Kiwi and Australian Retailers Need to do Change to Beat Amazon

Yesterday I saw a story on CNN about Toys R Us filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. It is big news for retailers and their CEO says they will survive by competing with Amazon and meeting customers needs with new store designs. I have no doubt it’s possible, but not if they fall straight back into their old ways. Their biggest problem now is whether manufacturers will even supply them with their best selling products. They can potentially sell more product, cheaper and at higher margins through Amazon.

What I thought was really interesting is that toymakers shares which took a nosedive are rallying again because they are going to shift their focus to the very businesses like Amazon who are decimating retailers who have held steadfast to their traditional way of doing business. People still want to buy toys right.

What worries me for local retailers on this part of the globe is that many of our retailers are even less customer focused than the American stores are that are allowing themselves to be choked into submission.


What’s it made of?

I also maintain that we like to shop and whether it is grocery or other products, people still want to buy. Price is certainly an issue, as is convenience, but the reason Amazon even gets a look into our local market is because we are opening the door to them. We’re not delivering the best experience and listening to customer insights.

There are retailers who are growing and thriving, perhaps because they listen to the voice of the customer. It seems really ironic to me that there are more and more fresh food retailers focusing on high quality meals and selections that are ready to cook, for a premium. This is a market that our traditional supermarkets knew about 20 years ago.

World leaders like Krogers and Albert Hein didn’t just lead on technology, with partners like NCR and IBM they also learned about big data and how to mine that to come up with profitable combinations, but it seems to me that the focus has now been more about how to squeeze the max out of margins and shelf space, rather than ask customers what they want, or deliver products that are compelling to customers. In doing so I wonder if they are throwing away some of the most profitable opportunities. Amazon’s Whole Foods could seriously impact on the core high stock turn grocery sector and especially hurt the owner operators who have invested everything into their businesses. We won’t stop buying food and toilet paper. What will retailers like Foodstuffs, Coles and Countdown do? What will the DIY industry do? I hear IKEA could be coming down under as well and could threaten Mitre10, Bunnings and similar stores too, who don’t seem to be adapting either. Will they try to compete even more on price?

Napolean HillSo perhaps it’s time for retailers who don’t want to go the way of Borders and Dick Smith Electronics need to do something different before it’s too late.

How? The starting point is to never fall back on business as usual, but to remember how it all started. The grocer used to be the center of the community. They knew what we wanted before we knew we wanted it. The addressed my parents by name. They knew which coffee my mother wanted and how thin to slice her veal. They had a relationship with us.

Today’s technology still allows retailers to have a relationship with us. That might sound like an oxymoron, but it is what we do with data. No we can’t have a personal relationship with thousands of customers, but we can harness technology to deliver the same outcome so that the customer feels valued.

Like the Kiwi baby chain I saw on TV and blogged about last week that consults with their customers and even install baby seats in cars for free, teaching people how to use their product, putting their customers on a mailing list, finding out about their families in a safe way that protects their privacy while delivering what they want, there are are solutions that allow retailers to have their cake and eat it. But they have to adapt.

Those businesses who say their model is doomed will create a self fulfilling prophecy for their businesses. Those who are prepared to change can grow and thrive. It’s rocket science, but it is also about using it to understand the customer.

I’ll leave the last word to astronaut Chris Hadfield. What did resonate with, the science or the person?


Posted in Big Data, endangered species, Inventory Management, Manufacturing, Market Research, Retail, retail apps, Retail POS, retail survival, retail systems, the future | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amazon is Coming to Australia and Retailers are Worried

They should be worried. As I discussed in my blog last week called The Blockbuster Effect, and countless previous blogs, you can’t expect, even at the bottom of the planet, to have the luxury of continuing doing business the same way as you have for the last couple of decades and expect the same result.

bordersWhether it’s the retail book industry and publishing that should be quaking, or other forms of retail that no longer provide perceived value to their customers, this will hasten the change.

On TV News I watched a story about a baby store that consults with their customers, even fits baby seats into cars and they weren’t worried because they have a relationship with their customers. I agree with them.

I buy books from Amazon (why would I pay 3 times as much in a store that gives me no reason to be loyal and wait for 3 months after a book has been launched overseas). I bought my second smartwatch last week from Deal Extreme for US$18 including free delivery to New Zealand. It has a camera, Bluetooth, a speaker, large capacitive touch screen, email, phone book, auto dialling so I can ring without taking my phone out of my pocket, messaging from TXT to Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, a SIM Card slot and much more. Not as many features as an iWatch, or a Samsung watch but at about 7% of the price and delivered to my door for free within 2 weeks.

