Differentiate and DIE

Differentiate and DIE

We can learn something from the rules of the wild.

Biologists studying zebras in the wild discovered something that flipped all their assumptions.

They watch the zebras, but they look down at their notes and then look up they got confused about which zebra they were looking at because the striped camouflage is actually protection for the herd. The scientists solved this by dabbing red paint on the horns of the zebra or tag it with an ear tag.

 

Then they discovered an amazing thing. The predatory lions would kill these painted zebras in disproportionate numbers. As soon as it became identifiable the predator, the predators could organize their hunt to target the specifically tagged animal.

 

The the old idea that lions and predators take down the weak animals, but they don't; they take down the identifiable animals.

Most marketing gurus will tell you that the secret to success is to differentiate. There is no dearth of literature on ‘point-of-difference’ and how crucial it is to survival and success.

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The Children are in Charge

I spoke at the WA Property Conference a few years ago. One of the topics I identified was the increasing ‘INFANTILISATION’ of Society.  From time to time, I like to check back on myself to see if I was on the right track – and yesterday I came across something that seems as if I was.

I am not a regular TUMBLR user, but a link led me there yesterday, and the ‘homepage’ struck me as particularly infantile. Check it out yourself. Here is a snip anyway, but the whole thing is pretty much GIFs and cartoons (visually) and you’d have to scroll for a long time before you found anything that could be of interest to a mature adult.

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For those interested in the TL/DR version, here is an extract from my eBook on the topic:

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The manifestation of infantilism is not prominent in current business literature; possibly because it is not popular to do so for the bloggers and journalists. To me at least, the evidence of increasing infantilism is over-whelming. I deviate from the dictionary[i] definition which states: A state of arrested development in an adult, characterized by retention of infantile mentality, accompanied by stunted growth and sexual immaturity, and often by dwarfism. I am referring exclusively to the behavioural aspects and not the medical/ physical manifestations.

It is possibly no surprise that one of the biggest TV cult hits at the time of writing is Arrested Development. While the show was cancelled in 2006 after a few seasons, it was revived to much wider acclaim in 2013. (In 2011, IGN[ii] named Arrested Development the funniest show of all time). That to me seems indicative of it possibly being a tad early for its times and the ‘we generation, infantilism found its mark after the pendulum had swung a bit deeper into the current social era.

Web 2.0 Logos

Business names of the Web 2.0 era are almost without childish and infantile. From the funky, primary colour schemes and fat fonts to the made-up names everything is strongly reminiscent of baby talk.

Flickr, Prezi, Box, Pipl, Plinked, Pownce etc. is not too dissimilar to coochee coo that adults will turn to when talking to babies.

SMS language & emotional expressions

There is no need to explain the meaning of LOL or Gr8 to anyone. Nobody blinks an eye when today becomes 2day. Whilst it may have been necessitated by physical limitations of SMS messages, the conventions have found their way to other forms of communication where those constraints did not apply which suggests that it found fertile soil.

Some linguists might argue that this is a normal evolution of language, and others would describe[iii] this new variety of language, texting () as "textese", "slanguage", a "digital virus". According to John Sutherland of University College London, writing in this paper in 2002, it is "bleak, bald, sad shorthand. Drab shrinktalk ... Linguistically it's all pig's ear ... it masks dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness. Texting is penmanship for illiterates."

I believe there is consensus that this transformation has been more rapid, and more profound than any previous single shift in language use and this can be attributed to these seed of change falling on a soil that is particularly suited to such infantile linguistic conventions.

Gamification

Whether it is Commerce, Art, Education or Health, there does not appear to be an industry that is immune to Gamification.

Gamification[iv] typically involves applying game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging. Gamification has been called one of the most important trends in technology by several industry experts. Gamification can potentially be applied to any industry and almost anything to create fun and engaging experiences, converting users into players. (From)

Behind all the pseudo-science talk, it is worth remembering that Gamification is essentially about playing games.

Entertainment Software Association[v] reveals some telling statistics, which reinforces that games are popular and that Gamification of everything is tied to the social and technological shifts discussed elsewhere. The average gamer is 30 years old and has been playing for 13 years. Sixty-eight percent of gamers are 18 or older. Forty-five percent of all players are women. Today, adult women represent a greater portion of the game-playing population (31 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (19 percent). Sixty-two percent of gamers play games with others, either in-person or online. Seventy-seven percent of these gamers play with others at least one hour per week. Thirty-two percent of gamers play social games. Gamers play on-the-go: 36 percent play games on their smartphone, and 25 percent play on their wireless device.

Infographics

Whilst data visualisation itself is not new – and can arguably be traced back to cave paintings – it is worth noting that data visualisation has always been direct; e.g. the slice of a pie-chart was proportional for the dataset or the heights of the bars in histograms had a direct quantifiable relationship with all the other bars. Infographics have proliferated steadily over the last several decades, but it is only the last decade with the advent of specific software tools (to create) and software platforms (to distribute) that Infographics, as we know it, have exploded.

Infographics have introduced an indirect, narrative element to the data story – to the extent that it is has made the picture childish. This is usually exacerbated by the colour schemes and fonts (again a very Web 2.0 design language). For example, a simple stack diagram won’t do, it must now be filled with jelly-baby figurines to highlight that the bar might be referring to people – instead of simply writing the word people on the relevant axis. (Image[vi]).

Reality TV

It is generally believed that reality TV has boomed since 2000. Some interesting statistics[vii]:

Americans spend 1/3 of their free time watching television and of that 67% are reality shows and the number of shooting days for reality TV in Los Angeles rose 53% in 2012, making up about 40% of all on-location production and it now constitutes 57% of all television shows in the US.

It is appropriate to represent some statistics as an easily digestible infographic[viii]:

Presentism

Strictly speaking presentism is a philosophy where presentism is the belief that neither the future nor the past exists. In this context, I am applying less rigorous (non-philosophical) definition to refer to a general attitude that reflects short term orientation, including the desire for instant gratification and a disregard for the long term and the distant future.

This is no more cleared by the apparently whole-hearted embrace of the infantile, presentist philosophy appropriately referred to as YOLO – You Only Live Once. The disciples of this particular religion do not embrace that philosophy as a matter of self-evident truth, but rather proffers it as an excuse to do stupid stuff. (Jack Black famously quipped that YOLO is Carpe Diem for stupid people. I take from that whilst there is a metaphysical dimension to Carpe Diem, YOLO is seen as an excuse for stupidity – and is explicitly defined as such by the urban dictionary.

