

People are motivated by pain. People are attracted to disaster. They watch more movies that are violent, murderous and dark, than art house cinema. They laugh when you fall, and feel nothing when you avoid the fall.

More people will stop to watch a street fight than a kissing couple.

People will watch a sporting contest because it is contest and victory is sweetened by someone’s loss.

More people take medication to make a pain go away, than vitamins that will (supposedly) keep them healthy.

People take their car in for a service because they don’t want to invalidate the warranty or breakdown, not because it is good for the vehicle and may extend its life.

The very essence of human nature is one of selfishness: we are tuned into WIIFM - What’s In It For Me. And the most important thing is my survival. And survival means avoiding pain.

When you place your hand on a hot stove, the pain is the signal that tells you bad things are happening. We are conditioned to avoid it.

If it is that simple, why can’t we get it right? Why do retailers keep failing?

Look at how car dealers sell cars: they promise that we will be able to release our inner-adventurer or the wannabe F1 driver that apparently is in all of us. Or at the very least that we all we young and sexy again.

How do we buy the cars? We kick the tires.

Cars have tons of features that we never use. The simple word processor has hundreds of features we don’t even know existed.

How do we buy clothes? We pick the style that won’t us look fat. Or old-fashioned and out of touch. And whether it will last. And is easy to iron.

Yet the brand frauds try to sell to us the idea that we all want to run across the dunes and share tequilas at sunset. And that we will be young again, if only … (their brand).

When marketers fall in love with telling stories about lifestyles that people aspire to, they will do well to remember that the one thing we universally aspire to is to not suck, not feel pain, not be embarrassed, not die, not fail and not lose.

Why do so many retailers fail?

For decades, the only ‘pain’ that retailers took away for their customers was the pain of travelling further afield to find their product. Strategically, retailers survived because their competitive difference was their location.

The advent of the internet made geography near irrelevant. It therefore stands to reason that if they don’t solve a customer’s pain in any other way, there is no further reasons for the customer’s patronage.

You may have the only upmarket footwear store in a particular shopping centre, and that will get only so much trade. The reality I that customers carry another hundred stores in their pocket – even as they browse your racks.

The solution is not big data. The solution is not robotics. Or the ‘experience’. The solution is not a better brand. Or more likes on social media. These things may matter, but they are secondary.

The primary solution is to find out what pains the customer and to offer a solution for that.

Dennis Price: Co-founder at

When the runway stops

Opening new stores is all about execution. You need to DO stuff. The core skill is project management. When you run out of geography, you run out of growth. It is easier run your business through the copy machine.

But as your top-line growth slows gradually, your expenses don’t (the copy machine is still running). So your sales keep growing (slower and slower) and your expenses grow faster and faster. That is recipe for disaster.

Running out of highway is inevitable.

Then the focus shifts to ideas. To innovation, to productivity, to marketing. Away from projects, to opportunities. From the easy, ‘busy’ work to the hard grind of squeezing little bits of incremental improvement from every process and re-thinking or re-inventing or scrapping processes.

The focus moves from internal capacities and needs and processes to the customer needs and journeys. From ‘our map’ and our capital, to ‘their map’ and their money. We move from footprint to brand. We move from logistics and distribution (supply) to demand and leverage.

In the new world, we need to learn to live with 2-3% growth (marginally better than inflation), and break the addiction to growth.

We have spoken previously about ‘margin convergence’; the idea that traditional retailers will have to learn to live with lower margins and that e-tailers will eventually have to increase their margins in order to start producing some returns for their investors. (Amazon being the exception that proves the rule.)

Just like traditional retailers run out of geography, eventually ecommerce will run out new customers too. There are only so many people in the world, after all.

And the pendulum will swing back and the value of ideas, and innovation and strategy and commitment to change and flexibility and willingness to take risks will again be in vogue.

When your plane runs out of runway, slowing down is no option, you have to accelerate to get lift-off, as scary as that may be.

(Image from

You can't win the war without biscuit bombers

Img: SMH

Img: SMH

Having just experienced another Anzac Day in Australia, I heard the term ‘Biscuit Bomber’ for the first time. Anzac Day is a bit special for us as a family, albeit that we have not actual connection to the day. But being a commissioned officer in the SANDF (South Africa) and being married to a General’s daughter, ‘war’ is more than an idea or tangential memory; it is a lived experience.

I always wish I could achieve with words what the sounds of the Last Post does with emotions.

