Hard stuff - Soft stuff

Anyone for Tennis?

If DJ’s ascribes its woes to the internet and makes multi-channel the cornerstone of their strategic response, then it must be getting serious.

There are plenty of commentators who have something to say about the relative merits and demerits of their situation. Stuart Bennie’s assessment of their predicament is amongst the more interesting.

When it comes to eCommerce, what is hype and what is substance?

The hype: It is not that different.

eTailing is to Retailing like volleying is to a tennis ground stroke.

There is a difference between a tennis player who excels at the serve & volley game and one who prefers the baseline approach built on ground strokes.

The difference between the two is not a different skill set per se – many baseliners are great volleyers.

The basic skills required in both instances are similar: hand-eye coordination, fitness, keeping the eye on the ball and moving your feet in position.

The difference lies in the willingness to take risks, it is about assessing the opponent’s weaknesses and mostly, it is about being comfortable with your game.

Many people make out the eCommerce is a whole new ball game, but it isn’t necessarily so. Yes, there are differences, but the fundamentals remain the same.

If you had a run an eCommerce operation, you would be focussed on:

  • Procurement
  • Pricing
  • Customer Service
  • Merchandising
  • Customer Acquisition
  • …etcetera

It is not that different to any retailing operation. The physical channel may be different, but it is certainly nothing that is exceedingly difficult.

You can deal with a customer complaint via email or you can do it on the phone or you can do it face to face; but the underlying principles remain the same: courtesy, empathy & responsiveness.

The substance: But it is different

I mentioned before that people’s resistance to embracing change is rooted in their lack of willingness to take risk and leaving their comfort zone.

It is about culture and attitude – the qualitative or ‘soft’ stuff of business. And the soft stuff is hard to change.

So much so, that I think the largest corporations who have the most to lose and are the most enamoured by their past successes are the ones that fail to realise the imminence of change. Both Harvey Norman and DJ’s illustrate the point very clearly.

The tennis player who became number one based on the baseline game will have very little incentive to adopt a serve & volley game plan.

Until you suddenly find all your ‘winners’ coming back as delicate drop shots by someone standing at the net.

And so the slide down the rankings start…

Or you can open your eyes to the changes and make the hard decision to change the soft stuff: being willing to change your attitude.