[i] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/infantilism

[ii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IGN

[iii] http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jul/05/saturdayreviewsfeatres.guardianreview

[iv] http://www.gamification.org/wiki/Gamification

[v] http://www.theesa.com/facts/gameplayer.asp

[vi] http://designreviver.com/inspiration/30-of-the-best-infographics-that-effectively-showcase-data/

[vii] http://anhoward.wordpress.com/the-effect-reality-tv-is-having-on-us-shocking-statistics/

[viii] http://screenrant.com/reality-tv-statistics-infographic-aco-149257/

Is offering Free WiFi a smart strategy?

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Before a mall (or a retailer for that matter) decides whether they install free WiFi for the public, there are a few factors to consider and it is not right for everyone.

Customers want it because it will help them save time, be flexible, increase productivity and stay connected with their world, but, there are risks and other factors to consider

1. Know it is a double-edged sword

There is a risk that customers will shop around other retailers without moving- comparing prices with competitors online.

Also, people expect connectivity and connectivity can increase satisfaction. since it can - if it is not fast enough for instance - be a cause of ongoing complaints.

By offering free WiFi, you also take on an indirect responsibility for the security of the data, whatever the fine print says.

All of these risks can be mitigated by choosing a reliable supplier.Most of us have probably installed our own Wi-Fi at home, so it does not seem to be a reason to get third parties involved, but that would be a major error, considering the risks and the benefits.

There are a few providers in Australia, Skyfii being one of the largest who have experience in malls in particular and also Aruba. Choosing a reputable operator allows you to access (and potentially benchmark) insights. Every year, according to Skyfii, they can analyse 300 million visitor experiences using existing WiFi infrastructure, BLE beacon networks, door-to-people counters, video sources, web and social platforms, and bring all of that together in one application.

2. Don’t do it because it is cheap

And don’t choose your partner solely on price. Cost is negligible for a regional mall. But you don’t do it because it is cheap, you do it because it will make you better. The reliability of the service, the detail of the coverage, and most importantly the depth of the analysis are far more important than cost of initial set-up.

3. Invest in infrastructure ONLY if you will invest in using the data

The key is offering WiFi can allow you to gather data. (Hence choosing the right partner.)

Wi-Fi is not installed simply to provide a free service for customers. Wi-Fi for customers supplements the traditional loyalty card. People think loyalty cards are a mechanism for points, but actually it’s a mechanism for gathering data about the customer. WiFi does that, but is also able to add contextual information such as how people move through the store or the mall.

With a good provider and with a sound strategy, mall owners and large retailers will be able to change the way they do marketing:

  • Data capture: Capture customer information through your Guest WiFi’s registration page.

  • Configurable templates: Customise your registration page and other customer forms.

  • Progressive profiling: Schedule subsequent questions with each login at the captive portal to capture additional data.

  • Content delivery: Deliver content like welcome emails, SMS, Video and customer landing pages.

  • Multi-venue configuration: Configure your Guest WiFi based on a single venue or multiple venues.

  • Social login: Provide users social login options including Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.

  • Foot traffic: Measure unique visitor counts and identify your peak visitor times

  • Smart Zones: Use geo-fencing technology to define areas of interest for analysis

  • Visitor flow: Visualise the most travelled paths and popular destinations in your venue

  • Wi-Fi Activity: Measure sessions and analyse which sites customers visit using Wi-Fi

  • Conversion: Analyse the conversion funnel for your venue, from passerby to till

  • Heat-mapping: View visitor movement in real-time on your venue map

  • Dwell Time: Understand how customers spend their time and engage with your venue

  • Attribution: Segment visitor activity and traffic to analyse the impact of marketing campaigns. I.e. being able to ‘attribute’ your traffic to the right source.

Like so many things, there is a temptation to adopt new technologies because they are new technologies. That is not smart. But WiFi (and Bluetooth and NFC) technologies are increasingly being integrated into our lives, and I can only see reasons to install WiFi becoming increasingly important.

It may seem futuristic right now, but for instance, consider this:

  • Most cellular networks are now adopting WiFi-enabled calling, and this way you can guarantee consumers don’t have to suffer poor mobile reception in your centre.

  • When people start paying with cryptocurrencies, they need network access to their digital wallet.

  • How will the Internet of Things play out?

  • Could it impact how children are monitored (and not lost) in the mall?

No one knows for sure how everything will play out, but what we do know is that there is data in your future. The key takeaways, therefore are:

First, have a strategy, second, pick a good provider and thirdly, keep iterating and keep learning. Fail forward.

Have Fun.

(Image: http://dailypicksandflicks.com)

Why I don't believe in myself (the day before my birthday)

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There are advantages to having a closed mind: you will never doubt.
There are advantages to being indecisive: you will never make an error.
There are advantages to not loving: your heart will never get broken.
There are disadvantages to strategic planning: you miss the opportunities you did not expect.
There are disadvantages to doing research: people can’t tell you what they don’t know.

There are pros and cons to many perspectives that are almost universally believed to be ‘good’ or true.

None more so than the universal command that we should ‘believe in ourselves’.

It is meant to be motivating, it is meant to fuel a belief that will keep you going when things are tough.

But in truth, it is completely erroneous and misleading.

Think about it for a moment: is the ‘belief’ in your head (or heart) actually connected in any real, meaningful way to the outcome that you are supposed to believe in?

Consider the example: you are stumbling through the desert. All alone, no tools, no water. It is just you in a hundreds of kilometers of sand. Things are dire. WIll you make it or not? 

The facts are: you will make it if you keep going long enough to get to water or help, or the help or water comes to you.

Conventional wisdom would hold that this would be the time when you should believe in yourself. Things are grim - have faith in yourself.

But no amount of belief in yourself will save you.

The walking will save if you do it long enough to get to the water. Not the belief.  You may ask whether the belief will keep you walking? I doubt it very much. 

What keeps you walking is fear of dying, not the self-affirmation in your abilities. You need to believe that you will be saved if you keep on  walking; not so much that your are a great and wonderful person that is capable of anything. Believe the benefits of (keeping on)  walking, not in your ability to walk.

If you are a poor manager with anger issues, belief won’t fix it. If you lack ‘coding skills’ to become a good programmer, it is more learning that will get you ‘there’, not the belief in yourself. 

You should actually believe (the reality) that you are not that good and keep learning.

You should actually believe (the reality) that you will die without water and keep walking.

Recognising the reality is real motivator, not belief in yourself.

