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December 11, 2019

The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia’s Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

December 11, 2019 | By | No Comments

What do Expedia's recent troubles mean for your business? Screenshot of Expedia.com home pageLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia’s Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268) — Headlines and Show Notes

Literally days after our episode calling out the dangers of Google forcing your company to become a "hidden intermediary" — and using Expedia’s recent troubles as one example of where things are going terribly wrong — Expedia fired CEO Mark Okerstrom and CFO Alan Pickerell. The reason? Well, apart from a "disagreement over strategy," the real issue is that the company simply doesn't have a plan for dealing with Google's rising dominance. And, as stated, that's something you want to keep from happening to your brand.

How can you do that? How can you avoid Google taking over your share of the market? How can you compete with the search giant to win customers and profits? Tim Peter & Associates' president Tim Peter has a few ideas for you on the latest episode of Thinks Out Loud.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links — The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia's Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 15m 52s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Transcript — The Lessons You Should Learn from Expedia's Recent Troubles (Thinks Out Loud Episode 268)

Well, hello again, everyone. Welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 268 of the big show, and thank you so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. We have a crazy show today. I did an episode last week that talked about the biggest risk to your business is becoming a hidden intermediary, and I really used what's going on with Expedia lately to illustrate the problem of becoming hidden intermediary — how Google, how Amazon, how Facebook, how Apple, you know how the big tech giants are really threatening companies that don't provide a direct value-add to their customers. And you know, one of the things that drove this was that Expedia reported really, really crappy earnings in Q3.

And I talked a little about the fact that, you know, they needed to sort this out and they probably would, well, no sooner did I publish the episode. Then the very next day Expedia fired Mark Okerstrom, the CEO, and Alan Pickerell, who was the CFO. Like out. Gone. Hit the bricks.

Phocuswire who covered the story brilliantly. I'm going to link to a lot of focus wire stuff here because they're really great at this. They do a wonderful job, but I will say, I thought the framing of their headline was kind of funny because it's “Expedia group CEO Mark Okerstrom out amid board disagreement over strategy.” I think the biggest disagreement that the board had was that, you know, Okerstrom and Pickerell thought they were the right people to lead that strategy. And the board, you know, disagreed.

So I'm, not that I was in the room, but I'm pretty sure the biggest disagreement was, you know, "are these, in fact, the people who can fix this?" Now I want to point out, I tweeted on December 3rd, another story about this that was also from Phocuswire because at the Phocuswright Conference, Mark Okerstrom talked about the challenges that we're having with search, and I tweeted — and this is important to those of you who are listening, who are not in the travel industry — I said, “don't let Expedia fool you. This isn't just about travel. Google is coming for a lot of folks.”

I also tweeted on December 3rd, you know, a link to an article from the Motley Fool that said, “why Expedia blamed Google for its earnings debacle.” And I said, because "Google is a huge problem for Expedia. That's why, and they may be coming for your business next."

This is a thing I've talked about a ton when it comes to travel. Google is the dominant player in organic paid search, organic search, paid search, and a thing called metasearch, which if you're outside of travel, don't worry about it. Well actually, let me rephrase that. If you're outside of travel, you don't need to know precisely what metasearch is, but you should worry about it because it is a canary in a coal mine. And I'm going to come back to that canary in a coal mine in just a second. This is a thing that I've been talking about since at least 2014 when I referred to the big myth about hotel metasearch. Which you know, the nice thing about predicting things years in advance is you only need to be right once. 😉

But there was another Phocuswire article from November 14th where they talked about Skyscanner becoming a search company, pivoting from their original model of being a metasearch engine and instead becoming a marketplace with bookings. Functionally, they're getting out of the business of aggregating search results, right? They're no longer going to be a search engine primarily, and instead they're going to sell travel directly, which by the way, is exactly the problem that, you know, Expedia and Booking.com and the like and TripAdvisor, who I all talked about last week, seemed to be having.