I was talking to a good friend the other day who took a business idea offshore and has established a solid company addressing the retail threats that he and I had discussed on countless occasions. We discussed the opportunity to bring the idea back to Australasia to help retailers and other businesses to compete by offering a quality service, recognising the loyalty of their customers and the mutual interest of retailers and foot customers to keep doing business together. I think he’s onto a winner.

As they said on the TV News story, Kiwis love to shop. The problem is that whilst many retailers pay into loyalty card systems, they don’t show loyalty to their unique customers or offer them much reason to be loyal to their brand. There are obvious exceptions such as Subway and Petrol stations are starting to get in on the act such as my Mobil Smiles card, but they are far from the rule and yet to prove they have a winning formula.

So I believe that more retailers in New Zealand and Australia who fail to change with the times are going to fall by the wayside. I also don’t believe they have to, but they do have to do something different. BAU will not cut it. Complaining will not cut it. Those who don’t find the time or the business partners to provide solutions such as Marketing as a Service (MaaS), will be down the tubes.

We will remember them. We will miss them. But don’t worry, others will take their place. The smart ones. The ones that finally listened. Which one are you?

Posted in Amazon, Apple Watch, Australia, Business, Customer Research, Customers, disruptive model, Gadgets, Gas prices, Loyalty, Maas, Marketing, Marketing apps, New retail ideas, People, Retail, retail apps, retail survival, retail systems, Shopping, SmartWatch | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Blockbuster Effect

I was listening to the Zig Ziglar Show on the way home tonight Episode 481 with Mark Sanborn and had to pause when I heard the following statement which resonated so much with previous blogs I have written on the topic of BAU.

Mark quoted Joe Calloway as saying “Success means you only know what worked yesterday”. He also quoted Seth Godin’s ‘Stuck Winning Model’. He said “A company or an individual does something and it works and because it works, they do more of it. And they keep doing it because it works, until one day it stops working as well. So what do they do? They do more of it. It’s kind of like, WOW it’s not working as well, we’d better double our efforts, instead of saying, maybe it isn’t going to work going forward and maybe we need to try something else.”

He went on to say that maybe why people get stuck, is success, because on the one hand you don’t want to jeopardise it. We’re doing OK. I don’t want to bet the farm, I don’t want to roll the dice, but on the other hand, if we keep doing what we’ve done, sooner or later we’re going to get supplanted.

borders-closingTherein lies my problem with so many businesses from taxis to bookstores to music stores. Remember Sounds Music? Unfortunately their leading light passed away and they lost their way. Remember Real Groovy (for the Kiwi readers)? They bought in container loads of vinyl that no one wanted in the UK and shipped them to New Zealand.

Guess what? People still want to buy records, in fact they can’t get enough of them and they often pay more for them than CD’s even though Spotify, Pandora, Apple, iHeartRadio and many more are offering unlimited music to your phone for freemium or a low price.

I still maintain that Borders could still be viable too, they just needed to adjust their business model and not to selling soft toys, but then that’s just my opinion.

Boards who try to squeeze the lifeblood of an existing model just because it has worked really frustrate me.  You have to keep reinventing yourself and you have to listen to your customers. I mean really listen, not assume you know what they are saying, because often what they are saying, or what you think you are hearing, is not what they mean.

It’s like the car park companies that thought they were destinations and taxi companies who thought they were chauffeurs. Anyway, I was motivated to blog tonight after hearing the same story again on a great podcast. So are you going to do the same thing tomorrow as you have done for the last 5 years?

Good luck with that.


Posted in BAU, Blogging, Business, Business Consultant, Business Intelligence, carparking, New retail ideas, Retail, retail survival | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life List #6/150 Write a Sequel to Unleashing the Roadwarrior


Unleashing The Road Warrior

It’s been 15 years since I wrote and published Unleashing the Road Warrior and it’s interesting both how much has changed and how little has changed.

I was planning on writing a book about traffic congestion on our roads and practical things we can do to work smarter and avoid the stress and costs of sitting in traffic. I wanted to explore ways that we can both live in the city without being ground to a halt by growing demand on the roads and ever increasing commute times.

When I started to think about it, that was pretty much what I was trying to do with that book, which I wrote in concert with training courses I was running through the Auckland Chamber of Commerce when I owned the Smartphone and PDA Academy. Unfortunately things haven’t changed much and most people are still not working smarter.

We hear all about autonomous cars, Artificial Intelligence and computers taking our jobs, but not only are we working longer hours at our jobs, but many of us spend additional hours stuck in traffic getting to and from them.

There have been experiments in wielding big sticks like congestion tolls, but they wouldn’t be necessary if companies and their staff were smarter about how they do business. I see them as a last resort with the risk of increasing the cost of living as people pay the tolls and continue to endure the traffic.