If you want to believe - and I think we all need to - I would suggest you find something more inspirational, maybe even something transcendent to believe in.

Groucho Marx’s letter of resignation to the Friars’ Club read: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

It is something like that: if you are going to base your belief in something, make it something worthwhile that could actually make a difference.

I hate to sound cruel, but the reality is that half the population is less than average on any metric that matters. No amount of belief will change that. There are two groups of people who peddle this to you:

  1. Self-help authors a profit from persuading the bottom half that they could be the top half - if only they believed (- and here is the recipe in my book).
  2. Deluded people who self-identify as high achievers and want to tell you how they did it. The problem is, they suffer from either (a) the Dunning-Kruger effect, a  cognitive bias whereby people who are incompetent at something are unable to recognize their own incompetence, or (b) self-serving bias, which  is the distortion of cognitive or perceptual process because of the need to maintain and enhance self-esteem, or the tendency to perceive oneself in an overly favorable manner. That is: if things go wrong, someone else is to blame, if things go well, it is because I am so good. They must find a reason for their success within themselves (my intelligence, my persistence, my actions, my attitude).

Reality is a lot more complicated. All people who succeed, believed in themselves, but all people who believe in themselves don’t succeed. Belief is present in success, but success is not contingent upon belief. Just like breathing is ‘present’ in all successful people, all breathers don’t succeed.

Believing in yourself sets the bar very low.

Better to have a firm grasp on reality, believe in the (science of) consequences that follow from actions, believe in (the spirit of) God, or believe in the purpose you have set. 

But belief in yourself? Maybe not the smartest thing you can bet on...
 

Should your business 'take the knee'?

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Well, should it? Or to put it differently, the purpose of profit may not be what you think.


Colin Kaepernick has dragged the NFL into the daily media narrative by refusing to stand for the national anthem. Tony Abbott et al have accused the NRL of dragging politics into sport by having Macklemore singing ‘Same Love’ at the Grand Final.

What role should business play in socio-political issues?

To answer that question, we have to ask what the purpose of business is. The simple response is that a business must create a profit for its shareholders. But, there is a catch:

The purpose of profit is not what you think.

Most businesses make 5%-10% profit, to distributed to its shareholders. And the other 95% of its money recycles effectively through the organisation to allow it to keep going.

That is, if the organisation spends 95% of its revenue on sustaining the organisation (with only 5%) leaving the organisation more or less permanently, in practice a business exists to feed its employees. (Even if half of that is spent as COGS, it is still an act of recycling funds in order to keep going.)

Now before you think I have gone all Marxist, just hear me out: 

Most people believe that we have come a long way since the robber barons of old filled medieval factories with indentured labourers; what with fixed salaries, executive perquisites, bonus incentives, and not to mention a panoply of ‘programs’ for the people like:

  • employee recognition
  • engagement
  • workplace improvement 
  • or whatever #hashtag there is to celebrate. 

On the negative side, you get people abusing their privileges:

  • stealing office stationery 
  • accepting kick-backs
  • taking ‘sickies’
  • or more insidiously, postponing (or timing) capex or investment decisions to boost short-term performance so that the results ‘on your watch’ look good

It seems to me that it is a commonly accepted fact that people know and act as if the company exists for them and they may feel they are not getting what they deserve. What we have on display in most organisations is the economic reality that the modern organisation exists primarily to sustain the business, and that the practical reality that people in the business act accordingly.

And that might well be the kiss of death.This may seem to be a counter-intuitive position, so please bear with me.

Whilst it is true that almost all funds are cycled into the business in order to sustain the business and its people, this should not be the objective of the organisation. 

When you start focussing on the system of business for the sake of sustaining the system, paradoxically you diminish the sustainability of the business. And since all businesses fail (eventually) it seems as if no one is immune to this distraction.

When celebration of the employee and the culture becomes the ‘purpose’, the organisation is doomed. 

I am not suggesting that employees are not important and that they should be treated poorly.
But when anything but shareholder returns becomes primary, it is a sure indication that an organisation has lost/ is losing focus. (I am not saying that employee needs are not important; quite the opposite. They ARE, but the question is how do you meet those needs sustainably.)

That 5% return that finds its way to the shareholder, whilst only a small portion of the total, is the ONLY portion of funds that are external. That 5% is the objective, ‘north star’ by which you can navigate BECAUSE it is outside the system.

When an organisation starts making decisions and taking actions that based on what is best for the system by referencing what is IN the system, it become self-referential. You cannot make good (objective) decisions by being self-referential. 

You don’t achieve your primary objective by focussing on your secondary objectives.

Your SatNav can’t navigate your Mercedes by referencing the star on the bonnet, because it is part of your Mercedes - it needs an external point of reference.

I would suggest it is useful to examine many corporate activities in the light of this perspective. I am not advocating a return to indentured labour, and I am not saying ALL non-core activities and initiatives are automatically inappropriate.

But I would say a healthy, focussed organisation must thoroughly examine itself and the activities that are not directly related to driving shareholder returns. (And I mean directly - because if you draw a long enough bow, even having an office cat can be said to link to shareholder returns.)

I am not advocating for corporations to accept no responsibility for their actions and their role in society, but rather question some, now commonly accepted, corporate practices:

  • Should it really be the responsibility of an organisation who is comprised of a diverse range of people (employees and shareholders) with a diverse range of beliefs, to dictate what its definition of (say) ‘wellness’ is? 
  • Should an organisation (via the Executive) really decide which political party to support - when half the employees (and shareholders) are likely to support the other party?
  • Should the organisation decide which charity should be supported, or is it best to return the funds to the shareholders (or pay the employees more) and let them decide who they would like to support?
  • At what stage does the organisation’s engineering of employee interactions and ‘change management’ become manipulation? And who decides where the line is? 

It seems, if considered superficially, that there is always a justification to spend money (and it is easy to do if it is other people’s money) on some social/ employee initiatives (because of that 95%) but this would be an egregious error in judgement. 

Organisations must obviously comply with the law. Organisations have a duty of care to ensure no one gets harassed or is put in harm's way, and that might well be the full extent of it if you want to err on the side of caution.

When you take your eye off the ball (shareholder returns) no matter how ‘noble’ the alternative seems, the result is inevitably a dropped ball. When that happens, there is nothing to share, and worse, no job to go to and no one gets to appreciate the poster in the canteen that proudly proclaims that ‘we put people first’ when the organisation ceases to exist.