Now remember the canary in the coal mine that I talked about a moment ago? Well, Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya was speaking at the Phocuswright Conference a couple of weeks ago, by the way, that is run by the same people who run Phocuswire, and I'm going to quote pretty extensively here from a a CNBC review of this. So I'm quoting from the CNBC article. It says, quote

Speaking at The Phocuswright Conference this week, Palihapitiya said that while he “loves” Google and its stock as an investor, he warned that time is running out for companies who have become reliant on it. “The longer it takes for Google to find a second act, the more you’re f—-d,” he said about those companies, adding that investor patience will wane. “If you are in the business of being a parasite on top of Google, your medium-term and long-term prospects are terrible; you’re an impaired company, you don’t know it,” he added. The only way to win, he argued, is to offer unique value; many companies have done the opposite, becoming more like their competitors and relying on Google to drive volume. That’s a recipe for disaster. “This is accurate,” tweeted fellow venture capitalist Bill Gurley, of Benchmark, Thursday evening.

Palihapitiya pointed to the travel industry, calling Google’s travel efforts a “canary in a coal mine” and citing both Expedia and TripAdvisor. “At the core of it is the decision that they will capture the overwhelming majority of profit in the travel sector,” he said about Google.

He's not the only one saying it either. Ben Thompson on Stratechery a couple of weeks back now, on November 12th, actually right after Expedia's earnings call, referred to "the Google Squeeze" and the challenges that Expedia and people like TripAdvisor and Booking.com will have in competing as you go forward.

This is a huge deal, and it's not about travel. This is what Google's doing in a number of markets. Look at what's happening with online retail. Look at what's happening with Google Shopping. Look at what's happening with Google News. They aggregate demand to use Ben Thompson's phrase, and because they have the demand, they control the marketplace for whatever that product or service is.

And this is a huge issue for all kinds of companies. Mark Oak Ostrom got fired because of this, by the way, to point out how rare this is. He was named CEO of the company two years ago. Less than two years ago. Find me another example of a CEO of a public company that by the way, is doing basically okay, right there.

Their revenues were up 9% year on year. Their costs were up dramatically more, but find me a CEO who gets booted after two years. And the reason he got booted was because the board didn't believe that he had a good plan for dealing with the fact that Google's going to come along and you know, eat their lunch or drink their milkshake, or you was whatever your favorite, you know, analogy is basically the board said, mr , mr Pickerell, we understand what you say you're going to do and we think it's not going to work.

Now. Last week on the show, I laid out a three point framework for how you can succeed and make sure what just happened to Okerstrom and Pickerell doesn't happen to you. I said, you must differentiate. You must become a destination and you must diversify. You must get your traffic and your revenue from more than just one source.

A lot. Don't get all your business from Google. In fact, I had a podcast, a podcast a weeks ago where I said, stop outsourcing your sales and marketing to gatekeepers like Google at a minimum. Don't outsource a hundred percent of it to those folks, but there's one more point that I want to add to that framework, and I hinted at it last week, but I want to get a little more in detail about it this week, which is, I said, you have to differentiate, you have to become a destination.

You have to diversify. And you have to deliver. There was a fascinating article that on marketing charts that said, uh, uh, here's what B2B content marketers are prioritizing in 2020 and near the very top, they had increased conversions and near the very bottom they had no the customer better, and I thought that was insanity.

Because I think the first of those follows from the last of those. You don't increase your conversion without knowing your customer better. One leads to the other, and we see this all the time when I've talked about customer experiences queen, this is what I'm talking about. Steffan Berelowitz had another great example, a guy from a company called Travel Tripper that said, consumers want Amazon to be a travel booking site.

Why?

Because they really like the experience that they have on Amazon. I talked about this actually two weeks ago with Amazon Go, instant gratification, and the boring future of business customers expect. That the experience will become invisible. It will become so seamless that they don't even notice it.

And that's kind of what Amazon has done with Amazon. Go and now travel. Customers say, why can't they do that for my travel too? That's a huge threat to an Expedia or booking.com and frankly to a Google. And the reason it works is because they're using data to understand the customer and using that understanding to create a deeper, deeper, richer experience.

Uh, there was another fantastic article that was out, uh, Oh, about a week ago from CMS wire about how brands still haven't tapped AI's full promise. Why do I talk about AI? I'm going to talk about customer experience. Because that's how you know your customer better. That's how you use the data to inform your decisions.