On the Sunday service following Anzac Day, I heard the term Biscuit Bombers and for some obscure reason this immediately made me think of what I saw the previous afternoon when our local park footy team played Aussie Rules. But before I get ahead of myself, back to the war.

During the war, rations were scarce because all supplies were unloaded at Port Moresby from a small wharf that was ill-equipped to handle the volume of cargo and was subject to frequent air attack. Using native carriers was impractical, because in the eight days it would take to complete the walk the carrier would eat much of the cargo.

Building roads would have been impossible given the time constraints and the terrain,

Planes could land at local airstrips or drop supplies by parachute, and that became the preferred method.

The famous Douglas DC-3 transport aircraft  and the crews manning them became known as "Biscuit Bombers".

The Biscuit Bombers dropped supplies along the various tracks or into clearings hacked out of the jungle.

The job was hot and dangerous.

They operated without harnesses and without protective gear. They weren’t shot at, but some of these crews were lost in the process.

When I was in the Army, we were taught to appreciate the support crew (being one of them myself) - which outnumbered the frontline troops by 7:1 we were told.

Think about the impact on the troops in the jungle if they did not get their ‘biscuits’.

And at the local park footy, the same applies. Even for that game at that level, there are at least eight to ten officials required to make one match happen, Not counting the runners, the medics and the canteen volunteers and raffle ticket sellers. Without them, the game would not happen.

Without the Biscuit Bombers, the war would not happen.

And in every organisation you have your biscuit bombers. The foreman in the warehouse. The executive assistant. The junior designer. The security guard.

It may vary, but often the sales crew are the glamour folks. They bring in the dough. And act like it. The organisation evolves around them. They are the frontline troops.

In retail organisations it may be the area managers or the merchandisers who get the accolades. Biggest bonuses and first in line for promotion.

But without the biscuit bombers, there wouldn't BE an organisation to strut around in.

Real leaders know that if you want to take home the chocolates, you must make sure that biscuit bombers are empowered to do what they need to do too.

How does your organisation treat the biscuit bombers?

Are you chasing your retail dream?

Achieving retail success amongst the carnage is difficult. And we have this:

  • Sugar causes hyperactivity.
  • Caffeine dehydrates you.
  • Einstein failed Maths.
  • Goldfish have a 3-sec memory
  • Bulls hate red.
  • The Great Wall of China is visible from ‘space’.

If we were honest with ourselves on these things, I’d guess most of us would have heard and believed those things.

They are myths.

How many of the things we ‘know’ about retail is myth and how many are facts?

We believe retail is doomed, multi-channel is the answer and Amazon will eat the world.The only way to be successful, is to be the ‘Uber-of-something’.


Let’s consider the facts:

You have to be in eCommerce and there are successes across the board. Boohoo is travelling well, and so is the The Honest Company - and countless more.

Multichannel is the way to go: Former online-only retailers such as Warby Parker, Bonobos and Birchbox have rushed to open stores. Apple and Amazon get trotted out as exemplary case studies, and I have no doubt they are.

Bricks-and Mortar is dead. The retail graveyard in the US is a sight to behold: Abercrombie & Fitch (60 stores) Crocs (160 stores), J.C. Penney (30-140 stores) Macy’s(100 stores), Radioshack (552 Stores), Kmart (108 stores), Sears (42 stores), American Apparel (104 Stores) and The Limited closing All 250 stores

Yet there are ‘alternative facts’, to borrow a phrase.

Collapsing valuations of once high-flying brands like Trunk Club and One King’s Lane and a host of others. (Walmart announced it was acquiring ModCloth for a fraction of the VC capital invested to date.) There is plenty of red ink at SurfStitch and Temple & Webster.

Uber is the poster child for the ‘gig economy; but is still losing insane amounts money. In the last three months of 2016 alone, the company lost $991 million and there is no short-term indications that the business model is viable. (Only time will tell whether investors with deep pockets propping it up are proven to be greedy with a herd mentality or perspicacious.)

Amazon is a true Black Swan event and no comparisons can be made to any ‘regular’ business. Amazon is more than a conglomerate it is a platform, making money of a diverse range of products from web hosting and cloud services to retail. It is worth noting that it took them a decade to show their first profits. You need extraordinary patient and rich investors to keep you afloat for that long and this is hardly normal.

The only reasonable conclusion that one can draw from this is that commerce is a tough gig. There is no single strategy (online, multi-channel or brick-and mortar) that is the ‘right’ strategy.

There is a strategy that is right for your business, your market, your proposition. And if you execute that strategy well, success necessarily follows - barring the uncontrollable externalities.