As employees and executives, we have one job: to leave the organisation in a position that allows it to provide purpose and employment for future generations. That is, we put current and future employees first. BUT - we achieve that by not treating the company like our plaything, and by not expecting it to cater to our every whim, but instead ensure it stays true to the external objective of meeting customer needs and rewarding stakeholders.

That’s all.
 

Image courtesy: http://www.theloop.ca/

The unvarnished truth about ecommerce failure

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What no one tells you about eCommerce Failure like Surfstitch: 10 lessons for bricks and mortar:

I am not an eCommerce denier. But I do have two eCommerce failures under the belt. So I can speak from experience. 

But rather than my failures, let’s consider the more spectacular story of Surfstitch. My son was a customer of theirs, so I also have some experience to confirm that Surfstitch had:

  • Great customer service
  • Good product range and pricing
  • A very nice UI/UX on the website
  • Good marketing

In short, they had EVERYTHING the gurus are telling bricks-and-mortar retailers they should get as a matter or life or death. Yet that did not work out so well for them.

SurfStitch had their IPO in 2014, and less than a year later, the share price had more than doubled, pushing market value beyond $500 million.

Surfstitch shares crashed in 2016 after a peak in 2015. CEO Justin Cameron bailed out in 2016, and the company issued three profit warnings and is facing the prospect of a $100m class action from irate investors.The reported loss totalled $155m for 2016.

While sales grew 7 per cent over the (2016) year, this was largely due to the spate of acquisitions. In 2017 Surfstitch went into administration, although the main online operating entity continues to trade.

Excuses that were offered included:
The period of rapid expansion (multiple acquisitions and two major capital raisings) involved significant management time.
The  focus on increasing market share, combined with difficult trading conditions – particularly in USA  – saw  margins slump from 46 per cent to 39 per cent.

Excuses that were NOT offered, but probably did not help:
Co-founder Lex Pedersen - who returned as interim chief executive saw his base salary for the year jump from $280,000 to $634,000, 
Mr Cameron's (previous CEO) had his base salary also increase from $220,000 to $561,000 in the eight months to his March departure.
Chairman Howard McDonald's total remuneration jumped 40 per cent from $71,950 to $100,903.

But what really happened?

To paraphrase Forrest Gump: Life is a box of chocolates. And Surfstitch got stuck with the leftover Cherry Ripes.

Of course it would be presumptuous of an outsider to prognosticate about the specifics, so let me generalise the lessons for any retailer in any channel:

  1. Money (capital) does not fix everything
  2. There is no substitute for spending less than you are earning: sales is not the same as profits, and without sufficient margin you don’t have a platform
  3. You can indeed grow yourself broke
  4. Hubris will kill any business: don’t drink your own Kool Aid
  5. Inexperience can only be cured one way
  6. It can’t cost you more to acquire customers than you make from them - at least not forever
  7. You can bulls&*t some people some of the time
  8. There is nothing more vicious than an aggrieved shareholder who had already visualised spending the returns
  9. All the metrics matter - except positive PR

And finally, and most importantly:
10. eCommerce businesses are not immune to all the issues that any other business faces. You have do all the same things ‘right’, and not do all the same ‘wrong’ things . And if you have an traditional retail business, simply adding eCommerce capability is in and of itself NOT a panacea. 

As JH Plumb wrote so eloquently in his treatise on The Renaissance:

Success comes most swiftly and completely not to the greatest or perhaps even to the ablest men, but to those whose gifts are most completely in harmony with the taste of their times.

That was true then (fifteenth century), and it is true today. And that is just the start. After that you have to execute. 

To fail at execution is to fail for sure.
 

(Image: surfstitch.com)

How to persuade people without changing their minds

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IT IS ALL IN THE FRAMING

You may not have heard of framing, but it shapes what you believe and how you act every day in every way.

Marketing gurus will tell you that the ‘new’ marketing is about storytelling. In fact, the old marketing is about storytelling.

Except, that it isn’t about ‘stories’ it is about ‘narrative frame’. This is how a paper from University of Southern California describes it:

A listener's psychological reaction to narrated events is influenced by how the narrator frames the events, appealing to different values, knowledge, and experiences of the listener.

If that sounds awfully academic, allow me to reframe it (simply):

People base their decisions today on their past experiences.

HOW FRAMES ARE CONSTRUCTED

People (over time) process their experiences in a way that forms the basis of what they believe to be true (knowledge) and what they believe to important (values). In this way experiences build on each other to create a mindset or worldview that has utilitarian value for the individual; he or she can use it to function properly in the real world.

New experiences are viewed through the lens of your existing worldview, and the ‘facts’ that fit best with the existing mindset are easily absorbed because they are deemed true. The trap we all fall into is that, new experiences that don’t fit with the existing mental models, are bent so that they are forced to fit.

We all do this bending of reality to fit our mental models, because we don’t have the mental capacity to objectively, systematically evaluate every experience, and to file it properly. The process is too slow for the real world, and it is psychologically uncomfortable and destabilizing.

This process is related to the idea of ‘bias’ but not necessarily the way it is often explained. A bias is not some ‘bad’ thing that you should strive to eliminate. (Here is a long list of cognitive biases.)

One such bias that people universally claim to be ‘bad’ and that should be avoided is (for example) stereotyping, which is expecting a member of a group to have certain characteristics without having actual information about that individual.

Whilst there is some benefit to gain from expecting the unexpected, and to give people the ‘benefit of the doubt’; most often people conform to stereotype. That is stereotypes have functional utility because they are usually true. By not having to wait for, or in the absence of any other facts, it is practical and expedient to assume people will conform to stereotype. It takes very limited mental processing capacity, which leaves you free to pay attention to other things. Stereotyping is a useful bias. Of course, there may be times with certain individuals where the stereotype does not apply, and it is useful to be able to recognise that. But the point is that, until proven otherwise, the bias has a purpose.

Biases are useful shortcuts (heuristics) that allow people to operate efficiently in the world.

It is very hard to change people’s biases.

This gives rise to another aphorism which has become cliched, but is essentially true. People will often claim ‘perception is reality’. Of course that is not true; reality is reality, irrespective of how it is perceived. But in practice, how people perceive reality leads to them acting in a way that is in accordance with how they perceive it, so it is a fair enough approximation to accept the statement is a useful proxy.

So, we have three considerations here:

One: People construct mental models to operate in the world

Two: Our biases influence how we stack more information on top of existing information, favouring the facts that have proven most useful and repeatable over time

Three: With our personal mental models thus constructed, we perceive the world in a certain way.