It's not that AI is going to tell you, here's exactly how you make the customer experience better. It's going to tell you, here are the pain points and here's what we understand about sentiment analysis. When people talk about our brand and our business, and here's where we see patterns emerge.

That co that you know. Uh, reflect challenges people have when they interact with a product or a service. And so you need to do that to understand what's going on and understand your customer better so that you can deliver a greater customer experience. And so that you can differentiate your product or service from those of your competition, especially the competitors who are the big guys like Google and Amazon and Facebook.

And that's how you can become a destination. And it's how you can diversify the marketing and sales channels from which you get your business. Because at a minimum, your destination, your own web presence becomes one of the places people want to go.

So you must differentiate. You must become a destination. You must diversify. And you must deliver. Because if you don't — like Mark Okerstrom and Allen Pickerell — your board or your company CEO or your customers are going to show you a fifth "D" — and that is the door.

Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/Podcast again, that's TimPeter.com/Podcast just look for episode 268.

While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes to have things out loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or Stitcher Radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those. And while you're there, I'd very much appreciate it if you could provide a positive rating or review. It gives other listeners a great insight into what the show is about and helps them understand whether it's something they'd like to listen to too. It makes us easier for new listeners to find us and when it would mean so much to me

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates. You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter. And of course you can email me, just send an email to podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com.

As ever, I'd like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud, is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to solosegment.com

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. It means so much to me. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend ahead, and I look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well be safe and as ever take care everybody.

Tim Peter

By

December 3, 2019

The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a "Hidden Intermediary" (Thinks Out Loud 267)

December 3, 2019 | By | No Comments

Intermediary being bypassed: The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a Hidden IntermediaryLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a “Hidden Intermediary” (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267) — Headlines and Show Notes

In business, there are suppliers and intermediaries. And both face serious competition over the next few years. Google, Facebook, Amazon and others continue to create competitive pressures even in industries where they're not a primary player. But the biggest risk your company faces is if these powerful competitors turn your business into a "hidden intermediary." What is a hidden intermediary? Why is becoming a hidden intermediary so dangerous for your business? And what can you do to stop it from happening to you?

The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud explains what it means to be a hidden intermediary, why it's such a threat, and how you can differentiate your brand and business to triumph against this powerful threat.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links — The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a “Hidden Intermediary” (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267))

    Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

    Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

    Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

    You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

    Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

    Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

    Running time: 17m 35s

    You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

    The Biggest Risk to Your Business? Becoming a "Hidden Intermediary" (Thinks Out Loud Episode 267) — Transcript

    Well, hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 267 of the big show, and thanks so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. It means so much to me. So I think we've got a really cool show.

    There was a post on Seeking Alpha. And Seeking Alpha talks about whether or not people should invest in stocks or not. And I want to be really clear. This is not intended as financial advice. I'm not a financial advisor. I don't make stock picks. So please, please, please don't make, don't make investment decisions based on what I'm about to tell you here.

    But this blogger on Seeking Alpha basically said people should sell their shares in Expedia. And he listed a few reasons why that was so. First, he talked about the fact that that functionally they have no moat. There's nothing that prevents others from entering Expedia's business.

    And he gave a bunch of examples of people who have [entered Expedia's business], among them Airbnb and you know, companies like Marriott focusing more heavily on getting people to book directly with them to make reservations directly with them. And he, he said that this is a real problem for them. And of course he said another huge problem for them is the fact that Google is increasingly getting heavily into the space of letting people find and choose and book hotel rooms, which by the way, that's where Expedia makes most of their money.

    You might think of them as a travel agency where you book your flights or you book car rental or things like that, but about 70% of the revenue comes from actual hotel reservations. So they don't have a big moat. They're facing huge competition from Google, and this makes them an unattractive stock to this blogger.

    Now, I've talked for many, many episodes of the show about the fact that Google is a real threat to lots of companies, and clearly Expedia is one of those, and it's not just Google, right? Facebook can enter these types of businesses and Amazon can enter these types of businesses, and I will link in the show notes to, you know, past episodes where you can hear me talk about that. I don't want to beat that to death.

