Tim Waterstone talks to the demise of the Waterstones chain under HMV ownership and how he believes publishers allowed Amazon into the market. While I agree that HMV failed Waterstones, I can’t help but feel this is a very inward industry view. Shouldn’t the perspective here be all about customer needs?
On the back of the Mary Portas report into UK high street retail, it’s great to see the launch of the first pop-up Britain shop. Pop-up shops could be a great way for independent small businesses to build revenue and customer base without the costs of long term retail space.
Apple (Made in Manchester)
I wasn’t aware, and I’m surprised it’s not more celebrated, that one of Apple’s breakthrough technologies came from a Manchester start-up. Proof that great UK small business can achieve on a global scale
Urban Outfitters and crowd sourcing photography
Thought this was a great idea to enhance product images through crowd sourcing instagram shots. Great for fashion, but surely other ways to apply this aswell. Engages the community, enhances the offer and a good story too.
It’s Olympic time!
Fantastic to finally have the Olympics opening day. Great for London and the UK. This Mashable guide helps you to follow the Olympics on social media.
The publishing industry was taken by surprised yesterday when Waterstones announced an unlikely business partnership with Amazon for the sale of Kindle devices and ebooks through in-store wifi. The predominant view, which I share, is sceptical of this deal for Waterstones but it will be interesting to understand better as more details emerge. The announcement is well covered on Digital Book World who ask the question ‘Is Waterstones Mortgaging Its Digital Future With Amazon Deal?‘.
This is one of a couple of deals I’ve heard of recently that made me think. Faber announced a partnership with Mumsnet which I thought was a smart move. It allows them to tap into the strong Mumsnet community and offer writing courses to a market you wouldn’t otherwise associated with the Faber brand. Also in something close to home for my business Future Publishing and Anova Books announced a tie-up around the new craft magazine Mollie Makes. This is another deal that sounds good on paper and we’ll wait to see the fruits of this.
Success in business partnership can certainly be challenging. Foremost, there’s the commercial challenge of sharing in financial performance and once a partner is involved this inevitably has an impact. You need to be able to agree goals and approach and this can be difficult as partners will have a different focus or culture, there’s the question of who owns the customer relationship, is the partnership equal and much more to overcome.
Nonetheless, what I like about Faber/Mumsnet and possibly Amazon/Waterstones (although the jury is out on the deal for Waterstones) is that these have been driven, you assume, by people putting the customer first to build the opportunity. Once you do that, it makes it easier to agree on the difficult terms that always need tackling and you can focus on growth and opportunity that make the time and investment well worthwhile.
Something that i’ve found difficult to understand is how some businesses and consumers feel about Amazon. It seems that for many, there’s nothing they’d rather do than berate Amazon for destroying high street brands, not giving others a chance, being too ruthless, too big or not playing by some sort of set of rules.
As a publisher, Amazon is hugely important to me. A massive customer that I spend a large amount of time and effort thinking about. It’s also a customer that helps me more than any other. It gives me tools to sell more books, reports at a very detailed level and i can always check sales rankings, stock positions and more. In truth, I feel more in control and closer to my end customer through Amazon than I do through any other sales relationship.
As a consumer, I am an Amazon shopper. I know they will be competitive on price, have a wide range, availability and they do a reasonable job of targeting me based on my interests. But the truth is that i’m not that loyal. It wouldn’t take much for me to go elsewhere if another brand could give me the same level of confidence and offer something different, better and more compelling.
I think there are a host of ways to do this. Better targeting, better loyalty rewards, more tailored offers, better understanding of my interests, true multi-channel with my local high street to name a few.
Amazon has a huge market share, particularly in books and fast growing in many other categories, but that’s no reason for others to give up or to simply default to negative comments about the Amazon business model. It presents a challenge, that should be exciting and force creative and lateral thinking. A challenge that can be met online where the speed of growth and change is fast and a new idea can develop quickly. I hope in 2012 that more people begin to take that on.