Earlier this week before I succumbed to a serious case of man-flu, I had the privilege of hosting 35 school children all aged around 9 who had presented great ideas to Auckland Transport about what the future could look like and they were really bright kids. I asked them what traffic was and they told me it was about trading goods and services and that it was when a number of vehicles wanted to be on the same road at the same time. They reminded me of myself at that age.

Part of the motivation for my first book was that I was promised as a child of around that age that computers would mean that human beings would be freed up for the higher things on Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’. Our problem would be what to do with all that leisure time. Since I started work I think I have averaged at least 50 hours a week throughout my career. I think I still have the document somewhere. It was called ‘A Blueprint for the Future’ or something like that.

As the headline says, this is item 6 on the Life List I decided to commit to of 150 things to do in the next 10 years, encouraged by being told by my oncologist who said I am now in remission from Prostate Cancer.


A typical morning commute on Auckland’s North Shore

Humans are so intelligent that you’d think we were smart enough to know that the change has to come from people being smarter with their use of technology and time.

I remember sitting in a plane from London to LAX around 1990 reading New Scientist magazine which had a case study about building motorways in the UK which said that as soon as they built a new one and opened it, it was full. So what do they do? Build more. What happens? They fill up.

Do we have to put up with traffic congestion and join the great cities of the world by increasing the cost of living, buying ever more cars and wasting emotional and physical energy and personal time sitting in motorway parking lots?

I don’t think so. I think there is a lot we can do. I think today we have the technology more than ever to work smarter. I’m not saying its an easy fix, but I’m saying we can have our cake and eat it too.

Many of the things I wrote about in that first book still apply, back then I needed to run training courses to teach people how to do email and manage their time, focus and remote working. I still have letters of thanks from people who attended my training courses and the book was even used in American universities business studies.

Today we have much more user friendly technology, but many of us are too busy being busy to stop and do something about it. But at what cost? Hopefully my next book will help more people and businesses to increase work life balance and if over time reduce congestion in urban areas. It’s not rocket science, it’s common sense.

So how about it? Would you like to achieve greater results in less time and have more time to spend with your family or doing things that you have a passion for?


Posted in Auckland, Autonomous cars, Business, Business Consultant, Communications, Consultant, driving, Education, Foresight, Future, Futurist, good books, human logic, Innovation, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Servces, Motoring, motorway, Smart City, Society, SoLoMo, TDM, Technology, telecommunications, the future, traffic congestion, Traffic Control, traffic demand, traffic design, Traffic jam, Traffic Management, Traffic Optimization, travel demand management | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finally a Device to Track Anything Like a Magpie Does


Calum Handley, Raul Oaida and Derek Handley

I’ve known Derek Handley and his family for a long time, since a young group of entrepreneurs won the NZ Wireless Data Forum’s mobile app competition (I was President at the time, helped conceive and judge  it) many many years ago with a concept of a mobile gambling app where fans could make bets with each other at a sporting match (which would have been a winner if it wasn’t for monopolies and gambling laws at the time) and formed The Hyperfactory. I had the pleasure of watching them (from a distance) develop some amazing campaigns, sell, create Snakk Media and  get involved in many other projects.

Some of the most exciting ideas they had didn’t happen for various reasons, which is all part of the game of being an entrepreneur, but in others they were true pioneers. What I most admired about them was that they had true grit and passion for their work and for making a difference. I remember visiting their offices many times in the early days and I can tell you that they really put in the hours and obstacles were just stepping stones. While I was trying to support entrepreneurs, they were changing the future, from New Zealand.

Obviously New Zealand got too small very quickly and they had to go to the USA so they could scale and find the real money, but they never lost their passion for making a better future.

MagpieI was delighted to see stories in the NZ Herald and  Stuff this week about their new venture Magpie which is about a really low cost solution for tracking everything from your keys to more important things like your favorite guitars or other items that don’t feature communications.

As you know I a very passionate about GPS tracking and have written dozens of blogs and curated dozens of stories on the topic over the years. About 4 years ago I seriously considered setting up a distribution business for tracking solutions, but I didn’t have the capital to scale quickly and didn’t really feel many of the products or systems I saw were well suited to the needs of my target markets.

The closest to Magpie is probably Tile, but it is Bluetooth based and requires a critical mass of mobile phones running the app in order to locate the missing item, so for example, if someone stole a guitar, you could only locate it if it was within 10 meters of a mobile phone running the app. Probably a good proposition in large urban environments, if that’s where your lost item ends up, but otherwise, for example in a country like New Zealand, I wasn’t convinced the mass of users were there. I know a lot of geeks in New Zealand and I haven’t come across anyone who has a Tile and they are the early adopters.

I emailed Tile and asked them about New Zealand. To their credit they responded very quickly, but it was the company line of millions of devices in loads of countries.