    What I do want to do is take a step back and talk about why Expedia is in this circumstance that maybe they're in big trouble. And maybe they're not. Maybe this blogger is wrong. But I think he's getting at something that is fundamentally true.

    Which is that one of the things digital does is it exposes what I like to call "hidden intermediaries." You know, we all know what intermediaries are: They're people who facilitate an exchange between a supplier and a purchaser of some kind. But on the internet there are all sorts of hidden intermediaries, and I'm going to explain what that is in a moment.

    Expedia clearly is a traditional intermediary. They connect the sellers of travel — so hotels and car rental companies and airlines — with people who actually want to consume those products, people who need a hotel reservation, people who want to rent a car, people who want to book a flight. So they're a clear intermediary.

    And one of the traditional things that digital has done is created this, this reality of disintermediation, a place where because digital allows for the rapid integration of value chains, it also allows for the rapid disintegration of value chains. You know, we often talk about, we as business people often talk about, you know, integration being this really cool thing, but we don't always talk about the disintegration part where things can be taken apart really easily.

    You know, Google has entered travel in a fairly meaningful way, in a reasonably short timeframe. You know, they've gone from someone who directs traffic to people like Expedia or Booking.com or TripAdvisor as a for instance, to being a place where you can find a hotel or you can find a flight, or you can read a review right there without ever leaving the search results.

    And obviously that's a big challenge for companies like Expedia. But, but there's this idea of the hidden intermediary. And to me a hidden intermediary is somebody who offers something that either is so generic or lacks differentiation so much that they can be disrupted in pretty substantial ways.

    So to give you an example, if you think about real estate agents, I used to think that real estate agents were intermediaries. You know, they got between the seller of the home and somebody who wanted to buy the home. But they provide a very real value in that most people don't know how to sell a home and most people don't know how to buy a home. And yes, you can have for sale by owners. Those all exist. I get it. But that's not how most real estate is transacted.

    And there's all kinds of reasons why real estate agents continue to have some market dominance. You know, they control the access to the multiple listing systems. There may be legal, you know, hurdles, legal barriers in some states or some jurisdictions that make it harder for people to sell homes directly or require more specialized knowledge. But at least the real estate agent fulfills a useful function. They know how to market a property. They know how to reach buyers so they can bring some real value to it in addition to controlling access to the MLS or controlling access, you know, to some of the legal stuff.

    But the hidden intermediaries have been the real estate brands. You know, if you think about the brands, if you think about the agency you go with, most people don't care about that as much as they used to do.

    They don't care that you're a Re/Max real estate agent. They care that you got good reviews on Yelp or you got, you know, good recommendations from friends of yours who've used them. And that's why you're seeing companies like Redfin or Zillow enter the market and be very effective very quickly.

    They've exposed these hidden intermediaries, the brands between the agent and either the buyer or the seller. Now maybe someday technology will knock out the agent too. We're seeing examples of that, you know, companies that are buying real estate and just marketing it directly, buying it directly from the seller and selling it directly to the buyer with no agent in the middle.

    So that's certainly a possibility of another disintermediation that will occur. But the hidden intermediary was the brand. And we're seeing many of those brands really struggle to attract new agents because of this. So for many companies, you need to think about whether you're a supplier, whether you're an intermediary, or whether you're a hidden intermediary.

    And being a hidden intermediary being one of the most dangerous ones. If you're an intermediary, you already know you have problems, right? I don't think I'm telling you something you don't know, that Google can come along or Facebook can come along or you know somebody else, Amazon can come along and knock you out of the picture. If you're a supplier though, you need to ask whether or not you offer something truly exclusive, something that your customers can get nowhere else.

    You know, if you're a hotel, if you're a restaurant, if you manufacture a product, you're probably a true supplier. There are other examples, but I mean, you know, just using those as for instances. But if you're a hotel or you're a restaurant or you're a manufacturer and customers have a lot of other options, if you're fairly generic, you may be more of a hidden intermediary than you think you are.

    Because your customers may be able to get what you offer from someone else.

