The Borders Story

While in school at Ypsilanti it gave me great pleasure to know a retail giant had first started at our neighbor city. This retail phenomenon was Borders. But as I evolved in the multichannel space I wondered why Borders never considered selling online. Was it because their arrogance made them believe Amazon.com could never replace the community aspect of a store and is this way they brazenly chose to use Amazon.com as their virtual storefront? Could it be they realized they would never out price Amazon so they stuck their head in the ground and imagined Amazon didn’t exist?

Whatever their reason, to me it was clear like many retailers back then and today Borders looked at their online store as a simple self checkout lane. And when you think of it that way it makes perfect sense to outsource the job function. Maybe this explains why Borders has hired two banks to figure out way to sell their business.

So what is the lesson here?

I think Borders underestimated their own customers when they automatically assumed ecommerce was a simple lowest-price-wins game. Sure Amazon had the strength of a huge selection and sure they pioneered customer reviews but they did those things to play on the weakness of retail stores. Amazon knew book stores would take years to expand inventory and this provided a perfect opportunity for Amazon to grow without much resistance. For Borders to buy Amazon’s bluff and believe customer reviews was the secret sauce is foolish. When I buy a book I value the opinion of Jack207 but I place higher value on the opinion of a real expert, someone who professionally reviews books. Amazon had too wide a selection to hire experts so they never went that route but this was an advantage Borders owned. Their other advantage was strong publisher relationships and they should have used it for exclusive author interviews (similar to what they do now). Finally, they should have leveraged store presence and allowed customers to browse locally available books by zip code. The bottom line is Borders should have changed the balance of power by playing on their strengths because despite what Amazon told the world deep in their hearts they knew the ace lay with Borders.

We will miss you.

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Omniture Expands To Video Analytics

Omniture has expanded SiteCatalyst to include video analytics. According to the TechCrunch article:

If you are a marketer who uses videos to spread your message, you can now use Omniture to track metrics like how long people are watching your videos, whether they tend to skip forward in them, the rate at which they drop off, and which particular features in the video players they use.

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Wilsons Leather – The Beginning Of The End

It’s amazing how much one can tell by simply looking at a retailers ecommerce site. Over the months I’ve severely criticized Wilsons Leather (here and here), and now, the company is finally admitting failure.

This morning Chain Store Age (login required) reported:

Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. will close the majority of its 260 mall locations and cut more than 1,000 jobs, the company said Friday.

Wilsons will keep 100 stores open, revamping them under its new “Studio” concept, which is focused on fashion accessories from major brands for women. All stores should be remodeled by August.

Goodbye, old fool.

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Amazon-ification

At this point it is becoming painfully obvious that the online marketplace is quickly moving from the niche to the mass. In terms of profitably at least. We’ve already seen ice.com raising $47 million to capture the jewelry ‘niche’ market, and then etsy.com raised another $27 million to capture the niche ‘handmade’ market. And then last night Amazon announced their ‘all cash’ $300 million dollar acquisition of audible.com.

Related article: Online consolidation

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Gloss No More

After 6 years serving the $1.7 Billion dollar online cosmetics market Gloss.com (180 on IR 500) has shut down.

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Gloss.com was run by the $7 Billion dollar cosmetics giant Estee Lauder. Traditional retailers are quickly finding out just how competitive the online arena is. Here is a chart comparing traffic between Gloss.com and other beauty product etailers:

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Save & Send

ATG subsidiary eStara has a really smart widget. They call it Save & Send. Save & Send allows consumers to store or forward information in their preferred electronic format – on the desktop, the Web or mobile device. Most retailers already allow customers to save shopping cart information within their own site, but this takes it one step further and allows customers to save online information in a variety of formats for later use, such as SMS, PDFs, Email or Social Bookmarks. You can read the rest of it here.

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A new way to buy (presently only for women)

Personal shopper (personalshopper.com) is a great idea and I believe the concept has potential to grow into a significant retail disruptor. Unfortunately, as of now, the site is still very primitive. But watch this space. Very soon they or another similar idea will take off. The missing ingredient is strong editorial. What the retail world needs is a site where products are featured and reviewed by non incentivized teams. Once I find a site that understands my persona, makes recommendations for me and educates me along the way I would be happy to use them as my main conduit for shopping.

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