It therefore seems that the only sensible approach is to stop fretting (even obsessing) about who is doing what (successfully or not) and to focus on what you can control. (I used to teach my MBA students that the ‘competitive analysis’ is the most overrated and probably least necessary part of the business planning process - IF a business plan was required. I wonder how many remember.)

To some it may seem to be a rather simplistic conclusion, but core truths usually appear simplistic; but I am a fan of Occam's Razor.

Best to chase your own dream.

The lesson even a smart guy like Einstein had to learn

In 1905, Albert Einstein determined the theory of special relativity. It introduced a new framework for all of physics and proposed new concepts of space and time. Then he spent more than a decade years trying to include acceleration in the theory. His General Relativity Theory determined that massive objects cause a distortion in space-time, which is felt as gravity. He published this in 1915. Science geeks will understand the magnitude better than us, but suffice to say that it literally changed how we understood the world.

However he needed proof of the theory. Proof would not only provide him professional validation, but provide the finances to pay off his wife who had divorced on the promise of paying his (future) Nobel earnings as alimony. So the pressure was on.

The easiest proof was to be provided by astronomers who could measure a gravitational effect on stars specifically during a total eclipse. He had a few hurdles to overcome. Firstly he had to find astronomers who were willing to devote time and resources and reputations to what was mind-bending theory. Then there was the challenge of finding an eclipse to photograph (before someone else proved the theory) and finally, there was the matter of World War 1 that made everything more difficult by an order of magnitude, not made easier by the fact that he was a German Jew, effectively making him an enemy of both sides.

The first attempt to photograph the eclipse was thwarted by bad weather and to make it worse the Russians confiscated some very expensive equipment was .

Einstein was naturally devastated. With w war in full swing, the chances of getting another crack at it seemed nearly impossible.

But he kept working.

And he found a flaw in his calculations.

If the first attempt at photographing the eclipse had succeeded, his theory would have been disproven. He would have been the laughing stock of the scientific community.

He remedied his formulae.

Then  there was another opportunity to photograph another eclipse.

Several simultaneous parties departed for Australia, which offered the best vantage point.

The photos were taken, the calculations made.

Einstein was proven right.

The failure of the first expedition was a blessing in disguise.

Many failures are.

Whilst we are dealing with a fresh, raw failure it may not seem like it. Sometimes it takes years. But how often do we live through bad times, only later to realise that ‘that was the best thing that could have happened to me’.

A retrenchment, a business failure or a lost sale does not mean it is the end, unless you want it to be.

More often than not, a failure is a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to do better and a challenge to keep going.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. (Winston Churchill.)

Why we need Donald Trump in Australia

Trump is the kind of President Australia needs

That headline was an example of ‘click bait.

It has little or nothing to do with the actual topic under discussion, but it something the writer knows will get clicks. (In this case, absolutely nothing.)

After you have clicked on the click bait, you are bound to be annoyed. But, I don’t care because your eyeballs have been captured.

Do you know how Facebook et al measures ‘engagement’ with its advertising product?

The technical term is ‘more than zero’. That is anything more than zero pixels, for more than zero milliseconds. That counts as a view.

And advertisers are charged for those views.

Back in bricks-and-mortar land, we have the same thing.

A really cool ‘brand’. Or a stunning fit-out. Funky music. Posters in the window that make grand lifestyle promises.

The problem starts when people ‘click’ and enter the store - and everything sucks from that point in. No service. Poor assortment. Meaningless pricing. Dodgy product quality. The stuff that really matters is missing and the customer leaves with a sour taste in the mouth.

It is in instances like these that good marketing works against you. You will catch the customer once, maybe twice. But unless you can fulfill the promises with an authentic offer that actually matches the brand, it will become increasingly harder and harder to capture the customer.

Even if you change and fix all of that; it is a matter of twice bitten, once shy.

One of the retail businesses that I admire most in Australia is Lowes Menswear. They have survived and prospered for more than a century - and at the core of that success is perfect congruence between brand promise and execution. They have resisted ‘image drift’ and just kept on executing those fundamentals straight out of the Retail 101 handbook.

In technology we talk about a WYSIWYG program. In the ‘real’ world, What You See Is What You Get should also apply because that is how you earn (and keep) consumer trust.

And trust is the currency of any successful business.

Check out our new initiative: WWW.YEARONE.SOLUTIONS

The BOT revolution for retail

No way I will talk to a machine, or is there?

At least that is what I told Siri.

And she just laughed.