    So what do you do about this? Well, if you're a supplier first, it's good to be a supplier. You need intermediaries and intermediaries need you. And if you think about marketplaces like Etsy or eBay or Zillow, they seem to have some value add because they work for the person who's creating that listing. They offer them ways to make that product and service available to more people more easily. But that could change over time. Facebook's Marketplace offering shows one way that eBay or Etsy could be in trouble in the longer term. Alibaba's Taobao platform could also represent another long-term threat. But the reality is any supplier could be disintermediated because they're just too generic.

    So the first thing you want to do is you want to differentiate. You want to think about "what separates me from my competition?" and actually I'm going to use a buddy of mine's terms. My friend Mike Moran always likes to talk about the fact that differentiation isn't just what makes you different; it's a difference that's so valuable to your customers that they're willing to pay extra for it. You know, to put it bluntly, your customers would have to be stupid not to buy from you. So you want to think about how do you look at what separates you in such a way that people would absolutely pay a premium for it.

    You also want to diversify your offering. You know, the channels where people can find your product or service. If you're a supplier, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Don't assume that because you get good amounts of business from — pick the intermediary of your preference — that that's the only way customers can find you. You know, if you're getting a lot of business from Google, look and see, can you get more business from Facebook? Can you get more business from Yelp? Can you get more business from TripAdvisor? Can you get more business from, I don't know, FindMyDoctor.com? Think about all of the different ways customers can find you and, to use an old, you know, platitude "don't put all your eggs in one basket," but instead use multiple baskets to spread the risk.

    Think about the value-adds that you can offer that make your product or service more valuable to your customer. What makes it special?

    And I think there's a fascinating real-world case study that we have seen in recent years with bookstores. Now, bookstores aren't suppliers. They're an intermediary, right? They were for a long, long time a place to simply buy books. And when Amazon came around, they were the original example of companies that got disintermediated. See Borders bookstores, for example. What bookstores have done a tremendous job of, especially independent bookstores, is making themselves a destination unto themselves.

    They're not a place to buy books. I mean, you get books there, but they offer curation and communities and cafes and all sorts of other things. They've become a service offering, not just a seller of merchandise. And that service, that experience is something beyond just what you're going to get anywhere else. And that's something that an Amazon or a Google or a Facebook cannot easily replicate.

    This is what I mean when I've talked in past shows about how "customer experience is queen," because it can be a thing that sets you apart and is very hard to duplicate. You need to think about how can you become a destination unto yourself?

    If you think about the companies that compete well with Google or compete well with Facebook or compete well with Amazon, they're places where people go because I know that that's what they do when they do it really well.

    So they've differentiated in a very specific way. Think about, think about Indeed.com if you're doing a job search or LinkedIn if you want to connect with your professional network. They're really just intermediaries, but they're so specialized that it makes it simple for people to choose them.

    So is Expedia in big trouble? Maybe. I don't really know. I'm not going to make a prediction about that one way or the other. I'm going to say that, if they cannot differentiate — if they just become another place where you can book a hotel room or find a rental car or book a flight — without adding something beyond that, then, yeah, they're probably in real big trouble.

    The thing you want to avoid is being like them. What you want to do regardless of whether you're a supplier or an intermediary or especially a hidden intermediary, is you need to differentiate. You need to become a destination. And you need to diversify the channels through which customers can find you. Because that's how you're going to compete in the long run. Today, you may feel like you're a supplier, but I guarantee you there's somebody out there who's trying to turn you into an intermediary and more important the person they're trying to hide that from is you.

    Now looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week, but I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode as well as an archive of all our past episodes by going to TimPeter.com/podcast. Again, that's TimPeter.com/podcast just look for episode 267. While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find there to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week.

    You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts or Stitcher radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. Just do a search for "Tim Peter Thinks," "Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud," or "Thinks Out Loud," we should show up for any of those.

    While you're there, I'd also very much appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating and review. It gives other listeners a window into the show and helps them understand whether it's something they'd like to listen to too. It makes it easier for new listeners to find us, and it would mean a ton to me. You can also find "Thinks Out Loud" on Facebook by going to Facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates.

