From time to time, I think it's useful to try to get rid of some of the persistent, tech-flavored factoids that are becoming more prevalent in our media-saturated, overly exposed, woefully under informed hurry-up atmosphere. These convenient "facts" are foisted upon us by the everyday experts and bogus business bloviators who make a living telling us what we want to hear-- not information, but mainly abject affirmation-- and repeating the same tired story lines that we've heard for years.
Of course, it's also easier and much less costly for lazy or ignorant talking head news readers and their writers to parrot the old news and the standard company lines than it is to get qualified reporters into the real world and to ask them to try to figure out what's really happening. Some of the "social media" reporting and crowd-sourcing we're seeing in the MSM these days wouldn't pass anyone's smell test. They pass this junk reporting off as gospel and conventional wisdom at a time in our new disruptive and digital world where virtually nothing that made sense in the past is a smart course of action for the future and where experience and past practices can be your worst nightmare instead your best friend.
The useless stuff they spew isn't as critical or as troublesome as the half-truths and outright lies that make up so much of the political conversations today. But it's still problematic because the aggregated noise makes it harder and harder for us to find anything helpful or useful among the clutter or for new businesses to break through the chaos and the confusion in order to bring something different and better to the marketplace. Their blather creates unnecessary and wasteful barriers to progress and especially to the introduction of novel technologies into traditional venues and industries.
I've picked just a few of these, which are especially off base, to talk about in this piece.
1. People are using their phones in-store to price shop and then buy online from other vendors.
This is about as far from today's reality as it could possibly be. The fact is that "showrooming" not only doesn't suck for the bricks-and-mortar stores; in-store use of mobile increases conversion by numbers north of 25%. And when the in-store shopper did his or her homework online before coming to the store, they're more than 40% more likely to convert into real buyers. The most interesting change in consumer shopping behavior these days is "click and collect" - driving huge jumps in the number of buyers ordering online and then going to the store to pick up their purchases.
2. Online shoppers are the world's ficklest folks because they have unlimited choices which are just a click away.
More make-believe from the media. Here's the reality: we are and we have always been creatures of habit. There may be 500 channels out there, but to the extent that we're still watching network television at all (a rapidly diminishing activity largely limited to specials and other live events we still watch only our four or five favorite channels at the most. That's not up very much from the Big Three that used to be everyone's only choices. In addition, we are constant victims of decision fatigue. Offer me too many choices and I will just disappear. We don't want or have the time to consider more. We want quick, easy and convenient. And we want it now. Here's a dirty little secret: shopping carts are very sticky. And I'm not talking about the ones in the stores themselves, covered with all kinds of mystery substances that no one ever seems to clean. I'm talking about the fact that once your product makes it into a consumer's online shopping cart - especially if it's a commodity - you'd need a stick of dynamite to dislodge it. We're still trying to ascertain whether this behavior is a result of excessive loyalty or excessive laziness, but whatever the cause, you want to get there first while the getting good because that buyer isn't in a hurry to go anywhere else, choose any alternative product, or do much of anything beyond clicking the same items on the same weekly list. Inertia is most likely the best barrier to entry and competition ever invented.
3. Everyone's "cutting the cord" and Netflix is killing the cable biz.
Cable isn't just a cord any more that's readily snipable; it's a gigantic and largely unavoidable pipe that's the most reliable connection you have to the world outside your windows. And you need it desperately to stay connected; not simply for social, sports and other entertainment purposes, but more and more to make sure you keep your job and your business. The phone's fine for lots of things, but it's still not remotely how the lion's share of business gets done. As we all spend increasing amounts of time working at home, we're still counting on cable for the critical connections. Comcast, for one, is doing a great job of stemming the fall-off in video customers by adding internet users at a greater rate. And while cable companies in general continue to steadily increase their revenues, Netflix is seeing its subscriber growth slow significantly. Interestingly, you might ask how exactly does Netflix find its way into most people's homes these days? OTT? Not really. It comes right through the cable connection and now - belatedly, but from a position of strength, not acquiescence - Comcast has even decided to add the Netflix app to its X1 cable-box platform. Frankly, Comcast has much bigger fish to fry and more important things to sweat than Netflix. And so does Netflix. The ride for Netflix is getting bumpier because there are better-entrenched and established players like Amazon stepping all over its toes. The bottom line is this--if Netflix is killing anything-- it's killing traditional TV advertising as more and more affluent viewers abandon the traditional networks and avoid commercials entirely through new viewing behaviors and time-shifting strategies especially binge viewing which is already up to about two hours a day.
Advertising today-; by and large-; is a penalty that only poor people pay. The rest of us are looking and watching the other way.