So when I found out about the Magpie Kickstarter campaign, I didn’t hesitate to put some money in the pot and pre-purchase some units, because I know that these guys know how to make something like this work. I have no idea what their harvest plan is, but I absolutely love their model, both the product concept and the purchase model. So does everyone else given they got 400% of the funding they were chasing in under 3 days.

I’ll be watching this with interest. I spend a lot of my time thinking about changing the future, these are the sort of people that make the future and make the world a better place. I recommend you watch this space

Posted in #TheGPSMadeMeDoIt, Best GPS, best GPS trackers, Best Practice GPS, Bluetooth, Catch Crooks with GPS, cheap gps, Cool Tech, Future, Futurist, Gadgets, GPS bait, GPS features, GPS MAde Me Do IT, GPS Maps, GPS Pet Tracking, GPS Player Tracking, GPS Police Tracker, GPS Track People, GPS Tracker, GPS Tracking, GPS Traxcking, IoT, location based apps, Location Based Consultant, Location Based Servces, Location Based Services, Location Based Services for Health, Map apps, missing children, missing people, Mobile Apps, mobile friendly, people tracking, Personal GPS Trackers, Police tracking, Sports GPS, theft, top apps, Track and Trace, track children, Track parolees, Tracking Apps, Tracking Children, Tracking criminals, tracking data, Tracking kids, tracking missing peopl, Tracking pets, Tracking staff, Tracking stolen property | Leave a comment

Are Flying Cars an Option

I love the concept, especially electric and low or no noise, but the last thing I want to do is look up at the clouds and see hundreds of ‘air cars’ instead of clouds and flocks of birds.

I suspect that this is a great replacement for helicopters, potentially a lot safer, but as a mode of transport in cities with a million plus residents, doesn’t sound quite so likely.

As a mode of tourism transport they would be awesome. I’m off to book my flight now.


Posted in Autonomous cars, commuting, Concept Car, congestion, Cool Tech, Driverless Cars, driverless vehicles, Foresight, future car, Future Technology, new cars, the future, tourism tech, tourist marketing, traffic, Transport, Travel | Leave a comment

Mobility as a Service

MaaSMost mornings as I ignore my car navigation directions and go to work the fast way, I drive past the same yachts in a marina, which are mostly all there in the middle of summer and on the weekends too and I think about the waste.

They say that most cars are used 3% of the time, which is the argument for fewer cars and a better transport model. That model is fundamentally about MaaS. An example is being able to go to your computing device, probably your mobile, setting in your destination (it already knows where you are) and being given a range of options which might be a combination of personal modes of transport through to public transport, rideshare, walking, cycling.

The app would let you book and pay for the service that best meets your needs, for example you might need to drop the kids of at school on the way, or you may not be feeling sociable, or perhaps you’re on a tight budget. The app is ‘intelligent’ and knows about traffic conditions and can give you a  variety of options to choose from. It’s intelligent and learns your patterns and knows where you live and work and places you frequent. You make your selection and are on your way.

Your car is one of your most expensive assets and depreciates in value the minute you have paid for it (or signed up to a finance plan which is even worse, paying interest on an asset that is losing value before you have even used it).

claesI use the analogy of the yacht because it is not dissimilar. We built and owned a family yacht. That’s her on the left. My parents ended up living on her which made it good value for a time, but in the end when they moved on-shore it was idle and none of us had the time or money to maintain her and consequently she depreciated about 80%. They say a boat is a hole in the water that you throw money into and whilst she was awesome, so are the new yachts that you can rent or timeshare at your local Marina.

For less than our annual insurance bill when she was new, you can go and rent the very latest 45 foot yacht (she was 54 feet) and hop on board an almost new craft in mint condition. Go out and sail for a couple of weeks anywhere in the world, jump off at the end and go enjoy the stories and photos. No cleaning, worn sails, engine maintenance, hull cleaning, painting, marina or mooring fees.

So why wouldn’t you do the same with your car? If you want to go on a driving holiday, rent the latest and greatest with a little of the cash you saved from not owning one. Use public transport, rideshare or whatever is appropriate.

The main reason is that the systems aren’t here yet, but one way or another they are coming. There are a lot of hurdles to jump but there are disruptive businesses on the way and existing enterprises are re-thinking how they can profit from the bow wave instead of being drowned because they can’t compete.

Posted in Best GPS, Best Practice GPS, Big Data, Bus Apps, Car Technology, car tracking, carpool, cars, congestion, connected cars, driving, driving app, future car, Future Technology, GPS Car Nav, GPS Problems, GPS Test, IoT, ITS, Maas, mobile travel apps, Mobility as a Service, nav apps, Nav Maps | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment