Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who will be the next economic sacrifice?

The high street has taken a real battering over the last month. Some have gone down deservedly you might say. Woolworths has never really seemed to understand how modern retail works and I'm surprised that they have survived so long really.

MFI had suffered from it's appalling quality and customer service record in the past. Perhaps if they had renamed and re-branded a few years ago they might have been able to survive.

Although I don't grieve the loss of these retailers, who I didn't use anyway, my heart goes out to their staff and the many companies in their supply chain who will all lose out.

During my days in ecommerce I visited many reasonable sized businesses that were in the high street supply chain feeding goods to all of the famous high street names. I remember coming across a significant number of businesses that had one retail chain representing over 80% of it's customer base and, in some cases, 100%.

Most chains work on the 'just in time' stock principal. Which means that the retailer estimates his total supply requirements in advance. After an initial stock up, replenishment is by replacement only and it is up to the supplier to have the stock on hand to provide immediate turn around - with no commitment from the retailer to take the whole consignment if sales are bad, but penalties for you if you can't supply.

I don't know how they slept at night and I said just that to the MDs in question.

When we have a sharp economic downturn that level of reliance puts you on dangerous ground and your business can be wiped out even though your own business management and cash flow are sound.

As small business owners it is always attractive to accept business opportunities that give us 'security' by filling our order book for substantial periods. But it doesn't come without risk. I suspect there are hundreds of small businesses that spent more than 80% of their efforts pandering to MFI and Woolworths who will be left with virtually no business to speak of.

Perhaps our New Years resolution should be to spread our business across more customers and therefore spread the risk?

If you need help with a New Year sales and marketing strategy, particularly using the internet, I'll see if I can help.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm a sucker for motivating quotes

I've always be a bit of a collector when it comes to great, thought provoking, quotes.

One of my all time favourites is from the comedian Billy Connolly:

"There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes"

I heard a good one the other day which I will certainly hang on to:

" Your business is like a wheel barrow. It will only move forward if you push it."

Alloy CRM On-Line Sales and Marketing Specialists

The Next Generation Websites

I remember saying, a good few years ago, that the internet would end up like electricity. It would just be piped into every home and business and we wouldn't be using the 'Internet' as such.

It would be just part of every appliance we use in our every day life. Your fridge and microwave would be seamlessly web enabled. Most people who I said that to gave me that strange look that suggested that I lived on another planet.

Well perhaps I wasn't as mad as they thought. I read today an article about Web v3.0.

You may already be conversant with the term Web v2.0. If you haven't heard it then you are certain to have used it. It's the label given to the development of the internet that gave us interactivity - Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, YouTube and ecademy. Web v2.0 is that ability to interact with others online and influence through commenting and reviewing.

That was a major step forward in our use of the internet which had previously been simply an information and research tool to view only.

Now Web v3.0 is on it's way. It is the seamless integration of web services and information with every other means of communication and device.

One of the examples went as follows:

A business contact has just rolled into town and called you his mobile phone to tell you he's stopping overnight in a local hotel and is suggesting that you might want to meet up over dinner.

The call from the mobile is already logged through GPS so you know which hotel he's in. A couple of presses on the touch screen of your phone gives a list of nearby restaurants. A further click on your restaurant choice offers menu selections and available booking times. Once booked your car satnav receives the location and route in readiness. Meanwhile your friend gets the same but as walking directions for his mobile phone.

At the same time your fridge has just texted you to let you know that you are low on semi skimmed milk and then offers a new recipe that you might like with a list of ingredients - all of which can be added to your regular on-line supermarket order, due for delivery tomorrow, with one click.

A step too far into the future? It may not be.

Technology such as this relies upon integration of information systems. Currently that information resides on PC's and servers. We have already seen the first wave of internet based systems such as Google docs - the online Microsoft Office look-a-like and more on-line applications that are no longer reliant upon a specific PC or server are just around the corner.

I watched James May's 20th Century program the other night and he told the story of the guy who took us from a multitude of electricity power stations, each with its own voltage and wall plug configuration, to the unified national grid system.

That allowed us to have 'electricity enabled' devices such as vacuum cleaners, plug in electric fires and eventually the TV.

That was electricity's Web v3.0.

Enjoy your 20th century PC - I'm not sure it will be around for much longer!

If you need any help and advice on your bussiness use of the web Alloy CRM offers website profit programs to ensure you achieve Return on Investment