    You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter. And of course you can email me by sending an email to podcast@TimPeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com.

    I'd also like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter by going to solosegment.com.

    With that. I want to say thanks to you so much for tuning in. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend ahead, and I'll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time.

    Until then, please be well be safe and as ever take care everybody.

Tim Peter

By

November 26, 2019

Giving Thanks (Thinks Out Loud Episode 266)

November 26, 2019 | By | No Comments

Giving thanks: Man standing with arms outstretched in thanksLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


It’s a short week around Thinks Central this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, but I wanted to take a moment to think about about I’m thankful for in business and in life. I suspect you’ll find these useful too.

The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud takes a look at what I’m thankful for and why those matter for your business.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Giving Thanks (Thinks Out Loud Episode 266) — Relevant Links:

Mobile

Millennials

Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft

Economy

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 13m 22s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Tim Peter

By

November 20, 2019

Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business (Thinks Out Loud Episode 265)

November 20, 2019 | By | No Comments

Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business: Picture of Amazon Go storeLooking to drive results for your business? Click here to learn more.


Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business (Thinks Out Loud Episode 265) — Headlines and Show Notes

Amazon uses its Amazon Go stores to provide the shopping experience of the future. Swipe your phone when you enter, pick up your things, and simply walk out. No lines. No scanning products. Nothing. It's cool. It's also surprisingly… boring. Yes, it provides instant gratification. But it's an experience that's so invisible as to be, ultimately, uninteresting.

What is interesting though is how Amazon Go — and competing options as they come down the pike — will shape expectations for customer experience for every business. Your customers will expect instant gratification. They'll expect seamless experiences. They'll demand that their interactions with you become invisible. Or, the reverse:, much more interesting.

How can your company cope? How do you create these kinds of experiences? The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud takes a look at Amazon Go, instant gratification, and the boring future of business for you. And even better, offers answers for these questions for you.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business (Thinks Out Loud Episode 265) — Relevant Links:

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 11s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.

Amazon Go, Instant Gratification, and the Boring Future of Business (Thinks Out Loud Episode 265) — Transcript

Well, hello again, everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. And this is episode 265 of the big show. Thank you so much for tuning in. I know I say this every time but I really appreciate it. I wouldn't do the show if you didn't listen, so thanks so much for doing so.

I have a really cool, I think we've got a really cool show today. I think it's a neat topic. I finally got an opportunity to visit an Amazon Go store. They're popping up in a couple of places around the country and around the world. There's a few on the west coast, there are now a couple in New York City. And what's interesting, I talked about this a long time ago, and how this is the future of commerce and the future of e-commerce. And I have to say that I was right, and also, I was wrong.

Now, I want to start with, as you might imagine, I want to start with the fact where I was right. 🙂

What I'd said in a podcast episode, gosh, almost three years ago now, I said this shows how e-commerce will work in the future. And I think that's right. Now that I finally got the opportunity to actually visit one of these stores, it absolutely shows how things will work in the future. The thing about it, though, is what it shows is that it's going to be incredibly boring. And hear me out, hear me out on this because this is really important. There's a really critical point here that I want to make but hang with me for a minute till I get there.

Let's start with all the things that Amazon Go does wrong. So first, you have to download the app, which isn't a big deal, but you can't actually get in the store unless you have the app. Then I ran into a very particular problem that is probably distinct to me, in that they couldn't tie my Amazon account to the correct credit card. And that meant I couldn't get into the store. So the first time I went to the store, I was not able to get in. Nothing that I did, or the very courteous clerk who worked there tried, convinced Amazon that I was able to pay. And that meant that I couldn't come into the shop. The net result was that it was not in Amazon Go, it was Amazon Go away. I wouldn't call it a poor experience. There was no experience at all. But it certainly had a negative brand experience for me. It didn't make me real happy with Amazon. And their website did a terrible job of helping me understand the problem.

So, once I got to my hotel and I was able to pull out my laptop and figure out what was going on on the website, I was able to fix the issue. But it absolutely contributes to criticisms that people have had about how Amazon Go might limit access to low-income consumers or those without credit cards or those without smartphones.

