After Shopping

Hey, I’m blogging again! Yes, a little bit here, but much more at After Shopping, my new site keeping track of the changing landscape of retail and storefronts as America grapples with the economic impacts of covid-19.

This is familiar territory for me in an unfamiliar environment. Longtime readers of this space will recall Timely Demise, which I spooled up during the financial crisis, just over a decade ago. I had a good run with it and learned a ton.

I’d thought about rebooting the concept for a few weeks and got set up in just the past few days. Once I found a name that resonated, and an appropriate angle to pursue, I was off and running. And run I shall: just to baseline the news to date for launch, I penned nine blog posts in the span of a few hours.

With effort, determination and a bit of good fortune, most of America’s retail footprint will persevere, but we’re already on a trajectory for an unimaginable amount of change. I’m hoping to capture as much of it as I can in one space and understand the forces and trends behind it.

I’m excited for this project and hope it proves interesting and enlightening. I wrote a little more about the concept over there, but readers can also just start at the top and explore.

Digital facts of the day

There are now around 130 million smartphone users and at least 55 million tablet users in the U.S. market. Among other trends, 15% of ecommerce transactions will be completed on mobile and tablet devices this year, a number that will only continue to grow.
While this is a prime opportunity to gain market share and–still–establish first-mover advantage, 45% of marketers don’t have a mobile presence, either with apps or optimized websites.
When I was working at Ai we would annually update our stump speech for mobile. “2009 is going to be the year of mobile.” “2010 is really the year of mobile–our clients’ stats show smartphone usage on their sites tripled last year.” Now, in 2013, mobile and tablet use is starting to drive the digital economy, in a shift that is not going to turn back around. Yet many brands have not capitalized on the opportunity. If not now, when?

The fuckup

And so it came to pass that I found myself in Miami Beach, with the rest of my company’s senior staff, a full day ahead of schedule.

You see, we’re at Internet Retailer’s Web Design ’09 conference. IR had asked us to give web design consultations–we are among two dozen organizations selected and vetted by the conference as worthwhile partners.

The way the conference agenda is laid out is as follows:

Monday–Design and Usability Consultations
Tuesday–Main Conference – General Sessions
Wednesday–Main Conference – General Sessions
Thursday–Post-Conference Workshop: Case Studies and Critiques

And as part of the line items on Tuesday and Wednesday, the agenda says the following:

9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Web Consultations (concurrently)

What I assumed, and what I failed to clarify, and what the conference never elucidated, and what was in the consultation appointment spreadsheet but glossed over by me repeatedly, was the fact that Alexander Interactive is part of the (concurrently) and not the Monday. Which turned out to be quite a discovery at 9:00 this morning, when we were rendered temporarily useless.

So here I am at the swanky new Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, thoroughly annoyed and self-critical, while my colleagues are off visiting grandparents, fighting colds and otherwise missing in (in)action, all of us frustrated–pretty much at me–while I spin and hope the perfect Miami weather can make up for a lost day.

I have this incredible urge to say, “It could be worse. It could be raining,” but something tells me I’d better not.

Buy online… but remember, we didn’t tell you to

USA Today: Retailers gear up for Cyber Monday. “Almost three-quarters [72%] of Internet retailers will offer special deals on Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday online shopping season, a National Retail Federation survey out today shows.”
BusinessWire: ”Black Friday” & ”Cyber Monday” Play Crucial Roles in Holiday Shopping Season According to BDO Seidman, LLP Survey of CMOs. “According to CMOs … a majority (59%) of retailers say they are not conducting any special promotions to encourage customers to buy online.”
This is corporate conflict in a nutshell: the Internet is a still-growing retail force warranting holiday promos like the rest of the retail world. Yet retailers are loath to intentionally drive consumers online, potentially decreasing foot traffic and same-store sales, and angering field sales staff.
Savvy retailers already know the best bet is to encourage purchasing via any channel, be it in-store, online, or over the phone. In time the rest of the industry will catch on.
(This kind of observation will soon find a home on the Ai blog, which will be relaunching in December with me as a contributor. See you there.)