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Fears about the digital future sweeping over the local shop may be overdone, based on three reports I read this week.
Firstly, in an article about online shopping, the FT pointed out that the mechanisms of the internet are very like the mechanisms of the real world, with web sites using vouchers and one day specials to generate sales. The FT concludes that it is better to be a data aggregator, like Facebook, than a retailer trying to sell stuff on the back of the data.
At almost the same time, one major bank was writing down the value of Ocado, the online retailer, saying that it needed to achieve orders of more than £100 a time to make a profit. That is a big average basket size. Other banks did not share this view but it still puts a question mark over where shopping is headed.
Meanwhile, Seth Godin was busy writing about his frustration with Apple’s iPad store, where the shelves have more than 24,000 apps to buy yet the “front window” can only display six. “There’s a little worse than a one in a thousand chance that your app will appear in front of someone interacting with the store at the first level,” he complains. In Seth’s mind, he cannot trust the retailer, Apple, to do the right thing by his app so it is promoted to shoppers. Sound familiar?
Finally, Todd Sattersten, the business book expert, wrote about his surprise finding after speaking to three different classes of US business undergraduates last week. Out of 125 students, only one owned a Kindle and she used it for recreational reading. No one owned an iPad. No one owned a Sony Reader.
“The same kids who prefer texting and Facebook to phones calls and email are passing up digital books at precisely the time it would be most helpful,” says Todd, warning publishers not to assume that it will all go digital.
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