Behind 5 of Last Week's Consumer Headlines

“Products, not experience, drive Millennials to online shopping”

  • Last year, I spoke at Fashion Digital and told the audience how content is more important in stores than online; I continue to believe it and - despite the grocery focus of this article -  the premise is reflective of shopping attitudes across categories
  • If all a consumer wants is a product, s/he can find it online — in stores, the experience has to be more than a transaction
  • While online content is important for building a brand, I see it having limited ROI for multi-brand retailers and for brands that aren’t really committed to building their brands more holistically

“Why brands are building their own ‘museums' where immersion is the price of entry”

  • It’s no surprise that brands need to create offline experiences, ideally “instagrammable” ones, to create online engagement
  • My question is whether these museums really build interest, let alone loyalty, for specific brands like Glade or Land O’Lakes or whether they’re just immersing consumers in thoughts of the scent and butter categories
  • I like the idea of brand experiences just as experiences, but I also continue to think about how they best tie to near-term retail sales, such as at Story or the Kellogg’s cereal bar (both in Manhattan)

“Everyone is underestimating Walmart's ability to crush Amazon” 

  • This headline obviously was written in connection with Walmart’s acquisition, but it’s more focused on other Walmart strengths I see — large customer base and massive store distribution network
  • If Walmart customers (especially younger ones) appreciate’s UX and dynamic pricing technology, more of them may become customers… BUT since only 10% of Walmart customers currently are Amazon customers*, those who are inclined to shop online may start going to Amazon instead
  • Outside leadership (especially when it has an ax to grind with Amazon) is bound to help,  but to say it will “crush” Amazon is likely an overstatement

*I saw this stat in a WSJ or NYT article Friday or yesterday. I can’t find it now so I’d appreciate anyone posting in the comments below

“JC Penney: A tale of battle and victory”

This is a 90-day digital turnaround story (albeit incomplete) for the ages. Having led divisions of large companies, here’s what resonates with me most:

  • If the cross-functional team needs a decision approved from outside the war room, it must happen within 24 hours or the team moves on —> no bottlenecks
  • A “good enough for now” mindset —> faster evolution and ongoing wins
  • Focus on a few key measurable things, and let the rest go —> there are too many potential initiatives AND too many metrics to ask a team to focus on them all

“Launching a new retail model: Online cooking classes at Sur La Table”

  • One could argue the headline is bold, but how many retail stores offer classes (of any kind) in stores and, of those, how many do it online?
  • While I said in talking about the first headline above that content is more important offline than online, I think educational video is a way to distinguish online content and maybe even sell featured product
  • My question is how much potential customers will pay for which type of video when YouTube has so much of the “how to” space covered


It would be remiss to talk about last week in consumer and not mention the many retail companies that reported quarterly earnings. Look out for a post this week that synthesizes what we heard across companies.