Because she knows stuff.


Reason 1: Look at the numbers.

Reason No 2: The Big 3 are playing in this space and that should tell you something. 

●     Facebook: Messenger & WhatsApp

●     Amazon: Alexa

●     Google: Allo

That is not to mention applications like Slack and dozens of others who have their own bot-solution. I was personally confused with Facebook’s strategy to buy WhatsApp for such an exorbitant price, particularly when they already own Messenger. As bots have gained in popularity, it is beginning to make more sense.

Reason No 3: The learning curve with Chatbots is flat (few barriers).

You don’t even need an App for that, because there are services like Magic that does not even require an App Platform, and whilstOperator is an App, it is completely agnostic about what you want and simply gets onwith the job of getting it. Like a global concierge that you just ask and it happens. (US and China only, more countries to follow.)

The buzz words are chatbots and conversational commerce, and it is worth thinking about the trends to understand if and why they are important.


Chatbots are applications that respond intelligently to user input. It is a simple process to install the application on your own website, your own app or run within an existing messaging platform.

The chatbot maker can choose to build conversations that are programmatic and structured. That is, you build a conversation tree that reflects conversational options. As you can imagine it is difficult to anticipate every possible variation, it is important to build a sensible fall back option.

Or you can choose to use Natural Language Programming (NLP). It is vastly more complicated and you will need a developer for this. This can also evolve into the real AI (Artificial Intelligence) or ML (Machine Learning). These bots get smarter over time. Think how SIRI gets to recognise different accents of the same words.

Chatbots have many uses - from dating to gambling to news, but in the retail environment two broad types of activities; SALES and SERVICE. We are looking at Chatbots as a means of delivering Micro Learning. Imagine the CEO could ‘talk’ to all staff across a country-wide network of stores, get feedback and pass on tips and focus for the day – all with no ongoing cost after setup?

From a retail perspective, it is called ‘conversational commerce’ because a series of SMS-like conversations easily (and very securely) can terminate in a ONE-CLICK purchase. (No doubt Facebook will want to clip this particular ticket in some way in the future, so bear that in mind.)

The other application is to create stock response for your FAQs on your FB page or on your website. (The ChatBot can be installed in your website with an easy copy & paste). Customers can ask questions, the bot reads and responds accordingly. No human intervention - and that is the big cost saving.

One of the more sophisticated examples of such a BOT is one called KIT. It is now owned by Shopify, and it is deployed to ‘take instructions’ from Shopify store owners and then ‘creates’ social media campaigns (like Facebook Ads) - all automated. It costs the store owner $10 per month, and you don’t have to think too hard about creating and scheduling Facebook Ads.


No 1:

Everybody has Facebook/Messenger etc - it’s ubiquitous, so you as the retailer/business entity don’t have to persuade the user/consumer to download yet another app.

No 2:

You get more data from the user (via the associated platform like Facebook) than you would have ordinarily from a one-way medium like email. This enables better targeting and more relevance of your communications.

No 3:

High open rates and engagements.

No 4:

Inexpensive to run (no data charges or costs like SMS etc), although right now most of the early Gold Rush providers will persuade businesses to fork out hundreds of thousands when it should be thousands or maybe tens of thousands to set up bots.

No 5:

Most importantly, Chatbots enable two-way conversation and are immediate and therefore more relevant (than an email newsletter peddling week-old news.)


No 1:

They are really easy to build. You can YouTube it, pay $20 on Udemy or simply DIY because the technology enables you to get basic BOT simply by dragging and dropping elements on a screen.

I can’t do any coding, not even HTML, and I built a bot in a weekend. (Try it out at our Facebook page.) In my explanation that follows I will refer Facebook and Messenger as an example because they are commonly used, but most applies to all messaging apps.

Because it is so easy, expect bot-pollution to occur rapidly. Because of the pollution, consumers will be swamped and it will lose its efficacy very quickly; particularly for the inefficient or irrelevant bots.

Just like email marketing is crumbling under the onslaught of spam and waste, so too will chatbots.  Email click-through rates are now commonly around 2%. Messages can be over 80%. (When was the last time you ignored a message on Messenger or WhatsApp or even SMS?)

But it is even easier to block a bot than it is to unsubscribe.

No 2:

With email marketing, at least you owned an asset - an email address with permission to use it. That meant you could go to any email platform, depending on your needs. I am sure everybody has now left Aweber, and are exploring MailChimp and Active Campaign and the like.