FRAMES IN ACTION

The way we perceive the world is through frames - and people have multiple frames which are contingent upon circumstances.

It is not easy to change people’s biases. It is almost impossible to change people’s mental models - their personal paradigm - but it is possible to persuade people by creating a specific narrative frame. Strangely, you are actually not changing people’s minds (that is almost impossible) but since people have multiple frames through which they look at reality, you can change the perceived reality by changing the frame.

Imagine someone is looking through a keyhole into a room. They see a man lying on the bed, and another person taking a knife to his chest and slicing him open. They might think they are witnessing a murder.

Imagine now you put a sign above the door that reads OR 3 with a red cross. They still witness the same (limited) set of behaviours, but now people are more likely to think they are witnessing a medical procedure.

People’s mental models and biases have remained UNCHANGED. There are certain behaviours that are good (life-saving operation) and there certain behaviours that are bad (murder).

It’s not a great analogy because you may tempted to think that the ‘persuasion’ worked because you simply provided more information (the sign above the door). Consider some real life examples:

For decades there was strong push to get abortion legalised. The arguments were framed as pro-abortion and anti-abortion. Looking at the issue through the lens of abortion made it very difficult for pro-abortionists to win an argument. People have certain biases and certain mental models; including that the ‘innocent shouldn’t be made to suffer’.

Over time, and I am not sure if it was by design or by chance, the debate was re-framed as being ‘pro-choice’ and ‘anti-choice’. As soon as this happened, the debate was over. Most people would subscribe to the idea that personal freedoms are important. Consequently the right to choose is important, and they accepted abortion viewed through that lense. People did not change their minds about ‘innocents not suffering’ - but they just looked at the debate as being about choice and not about suffering.

The same happens with the debate about same-sex marriage. Traditionally homosexuality was deemed a deviant behaviour and was ignored or covered up. (Those who refused to do so were said to ‘come out’.)  

As soon as the debate was reframed away from homosexuality (we are different) towards marriage equality (we deserve the same) the momentum towards allowing same sex marriage swung rapidly and decisively towards acceptance. Most people can identify with the importance and the inherent fairness of treating people ‘equally’.

Those opposed to same-sex marriage have attempted unsuccessfully to frame the debate as being about ‘political correctness’. That is because being PC is, whilst generally derided, not seen as a human right issue and therefore carries less weight - or what I like to call ‘persuasive valence’.

So much for the background. How does this apply to business?

THE IMPORTANCE OF A SINGLE WORD

One of the key ‘narratives’ that an organisation can create is through mass-media advertising.

Aldert Vrij’s (Detecting Lies and Deceit) describes the framing effect as follows:

Participants saw a film of a traffic accident and then answered questions about the event, including the question ‘About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?’ Other participants received the same information, except that the verb ‘contacted’ was replaced by either hit, bumped, collided, or smashed. Even though all of the participants saw the same film, the wording of the questions affected their answers. The speed estimates (in miles per hour) were 31, 34, 38, 39, and 41, respectively.

One week later, the participants were asked whether they had seen broken glass at the accident site. Although the correct answer was ‘no,’ 32% of the participants who were given the ‘smashed’ condition said that they had. Hence the wording of the question can influence their memory of the incident.

A bank may choose to frame their home-loan product as being ‘smart’ or as being ‘safe’. Or an institution may choose to frame their life-insurance products as being ‘smart’ or as being ‘responsible’. (Which would you choose as the most effective?)

THE RISK OF FRAMING FOR CHEAP

The interesting thing is how many retailers choose to frame their offer as being ‘the cheapest’ or value for money. These are valid frames, because consumers have a propensity to want to save money and they have a frame of not wanting to be ripped off.

There are multiple problems with this frame:

One: Several brands are offering the same frame, so it is crowded in front of that particular window. Competing on price is an option only if it is well-considered; but often it seems to be a lazy strategy applied inappropriately to the wrong product or market.

Two: The type of customer you acquire is the least valuable and most disloyal. It is a precarious business model that relies fully on price-conscious customer. I am not suggesting that it can’t be done (WalMart e.g.) but there are a number of other things that need to be balanced, one being that it is best suited to products or services that are commoditised, and the entire business model should cater to that type of business.

Three: The brand association is inherently negative, because.heuristic that applies to things that are cheap is that they are poor quality. You can say ‘value for money AND best quality’ as much as you like in your advertisements, it won’t change people’s minds because people have a bias to disbelieve what people say about themselves and believe the actions they take. I can tell you I am an honest guy as much as I like, but until you ascertain for yourself that I act honestly, you will tend to disbelieve it.

CONCLUSION

The best kind of persuasion is the kind that does not rely on people changing their minds. It is nearly impossible to change people’s minds, because they have constructed a mental model of the world that allows them to function properly in reality.

Instead of changing people’s minds, try and change the lense through which they look at the world.

You can do this by changing a word.


Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/maumana/3714637604/

 

The Siren Song of Growth

Image:  oopperabaletti.fi

Image:  oopperabaletti.fi

The roots of mermaid mythology varied.  In modern myth we tend to see mermaids as kind and benevolent to humans but not all stories go this way though. In these myths, mermaids would sing to men on ships, hypnotizing them with their beauty and song.  Those affected would rush out to sea only to be either drowned, eaten, or otherwise sent to their doom.

The idea of Growth seems hold the same powers as the magical mermaids of your. We are seduced by its siren song....

Its existence seems accepted.

Its desirability is assumed.

Its benefits implicit.

But is it?

It is undeniably true that nothing grows forever.

In fact, the trajectory of growth is something that goes like this:

Birth, Growth, Maturity, Decline

You may recognise that that is the Livecycle Curve I just described.

The only question and the only variable is ‘how long’.

So, decline and death is inevitable and inexorable.

Growth is NOT an unending upward trajectory.

So, if the END of growth is death, why are we so obsessed with growing?

Surviving the Politics in Retail

Whether you are a Church, a charity, an NGO or a Retail Business, the rules of engagement and the features of our interactions are made by humans for human and they all share common features. Organisations are organisations - that is pretty obvious.

The similarities between our Political System and the typical Retail Organisation is striking.

retailpolitics.PNG

Just kidding of course. Politicians will never rort the system.

