Bay Area eCommerce versus New York eCommerce

A provocative short post from Benedict Evans about how the underlying experiences of different cultural/geographical pockets is shaping online retail:

If you grew up in a small town, and went to Stanford, and then got a job in tech in the South Bay, then you could reach your 30s and be running a large company or part of one, and never in your life have walked past a shop selling something wonderful that you never knew existed. Even in San Francisco that would be pretty easy. That is, living here after living in London, it’s easier to see physical retail as the inefficient end-point to a logistics system, and harder to see it as a curation, discovery and demand generation system. I sometimes wonder how much that difference shapes ecommerce in the Bay Area versus New York and London.

One can also look at Amazon in this light - like Sears Roebuck before it, Amazon lets anyone anywhere buy things that you could previously only get in a big city. But that is not at all the same as letting people shop the way you do in a big city. Buying is not shopping. The challenge is that most of America doesn't live in New York - so how can one take shopping, rather than buying, to the Bay Area?

Pinterest: the database of intentions

This was everywhere last week, but in case you missed it, Alexis Madrigal's Atlantic interview with Pinterest co-founder Evan Stone is a great read, particularly if you buy into Benedict Evan's notion that we're in the pre-pagerank phase of mobile internet usage.

My contention is that Pinterest is one of the four ways that people find things on the Internet. The default, of course, is Googling (or—fine, Microsoft—Binging). For real-time searches, there is Twitter. For people or entities, there's Facebook. But if what you want to find are things, objects, then Pinterest is the way to go.

They cover a lot of topics, including about Pinterest's product differentiation; the balance of machine learning versus highly distributed editorial curation; deferring obvious revenue models as the value to consumers is still taking shape; and much more.

Ignore social media marketing*

* with some exceptions.

A great post from Jason Stoddard about the impact of traditional media coverage, with some very entertaining (and potentially controversial, in many circles) digressions on social media marketing, specifically:

  • If you’re an entertainment company, social marketing is the greatest thing since sliced cheese. It should absolutely be front and center in your plans. Every entertainment social media program we did produced 10-100x the results of an equivalent investment in conventional media
  • If you’re not an entertainment company, social marketing is really, really dumb—easily the biggest time-sink and resource-eater out there, with returns 1/10 to 1/100 of an equivalent investment in conventional media


Sorry, guys. People are on Facebook to talk to friends. Not shills.
They’re watching YouTube for funny cat videos, not smooth-talking tours of your factory set to some hip music.
They’re on Twitter to get celebrity tweets.
Et cetera. If you want to talk to your prospects effectively:
  1. Clearly communicate the unique benefits of your products on a good, easy-to-use website.
  2. Have a memorable brand.
  3. Provide fast responses to any inquiries.
  4. Take care of customer service before it spreads to Facebook.
  5. Make sure the press (online and off) know when you have something new and cool, but otherwise stay out of their face.
  6. Invest carefully in measurable marketing vehicles such as Adwords, reinvest in successful vehicles and revise or discontinue underperforming ones.
  7. Continue improving your product so someone doesn’t have a clear, unique benefit over you before you know it.
And that is that. Social media will take care of itself, at that point.
“But wait, does that mean we can pretty much ignore social media?” you ask.
To be blunt: yes.
This "ignore social media" advice is even more relevant if you are a business-to-business company—that is, selling products or services to businesses. Do not spend a single second on social media. Concentrate on the 7 points above. Don’t dismiss 1 and 2 because you’re B2B. And you’re done.

It's a great piece and worth a full read.

Via Marco Arment.

Brand management and technology

Essential piece by Ben Thompson about how technology is changing brands and branding. He touches on the implications of lower barriers to entry:

it is significantly easier today to get a startup off the ground; however, that actually means startups need more venture capital, not less, because the real challenge is marketing and/or sales (and thus, by extension, venture capital is bifurcating between very large and very small)

and e-commerce:

dominating shelf space was a core part of their strategy, and while I’m no mathematician, I’m pretty sure dominating an infinite resource is a losing proposition. What matters now is dominating search.

Great thinking and writing (as, by the way, are his very reasonably priced daily updates).