So as bullish as I may be on mobile payments, which anybody who's listened to the show for a long time knows, and a more cashless society generally, certainly, some sort of recourse has to exist for people without those options. At which point, you're shutting out an entire segment of the population. That's bad for business, obviously. And also, it's just plain wrong. People should be able to transact with you if they have the ability to, regardless of whether or not they have a smartphone or a credit card. There should be some recourse. I don't know what the right answer is there, but there should be some solution.

Anyway, I want to get to the broader point at the same time. And for those of you who are listening who are like, "Well, I'm in B2B and none of this is going to apply," hang with me because this is really going to apply to you too. So, once I figured out the problem with my card and I configured the app to use it, I went back to the store. I pulled up the 3D barcode on the app, scanned the check-in and walked in. And as advertised, it's a really simple process. It's so simple, in fact, that it's scarcely registered for me what I had just done because it was kind of invisible. The store, meh, it was fine. It contains the same mix of shelf-stable and short-term refrigerated goods, like pre-wrapped sandwiches or microwave meals or sushi that you'd find in any small-footprint city center bodega. It's got razor blades, it's got deodorant, it's got pantyhose. If I didn't know I was in an Amazon Go, I could easily have mistaken it for a particularly classy gas station convenience store.

And let's be fair, that's probably more a compliment to gas station convenience stores than a criticism of Amazon. At the same time, it's not an unfair criticism. The store was just like any other store you ever used. So anyway, I grabbed a sandwich, I grabbed a diet Coke, I grabbed a Snickers bar, we all have our vices, and then I simply walked out of the store. It worked exactly as advertised. There was no muss, there was no fuss.

But this is the point. The point is, we live in a society where people expect instant gratification, and I got it. And what happens when you get instant gratification is, it becomes invisible.

This wasn't so much a great experience as it didn't even register what I'd just done. It was like getting out of an Uber. When you get out of an Uber, you don't notice anything because nothing happens. The receipt shows up in your app right after you leave and is accurate, right? Which is what happens with Uber, what happens with Amazon Go. It was completely fine, completely invisible, and completely boring. It worked but in the least visible way possible. And this is what I want to make as the broader point. Instant gratification is what your customers are going to expect, they're starting to expect. They see it today with Uber. Now we're starting to see it with Amazon Go. We will see it with other services, other products.

Think about what it used to be like to check out of a hotel versus what it's like today. It just ceases to exist. And that's actually cool on one level, but it means that you're going to have to work harder to differentiate yourself on customer experience. Because the experience of payment, the experience of shopping, the experience of interacting with you, customers will expect to be invisible. I kind of equated this to automatic sliding doors, right? If you remember the original Star Trek or The Jetsons, right? Sliding doors were this big deal, oh my gosh, you just walk and the doors open. When's the last time you thought about a sliding door anywhere? They just exist everywhere, they're invisible. And that's a thing that technology does generally, is it becomes invisible over time, and that's what we're going to see here.

Now, let's talk about the broader implications of this. It means that you have to provide those invisible experiences because visible gets in the way of instant gratification. Visible gets in the way of customer expectation. So it's not that you have to be invisible to give people a good experience. It's not that you have to do these things to give people a good experience. It's that if you are visible, by definition, it's going to be a bad experience unless you specifically do something to make it a good experience. And that's going to be true regardless of whether people are doing B2C or B2B or anything along the way. Because that's the world in which your customers live in. Jean-Yves Gonin on Twitter was talking about how B2B buyers are B2C consumers. And as e-commerce experiences explode… Due to e-commerce experiences' explosive growth, their expectations change, right? This was something that PwC and Salesforce and Mike Quindazzi said at Dreamforce, and it's exactly right.

We know that 65% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct their research online. We know that 37% of small businesses B2B respondents and 31% of enterprise businesses say that they conduct their business online completely. Lori Wizdo at Forrester has been saying something similar for years, noting that on average, 74% of business buyers told Forrester they conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Clearly, in B2C, the numbers are equally large, if not much, much larger. And so, you have to create great experiences. When I say "customer experience is queen, what does that mean?" this is what I'm talking about.

