Not long ago, I posted about the lament of a local optometrist and how taking a much broader view of that industry and the role the internet might play could redefine how he solved his customers problems and potentially reinvigorate his business.
I’ve never stopped thinking about that example, because it was indicative of a wide swath of industries that sell a product bundled with either a personal service or need to “touch” that product before buying that are being redefined (read “hammered”) by the web.
Recently, I came across another example at the convention center in Melbourne, Australia.
My wife and daughter were bouncing through a mega-crafting show and as I meandered out to the cafe to do some writing, I passed by the presentation stage. At that very moment, a panel of craft industry experts were asked,
“how has the internet affected the crafting industry?”
One of the women on the panel answered that it’s made it far easier for buyers, many of whom are moms, to find what they need and be able to buy on their own schedules, often during random windows when their kids have gone down for naps or the evening. In fact, she added, the internet had so transformed her own retail business that she was about to shut down her brick and mortar store after 20 years and focus her energies entirely online.
Before closing, though, she made one more point. The internet, she said, also created a certain tension in the buying process, because many of the things that are being shopped for are items that people would very much like to be able to handle before they buy. In that industry, touch, feel, sensation is very important. And, you just can’t get that same visceral stimuli over the internet.
Hmmmm, yet again, the business strategy and marketing wheels start turning as I walk away…
If you remember back to the optometrist example, the big problem for local businesses was that people were coming in to get a prescription, try on a ton of glasses, then they buy them online at a fraction of the price. The optometrist hated when people did this and often refused to give out the model numbers and makers of frames in response. I suggested a radically different approach.
If glasses were something most people much preferred to try before they buy, then there’s value in that very experience. So, why not offer an unlimited try-on fee, seek out, rather than shun the try-on crowd, then set-up kiosks in the store that encourage people to buy online, listing the web stores with the best prices and then making commissions when people buy through your affiliate links on the kiosks?
It seems like a similar thing may be happening in the craft industry.
Much of the retail side of the business is moving online. But, at least for significant slices of that industry, the fundamental nature of what’s being sold compels buyers to want to touch, feel and handle it BEFORE buying, if at all possible.
So, I wonder if there’s an opportunity to satisfy this need by creating a brick and mortar storefront that specializes in these highly-tactile products, charges a modest unlimited “playtime” fee, then directs people to in-store kiosks with the best web-prices and benefits from kiosk sale affiliate commissions from the online merchants.
And, like the optometrist example, I’d venture that a decent number of people who visited the store looking to try live, then buy online would end up buying live, even at a premium, simply to be able to walk out of the store in possession of the item that just triggered an emotional, visceral, tactile reaction in them.
Maybe, these are not the best models. I don’t operate in either industry, so I don’t know.
The point is…
A radical shift in any industry almost always opens as many doors as it closes.
But you’ve gotta be open to seeing the doors that are opening and, if needed, even creating very substantial changes in your business model if you want to stay alive.
Be wed to your market, not your model.
Love to hear your thoughts in the comments below…
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