How to position your business (practically)

OR, YOU HAVE TO BE IN IT TO WIN IT

If you use words like positioning or point-of-difference, many retail operators switch off because all they hear is ‘theory’. It is worth remembering that the process works like this: you RESEARCH what happens in PRACTICE in order to formulate a THEORY. So, in fact ‘theory’ describes what happens in practice, and in practice retailers ‘position’ themselves differently.

The problem is that it happens by default and not by design.

Below is a simple approach to design your positioning; if done right, can be difference between success and failure. I will use a furniture store as an example.

positioning.png

There are a range of competitors – from the dollar shops, to the big furniture retailers – in this category. How do you find a niche, communicate that to your customers in such a way that you have a sustainable business?

What is Positioning?

Positioning is how you want your customer to think of you. (Your ‘position’ is the space you occupy in the mind of the customer.)

Can you identify the brands based on how they have ‘positioned’ themselves?

·                The go to place for… birthday cards

·                The drink to get if you are thirsty and hungry

·                The car to buy if you like driving for sheer driving pleasure

In order to conduct a positioning exercise, we usually recommend it is done on a two-dimensional matrix, but in this example, we take a different (more user-friendly) approach.

Step 1: List all the criteria/attributes that are relevant to your sector. Be sure to concentrate on those variables that matter to consumers. (This stage is important, and should be done with real insight. If you are able to identify a variable that really matters that no one else has considered, you potentially have discovered some ‘blue ocean’.

Apple ignored ‘capacity’ and ‘size’ when it came to portable music players, and instead focused on ‘aesthetics’ with the iPod. They hit the jackpot, which was amplified when they launched iTunes to also provide ‘access to music’ instead of ‘owning music’.

Step 2: Plot your business on these variables.

Step 3: Plot competitors. (The more data-driven insights you have the better, but sometimes common sense gives an answer that is close enough to be good enough.)

Step 4: Identify the point(s) of difference.

Step 5: Claim one POD and communicate that with laser-focus.

EXAMPLE:

The following is an incomplete list of strategic positioning variables for two furniture retailers.

Whilst these are hypothetical examples, for the sake of testing yourself, which positioning path (for example) represents Harvey Norman and which would better represent Oz Design?

If you were, say, Beds-R-Us, where would you position yourself on these variables – and which one would be your POD?

 Point-of-Difference describes how you differ from your competition. The diagram above will reveal your point-of difference that you focus on. Communicate this difference with consistency over a long period of time and the message will eventually embed in the mind of the consumer.

If you succeed with that, all that it means is that you are in the ‘consideration set’ of options when a consumer makes a decision about buying your product. Your POD may not be relevant to them or may not be the most important variable when it comes to making the decision.

But if you are positioned appropriately in the mind of the customer, at least you are in the game.

And as our friends at Tatts remind us; you have to be in it to win it.

It is not what you know, it is what you assume that will kill you

equality.png

THE POWER OF ASSUMPTIONS IS AWESOME

Have you seen the meme make the rounds, and maybe you have even ‘liked’ or shared it?

It promotes an egalitarian ideal: you achieve the desired state because of a core the assumption is that you take from the have and give to the have not. Everybody gets the same thing, so it is promoted as a 'fair'.

But consider that for it to be good, we must ASSUME that:

> guy no 1 doesn’t mind to lose everything and gain nothing

> guy no 2 doesn’t mind being ignored

> neither will fight to retain the status quo

> the little guy doesn’t want to go ride his bike instead

> everyone wants to watch the baseball game equally badly

> someone who has to decide the basis on which the ‘resources’ and privileges must be dished out is willing and able and will do it fairly

> the ‘benefit’ is clear (box)

> the actual privilege is the ability to watch the game

Now, lets assume these assumptions, unrealistic as they are, actually can hold. In the real world, resources are limited – and there are actually more people lining up to watch the match than there are tall guys to sacrifice their boxes.

And, most importantly, no one mentioned that the tall guy is going bald. The injustice!

When a business model eats itself

Or, Committing Ouroboros

The emergence of platform brands has been interesting, and perhaps the defining feature of the post-millennial business models. By platform I am referring to businesses like Facebook, Uber, Spotify, Amazon etc which operate essentially as a marketplace/ platform that connects supply and demand.

The new business is a peculiar beast

One peculiar feature of these business models is that they are, quite literally, business models that eat themselves.


Mythologically, the meaning of the snake eating its own tail (Ouroboros) is strangely enough the Infinity Symbol too. These businesses may seem to last forever, but there is also a limited amount of tail to eat.

Let me explain.

Spotify

Spotify had to attract the big brand (artists) to the platform in order to gain traction. Every time the sign a big name, the number listeners climbed. Eventually they even got Taylor Swift. Now there is no reason for anyone not to listen to spotify.

But as Spotify ‘learns’ your taste in music, and the algorithm produces playlists and stations for you, the constant stream of music obliterates the artist who created it. Unlike radio, where the chatter of the DJs and other human interaction revealed something about albums, artists and other context that constitute the art of music, Spotify  turns all music into muzak. I have hundreds of songs in a playlist (that I like) that I don’t know who the artist is.

When all artists stream on Spotify, you don’t need an artists anymore, just an infinite number of variations of a genre that suits my ear.

Kickstarter

Kickstarter is a way of raising venture capital. In order to get where it is, it needed (traditional venture capital) even while crowdfunding is replacing traditional sources of capital. Eventually, VC can conceivably be replaced altogether by peer-to-peer lending. I can even imagine a time where the applications on these platforms are selected and promoted on the platform based on an algorithmic prediction of likelihood of success. And that the ‘users’ or investors, set an investment budget and allow the algorithm to decide.

Netflix

There are an infinite number of options, but instead of us immersing ourselves in the characters, reading stories about the actors in gossip magazines for the better part of the year, we binge on a series for a weekend - are briefly engaged - and then move on to the next.

I have watched 5 seasons of Suits, and I don’t know who plays the main characters. But I can remember that Corbin Bernsen and Harry Hamlin played major characters in LA Law back in the 80s. Our interest in the actor is fleeting and superficial and they are all eminently interchangeable. Except for the odd break-out series such GoT, everything is forgettable.

Netflix needed the big names to attract us, but can’t produce big names that will keep us.

Amazon/ Commerce/ Shopping Cart

Shopping sites need to stock the brand we want in order to attract us. Once we are there, like it and return, we set up our favourites to re-order. After that, we are less likely to switch brands, because we ‘set and forget’ and have little exposure to alternatives if everything is done on automatic reorder.

Amazon found its fame by signing up all the big name authors to be distributed online. The Kindl seduced them further.