With message bots, you have access to a much richer data sets since you receive profile-related info from Facebook. But you can’t leave the platform (Facebook/Messenger), so you never own that data.

You are also dependent on the platform to make the rules, and what is free today will not be free tomorrow if it has any value.


No 1:

Planning the actual Bot. Having now built a few myself, I cannot stress the importance of planning enough. It is tempting and easy to just start building with a vague idea.

No 2:

Adopting a Chatbot strategy. It is very important that you take an eco-system approach. You should think about ALL the bots that you might want to run, and then decide which platforms you will be using, and how you will be using them.

CRITICALLY - you must create a digital asset library and keep a record of the bots and the assets (images, links etc.) that they use. You will have to make changes in the future, and if that means you have to practically re-write the bot, you will spend all the money you thought you were going to save. And part of the eco-system will be a digital product roadmap that will (a) keep you on course and (b) help to manage system when people churn and when the technology changes.


As with any new technology, there will be different types of people to be on the lookout for:

●     The Zealots who believe this is the latest must-have.

●     The Cowboys who will be rushing in with a bravado that is not backed by knowledge and experience.

●     The Hustlers who will be out to make a buck as quickly as possible while there is a premium to be paid for people (who claim to have) the right experience.

●     The Gurus who will be proclaiming words of wisdom from the highest blog mountain.

Right now, there are very few people who know everything. You will find UX experience in marketing agencies, you will find the technical nous typically amongst the technical development community. And you will find the sales-and service experience in the retail community.

Few have all of these requirements in sufficient quantities to be able to guarantee that all efforts will be succeed.



At the bottom of this page there are two videos that explains the notion of ‘fractured value’. That provides the background to why it is so critical for survival and growth to be able pivot, adapt and innovate.


●     Some of the brands doing interesting stuff with bots.

●     A directory of bots that will prompt you to think widely about the applications

●     A slightly different, non-commercial use of Bots we developed


Drag-and Drop Design Platforms

●     MotionAI

●     ManyChat

●     Chatfuel

● (A bit more complex for NLP)


Storyboarding and Planning Tools

●     Twinery

●     yEd

●     LucidChart or (Apps that integrate with Google Drive, and is connected directly)

●     List of 17 Free Drawing Software applications


Long-timers who may recall some previous writing here on Inside Retailing, may remember that it has been a bit of a Mantra that the required response to the Next Big Thing is NOT to merely jump on the bandwagon.
We suggest you jump on the bandwagon(s) because that is how you build and retain the capability to adapt and change.

In fact, the key to success is not whether you are backing the right technology horse, it is your whether you have the capacity and ability to turn on a dime - to mix some metaphors for you.

You become agile by being agile.

I asked SIRI, and she agrees with me.

Dennis Price: Founder at Ganador: Retail Advisory with a focus on the customer.

When your plane doesn't want to fly

During WWII, 12,000 heavy bombers were shot down and two out three Allied bomber crews were lost for each plane destroyed.

Ultimately over 100,000 Allied bomber crewmen were killed over Europe.

Losing your best, most expensive resources (people and machines) is never a good strategy, so the problem was quite urgent.

The planes needed more or better armour.

The Air force gathered some data on the problem.

IImage from How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

IImage from How Not To Be Wrong by Jordan Ellenberg

They saw an opportunity for efficiency by achieving the same protection with less armour.

If you concentrate the armour on the places with the greatest need (most holes per square foot), the planes would be safer and lighter and therefore quicker.

A man named Abraham Wald, a mathematician, oversaw the project. He started by creating a simple diagram—the outline of a plane—and he marked bullet holes corresponding to where each returning bomber had been shot showing the most common areas of damage to the plane. The wings, nose, and tail were found to be the spots that needed more armor, but the challenge was that armour was (is) heavy and made the planes even more vulnerable by slowing them down.


But Wald flipped conventional logic with some impressive statistical research. If he was alive today, he’d probably be calling this Big Data.

His insight?

The Air Force didn’t need to reinforce the spots that had bullet holes. They needed to reinforce the spots that didn’t have bullet holes.

Can you see the logic of his conclusion?

The planes that had been shot in these bullet-free zones never made it home to be accounted for.

A plane shot through the wing featured on his diagram. A plane shot through the cockpit (the white area on the diagram) didn’t feature on the diagram because the plane was burning in field somewhere in enemy territory.

[Aside: A question for consultant peers: How long would the report have been giving what is essentially one line of advice?]

Some lessons:

Forest and trees and all that.

But there is more.