And if I can bring in one last point about this, this is where artificial intelligence is going to play a big role because it's going to help you understand, how do we make our experiences invisible? You have to be creative to say, "And if it is visible, how do we make it not painful?" But the AI should be able to help you understand, here's our pain points. Here are places where we can streamline the experience more effectively, and do so in a cost-effective manner, do so in a way that we can scale easily.

There's a really great article on QSR magazine, quick-service restaurants, where Starbucks talks about why AI is a differentiator for the future. And it has to do with predictive analytics, and it has to do with better understanding the customer, and it has to do with making those experiences invisible, improving instant gratification for their customers.

So the big idea behind all of this is that Amazon Go is the future of e-commerce, the future of commerce generally. And the future is boring because it's not going to be visible. It's going to be the things that are visible create problems unless you explicitly take action to make them not problems for your customers. So you need to think about, how do we take the visible and either make it better or make it invisible for our customers at every step along their journey? Do we have the right data and do we have the right analytics that help us understand where those pain points exist? And do we have a creative team who can help us figure out what to do when we encounter those places where we are more visible than we should be and not in a good way?

Because this is the world your customers live in. This is the reality that they're going to expect. Instant gratification builds on itself, that your customers are going to expect to get things easily, painlessly, seamlessly. And if they don't, they're going to go find somebody else who does help them. Because you can't have instant gratification if it isn't instant and if you're not gratified. You can help your customers solve for that or they'll find somebody who will.

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. But I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today's episode, as well as an archive of all our past episodes, by going to TimPeter.com/podcast. Again, that's TimPeter.com/podcast. Just look for episode 265. While you're there, you can click on the subscribe link in any of the episodes you find to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcast or Stitcher Radio or whatever your favorite podcatcher happens to be. You can find us on all the finest podcast services anywhere in the world. Just do a search for Tim Peter Thinks, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those. While you're there, I'd also very much appreciate it if you could provide us a positive rating and review. That gives other listeners a window into the show and helps them understand that's something they'd like to listen to too. It makes it easier for people to find us and it would mean a ton to me.

You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Facebook by going to facebook.com/TimPeterAssociates. You can find me on Twitter using the Twitter handle @tcpeter. And of course, you can email me by sending an email to podcast@timpeter.com. Again, that's podcast@timpeter.com.

I'd like to thank our sponsor. Thinks Out Loud is brought to you by SoloSegment. SoloSegment focuses on AI-driven content discovery and site search analytics to unlock revenue for your business. You can learn more about how to improve your content, increase your customer satisfaction, and make your search smarter, by going to solosegment.com.

With that, I want to say thanks so much for tuning in. I very much appreciate it. I hope you have a great rest of the week, a wonderful weekend, and I'll look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe and as ever, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter

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November 12, 2019

Worried About a Recession Next Year? Here’s How Marketers Can Cope (Thinks Out Loud Episode 264)

November 12, 2019 | By | No Comments

Worried about a recession next year? Image of dollar sign with a devil's tail

There's an old joke that says if you laid all the economists in the world end-to-end, they wouldn't reach a conclusion. That seems entirely appropriate given the current reporting on the odds of — or against — a recession next year. Just check out the variety of (educated, mind you) opinions from an array of economists listed in the show notes below.

But here's the thing. Whether there's a recession or not isn't important. How you react, how you make your marketing work, in good times and bad is what separates the great marketers from the merely average.

Whether you're worried about a recession or not, the latest episode of Thinks Out Loud looks at what you can do in a down economy to ensure your business succeeds. And what's even better is these tips work during good times too.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you:

Relevant Links — Worried About a Recession Next Year? Here's How Marketers Can Cope (Thinks Out Loud Episode 264):

Subscribe to Thinks Out Loud

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Past Insights from Tim Peter Thinks

You might also want to check out these slides I had the pleasure of presenting recently about the key trends shaping marketing in the next year. Here are the slides for your reference:

Technical Details for Thinks Out Loud

Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 22s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes, the Google Play Store, via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player at the top of this page.