As soon as every author is on Amazon, then all the readers are on Amazon, and then no individual author matters. You are fed an endless stream of authots/titles that are 'like;' the one you already like and they all blur into a genre-soup that satisfies you. Ultimately it kills your curiousity AND your taste, because by never reading something you don't like, you will forget what you like. And no consumer brand eventually will matter when Alexa orders everything.

[ASIDE: That is why social media is so dangerous in fostering groupthink - creating these echo chambers of followers/fans who all happily drink the kool-aid.]

The Brand Paradox

This means in practical terms that brands are developing a new value architecture: These platform business models are at once very hard to replace because they own the demand. This strength increases over time, because of the self-reinforcing nature of the business model. The more people use Uber, the more drivers will want to drive for Uber.

But at the same time, there is paradoxically very low barriers to entry and the business (platform) can easily be subsumed and surpassed. If a better search engine comes along, the value of Google will fall off a cliff in a matter of mere weeks. The switching cost for the consumer is as low as spending a minute to download an app.

The only barrier to entry is the critical mass of consumer demand. This is hard to win, but easy to lose.

The brand becomes a placeholder: Uber now means taxi, and nothing more.

These modern brands are different from traditional brands in many ways. Most obviously is the way in which there is separation between the product/service experience and that of the brand values. If you have a poor AirBnB experience, you won’t necessarily (not initially and not completely) condemn AirBnB, but instead would understand that it is the host that should be punished with negative brand assessment (ratings). If this happens consistently, you will start questioning the AirBnB vetting process, but there is initially some separation between brand value and the actual product or service. The same applies to say Uber or Amazon et al.

But the flipside of the platform-brands enjoying this immunity is that they are also less valuable as a brand. By that I mean that the huge valuations they enjoy is because of the (crazy) multiples of their anticipated cash flows, and not because of some inherent brand equity.  If Uber rebranded tomorrow to Zuber, it would be easily done compared to rebranding Coke.

In Summary

Let’s take Netflix as an example, but exactly the same can be said of any of the other platform brands like Uber, Amazon etc.

  • The value of Netflix is in the number of subscribers they have.

  • Because of that critical mass, there is a major barrier to entry.

  • But if you created a product that was demonstrably better, shifting the mass of customers is easy; the barriers to exit are low.

  • Netflix engenders no loyalty from the suppliers (producers, distributors, actors) because in fact Netflix destroys the brand value of the very thing it needed in the first place by virtue of becoming dominant through infinite supply.

  • The customers are not loyal to the brand of Netflix, because there is no real brand of Netflix - it has no brand and no personality, no more than a bookshelf has a personality.

  • If you see a bad movie or have bad reception, you don’t attribute it to Netflix. But neither do you think Netflix is great because you enjoyed Ozark so much.

  • When the brand is a platform, it only has utiltarian value.

For Netflix to grow, it needs to eat the thing that made Netflix great:  that is ouroboros - the snake eating its tail.

All these businesses, now so seemingly invincible, are vulnerable at the core, because neither the customer, the supplier or the partners are loyal, since they are all destroyed in the process of making the company great.

Infinity is an illusion.

Transformative Innovation in Malls - Pt 2

3. Create an ‘agile lease’

We don’t envisage that leases will disappear altogether. But what would introduce the necessary flexibility to empower retailer-driven innovation is the notion of an agile lease.

Innovation: Change the Standard Specialty Lease to an Agile Lease

This is a lease where the key commercial terms (duration, cost, usage clause etc) are contained on ONE sheet, which then can be changed by sitting down in a single meeting or phone call and counter-signed and legally take effect. If new concepts can grow and establish themselves without the constraints and costs of for instance trading hours and with the guaranteed ability to vary the usage to fine-tune the offer to see what works, their chances of success are greatly enhanced.

There are strong socio-cultural trends that suggest that the value of these legal agreements are being eroded significantly anyway. In fact, the recent Sumo Salad/ Scentre debacle points to the absolute necessity.

5 Every centre a mixed-use centre

Creating a TRUE mixed-use centre would mean incorporating many of the following uses - possibly even all of the areas below.

Innovation: Multiplicity of Use

  • Retail

  • Public Domain/ Community

  • Entertainment

  • Office

  • Residential

  • Alternative

  • Tourism

This is in essence a risk diversification strategy.

Start by adding maximum residential living to the centre. That is, to use an Aussie social convention a matter of BYO Customers. This is obviously not necessarily easy or applicable in every instance, but on the whole, most retail centres are in prime real estate locations with excellent infrastructure as well as often with community facilities.

It may require serious, long-term lobbying to overcome zoning issues, height limits and what not, but political opinion aside, I find it difficult to visualise any shopping centre that could not accommodate hundreds, maybe thousands of living units above it.

Great use of space, roads/parking etc can be expanded (possibly going underground) more easily than entirely new land to be found somewhere else. The accommodation could be for residents, holiday or even student accommodation.

Alternative use could include spaces often found in event/convention spaces. I can imagine ‘Launchpads’ = space in the shopping centre for experiences. Shop selling yoga clothes can use this space to run a yoga class once a week and promote their clothes. These are spaces to learn, explore and meet.

Ensure some spaces are large, flexible and multi-purpose. For a shopping centre to be a true marketplace it will  need to cater for a events (we lost our centre courts to kiosks).

These spaces should be  accessible AFTER hours. The idea is to work towards a mix of activities and an offer that extends the trading period of a shopping centre. In a world of shift work, remote work, permanent casual work, the gig economy, the idea of a 9-5 centre will become a quaint relic. The town square is not only applicable to large regional centres with external space to use; it can be replicated in every centre, and it starts by reclaiming the old centre court.

Placemaking is gaining traction in shopping centres. The argument for this is easy; the payoff is a bit harder. But if shopping centres are to be function as public spaces, it has consider topics such as Biophilia . An environment devoid of Nature may have a negative effect, with a potentially undesirable impact on health or quality of life. Malls have the social obligation to manage these spaces differently.

Placemaking relies on high quality common areas, a blurred line between public and private spaces, and the integration of traditional and non-traditional retail uses like local government offices, community centres, medical, childcare and education services.

It is critical that malls be about much more than stores. We see the mix of tenant/public space shifting from the current 70/30 to a significantly different split. When this happens, these expanded public spaces will need to be planned and programed over the year much like an exhibition. They will be managed more like content and media, instead of real estate.

Mckinsey suggests that malls must become like retailers, isolate and quantify the consumer touch points that are most responsible for driving satisfaction.