The people flying the planes are not always in the best position to see the answer.
A small diagram is as useful as big data.
Don’t underestimate the power of a visual representation of the problem.
There is no substitute for smart people.

Flip your thinking, it may just be all that is needed.

The source of the solution may not be the most obvious person.

The problem is not always obvious until it is obvious. Then it is obvious, of course; because well, it is obvious.

Do you have planes that don’t fly?

Sometimes business obsesses about getting more planes in the air, or worrying about getting the planes to fly faster and more efficiently.

The real problem is that it shouldn’t even be be planes. Or it may not be about getting there faster, but more about where are you flying to.

Asking the right question is really half the battle won.

Are you a leaders who is afraid of the dark?

On May 24, 1924 a Massachusetts newspaper printed an instance with a Boston setting. A police officer saw a man on his hands and knees “groping about” around midnight and asked him about his unusual behavior: 1

“I lost a $2 bill down on Atlantic avenue,” said the man.

“What’s that?” asked the puzzled officer. “You lost a $2 bill on Atlantic avenue? Then why are you hunting around here in Copley square?”

“Because,” said the man as he turned away and continued his hunt on his hands and knees, “the light’s better up here.”

Abraham H. Maslow referenced the joke by applying it to his own profession. In “Motivation and Personality”, he wrote:

Ultimately this must remind us of the famous drunk who looked for his wallet, not where he had lost it, but under the street lamp, “because the light is better there,” or of the doctor who gave all his patients fits because that was the only sickness he knew how to cure.

It applies to us even today, since this seems to be a human problem that all leaders struggle with. In fact, it even has a name: the streetlight effect. (Or as it is fondly know, the ‘drunkard’s search’).

This observational bias is so pervasive, we may even twist it into positives:

‘Play to your strengths’.

The problem is that your strengths may not be what the company needs or the problem requires.

‘Fish where the fish are’.

The problem is that everybody fishes where the fish are - the ‘red ocean’ scenario.

The starting point for a successful leader and manager must normally be to ask what the desired (right/best) outcome is; then create solutions and strategies that matches that.

It may seem an archaic notion, but leadership requires bravery. Leadership requires you to step outside your comfort zone. Not to focus on the low-hanging fruit, but to pick the fruit that actually needs to be picked.

Go from the easy, to the whatever is required, even if it is hard.

Go from the light to the dark, if that is where the problem is.

Don’t be afraid.

When you have a rat on board



A story is told about a British pilot who was terrified when he looked down, to discover a rat chewing on the fuel line.

He was going to have to land his plane as soon as possible but he was calculated that he did not have sufficient time to do so before irreparable damage was done to the aircraft.

What he did next was counter-intuitive and non-obvious.

Instead of attempting the landing, he flew the plane even higher. The decrease in oxygen was enough to kill the rat.

When you are faced with dire circumstances, you  could simply hope for the best.

You could waggle your wings and try to shake things off.

You could bet against the odds and attempt to land safely.

Or you could double-down. Go harder, go higher.

Guy Kawasaki says Silicon Valley’s successes are more a matter of people throwing things at a wall and painting a target around what sticks.

That is true for most successes. But that is not a story of luck or synchronicity, it is a story of people failing at a hundred things, persisting.

When things look grim, they double down and go harder. Instead of landing, they fly higher. Of course, many, many, many sink without trace.

But the ones that make it, are characterised by persistence that eventually finds that a solution.

Persistence required bravery.

How brave are we?

The New Marketing

Which is a little bit ironic, because when you look at it closely, it is actually very old.

So old, that I have called it ARTISANAL MARKETING

What does that look like?

I created this graphic in 2012. Not bad, hey?

I am just putting the finishing touches to a presentation for a conference. And I address something that is variously called 'dark value' or 'fractured value'. It is used to explain the successes that companies like Uber and Netflix has experienced in recent times.

I have created a little video to accompany the talk, because this concept couldn't be addressed properly in the time allocated. I will post that later.

How to innovate by learning from the customer

There are essentially two ways to look at innovation:

1: Play, search and discover something. Test to see if it is useful for the market.

2. Learn from the customer, and adapt your offer in a constant, incremental cycle.

We are a fan of approach no 2. There are merits in both, but we feel No 2 is:

  • More sustaiable
  • Can be 'baked in' to the way you do busines
  • Has immediate benefits.

So we came up with the 10 rules of constant innovation.

NOTE: The image is only somewhat original - it has been adapted from somethign I have seen somewhere, but now long forgotten. Happy to correct attribution if it is claimed.