This means applying recent retail innovations like customer journey mapping in the mall, tracking it and using the information to improve the experience.

6. Crack the Code

Any landlord of any material significance could create a crack team of retail professionals that can scour the world and create a new concept. Landlords have capital, data that will aide insight and decision-making and  It will likely be a franchise concept, and as soon as it attains critical mass, it can be sold.

It is really Landlords adopting a BYO attitude to retail mix. Landlords should:

  • get better at judging a retail talent

  • have retail teams working on partnership with retailer

  • be willing to perhaps operate retail shops themselves

(When you are funding the retail concept through fitout contributions anyway, you might as well have more control.) Mckinsey says that malls (should) see themselves as customer-facing providers of shoppable entertainment. (For example, the Menaissance: men are taking the lead in spending.)

7. Toe-prints

I borrowed this term from Liz Holland, even though our use is a bit different. It is about exploring the multi-channel crossover opportunities.

For example, provide space for customers/patrons to:

  • see and try the products for eCommerce retailers (shared space).

  • pick online orders up

  • provide showroom spaces

These types of opportunities are designed to make the shopping mall a place where non-traditional retailers (like eCommerce merchants) can get a micro-footprint (or a toeprint as Liz calls it) in an environment before they are ready to commit to bigger, longer-term arrangements.

These examples are not an exhaustive list - you will see that it involves all four elements of the shopping centre mix to some extent, so I believe it has the potential to be TRANSFORMATIVE.

Transformative Innovation in Malls - Part 1

Why do shopping centers struggle with innovation so much?

Over the years I have made many proposals and floated many ideas with clients and with employers. I have had many bad ideas, but I have also had many ideas that were simply ahead of time.

Ideas have an extraordinary difficult path to adoption; what with politics, resources and risk to consider.

The diagram below illustrates the two types of innovation. Both are desirable, but only one is critically necessary. Implementing truly transformative innovations is harder by an order of magnitude. Simple, transitional innovations are necessary, but they don’t transform a business to make it sustainable in the long run. For instance, it is important to implement recycling programs, install charging stations for EVs, but these won’t help ensure your future. Transitional innovations are necessary, but not sufficient.

(c) 2017 ganador

(c) 2017 ganador


The problem, as it is with so many strategic insights, is how to actually, practically make it happen. I think I have solved that riddle for shopping centres. The framework below articulates the four key elements of the shopping centre’s success. The investors (representing the providers of capital), the actual bricks and mortar place, the shopping community (patrons) and the merchants that are the primary attractors.

Transformative innovation happens when you succeed in introducing a change that involves and benefits all four these elements of the shopping centre mix. When you integrate changes that to some extent combines and involves these four elements, then you get innovation that transform.

(c) 2017 ganador

(c) 2017 ganador

As an aside, for the sake of completeness and transparency, it should be pointed out that simply having an idea is a very small part of the process. The biggest challenge is the cultural shift that creates a climate that is receptive to innovative ideas and a structure that enables the execution of innovations are prerequisites. But this is not a book about change management per se, so I will stick to the knitting.

The list below are all ideas (some more than a decade old) that seems to me still have merit, and all of them integrates to a greater or lesser extent these elements of the mix.

1. A Fund for Fitout Contributions:

Retailers in the current climate (2017 and foreseeable future) rely heavily on landlord funded store development.

Innovation: Create a FITOUT FUND.

That is a separate fund (with a dedicated Fund Manager)  that takes equity but with a payback structure for the retailers, instead of providing lease incentives with no return. Instead of funding failing business models, invest in new concepts. Make it compulsory for a portion of the funds to be spent on professional advice (design, marketing, legal, financial, operational etc) that improves the risk profile of the fund.

2. Casual Incubator.

Casual Mall Leasing and later Pop-Up Retail has long been part of the shopping centre scene. Landlords saw this as revenue opportunities - occupying common area space and generating incremental income. It was largely a response to the luxury of high occupancy rates. Many in the industry saw this as an opportunity to ‘incubate’ future tenants. But for a variety of reasons that hardly ever materialised.

A few entrepreneurial types tried things like 100 Squared. Scentre recently launched an incubator at Chermside which I have not seen personally, but is possibly the type of innovation that could be transformative.

Innovation: Design & Create dedicated a Co-op Space

Much like Offices have become Co-working spaces where a bunch of rotating and fluctuating temporal concepts can trial themselves. The key to making it a sustainable option is to (a) support it with professional advice to incoming trial concepts (b) make it permanently available (c) prioritise the concepts that can scale for shopping centres and (d) allocate space based on potential (not first movers only) and (e) constant rotation to keep customers coming back anew.

The key feature of something like this would require the Landlord to NOT be cynical.

The shaded/blue areas are those services we specialise in over at www.yearone.solutions

The shaded/blue areas are those services we specialise in over at www.yearone.solutions

A real incubator must be applied the full lifecycle of new retail concepts - as per above diagram: Identify, source, screen, onboard, support, adapt, grow and iterate.

One can brainstorm various innovations once you have a specific stage of the cycle to focus on. Examples of innovations that could be applied to the various stages are:

Online Academy: Create a dedicated website for any business interested in opening in a centre to (a) learn how to do it (b) step them through actually doing it. It may even be a joint-initiative of multiple landlords, but the idea is that making a success in a shopping centre has its own unique requirements. It is not about teaching people how to retail (only) but how to do business and to ‘stress-test’ their ideas and give them an opportunity to bounce ideas off the facilitators (independently).

Retail Development Support Office: For the duration of every retail development, create a Retailer Academy/Forum for any business (comprising fewer than 3 stores) who is signed up to a deal. Offer the newbies guided, independent advice to help plan their business, design and configure it, finance it and launch it. A simple thing like navigating the recruitment process on intuition is fraught with danger and getting the wrong people on the wrong agreements at the start of the new retail business could easily be fatal (at worst) or just result in such a poor customer experience post launch that they are on struggle street to retail customer interest. (How often have you gone into a store for the first time, had a bad experience, and wrote that store/brand off never to return?

Screen for Success: We have created a subsidiary company - www.yearone.solutions to act as an external validation agency  in this space. Y1S can help de-risk new retailers and assignees though better, professional assessment and validation. This mitigates risk and secures any potential landlord investment. This intervention can also be geared to guide the retailer - through the business planning process - to help get them off to a better start, particularly those who are not familiar with the constraints of trading in a centre.

We conclude the two-part series in the next post.

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