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Driving Success for Innovative Products in the Hostile World of Retail

January 9, 2019 Leave a comment

I’ve spent a career introducing innovative new products at retail and know how challenging it is to make them succeed. And today, as always, one critical challenge for innovative products still dominates:

You can’t expect innovation to sell if you wait to educate consumers until they are in the store. Consumers must come to the store looking for your product.

Retailers have focused their attention lately on experience marketing and digital work. Both can be powerful sales drivers of a known product, but neither help with innovative products. After all, even at Apple—the epitome of an experience store—consumers have made their big choices before entering the door.

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Categories: General Retail

“Business as Usual” Marketing Fails Another Innovative Product: Titanium Coated Sewing Needles

January 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Detail of maquette for larger work.

Product innovation is the lifeblood of consumer hardgoods companies. And I’ve spent my career using communication to get maximum business impact for innovative products.

So when I hear of an innovation that underperforms in the market because it’s misunderstood my ears always prick up — like when my wife told me about titanium needles for her sewing machine.

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A Botched Introduction: Lithium-Ion Batteries for Power Tools

December 24, 2018 Leave a comment

We love to rate innovations as “success” or “failure”. Yet most innovation suffers a far more ignominious fate:  mediocrity. And that sums up the introduction of Lithium Ion (LI) Batteries for power tools.

LI batteries offer outstanding buyer value for cordless tools than their NiCAD predecessors.

There’s a power advantage which can be used one of two ways:

  • LI can be used to deliver more power in the same size package.
  • LI can be used to deliver the same power in a lighter weight package.

There’s an incredible set of charging/usability advantages:

  • LI batteries charge faster (a major issue for tool users).
  • LI can be re-charged at any time without building battery memory.
  • LI hold their charge well. After 1 year they usually retain 80% of the original charge.

All this adds up to tremendous advantages for power tool users. Yet they limped slowly onto the market. Even today, tool purchasers hesitate to pay a premium for LI based tools.

What should we learn from this market mediocrity?

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Did Dollar Shave Club Hide a Failing Business Behind Investor Success?

November 27, 2018 Leave a comment

#DigitalDumping: the practice of adding a digital veneer to an existing supply chain, pricing below it, losing money and never having a realistic chance of making money, raising more money, raising valuation, and hurting money-making legacy businesses until one of them buys you for an unrealistic valuation, either to get rid of you or to soon realize that they must because the business will never make money.
Shahin Khan, @shahinkhan

There remains an incredible level of chatter about Dollar Shave Club – in no small part because they were bought for a huge amount of money by Unilever.

But is Dollar Shave a success story or #digitaldumping as defined by my good friend Shahin Khan?
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Categories: General Retail, Home Goods

Bricks & Clicks: Why Store Presence Increases Online Sales in a Market Area

November 19, 2018 Leave a comment

My brother (a partner in a law firm with some shopping center landlord clients) and I were discussing retail and the challenges retail landlords face today. Press coverage suggesting a retail apocalypse is concerning when income from property depends on retail stores.

There are important changes happening in retail – but there’s also a lot of error out there. So we discussed why I think the “retail apocalypse” storyline is a myth. We discussed Amazon’s opening of over 300 brick locations. We discussed that the top shopping centers are doing well – the middle ground and low ground are where the suffering is highest.

I also observed that while retail is here for the long term and should remain stronger than online stores for the long term, there are short term trends that might be very serious problems for retailers – like they probably still have too many stores left from their expansions in the 2000s.

Then Stan asked me why I think on-line sales are higher when there is a brick and mortar store in the vicinity.

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Consumer Solar Needs a Steve Jobs to Make it Fly Off the Shelf.

February 7, 2013 6 comments

I love solar energy. And it’s encouraging that tremendous advances in technology have driven panel costs down while delivering more energy from smaller packages.

Yet, despite major investement in solar, the past 4 years have been more difficult for the solar energy industry than I’d expect – high profile bankruptcies, accusation of product dumping by Chinese manufacturers, and a Republican lust to create a scandal from these failures. And, from what I can see, the consumer solar applications just aren’t moving like they should.

There is a tendency with emerging markets to suggest the problems are technological. But I disagree – at least in the standard way we think about technology. Right now, it looks like core technology advancement has outpaced solar demand – driven by innovations in savvy & low cost manufacture as well as increasing energy output. That suggests the problems are more subtle. Read more…

Latest TiVO Results Illustrate the Impact of Communication Failure

June 1, 2012 4 comments

TiVO never told potential consumers their value so far too many boxes sat on retail shelves.

The latest TiVO results are out: huge jump in revenue while still managing to lose $21M on net revenue of only $68M. (Link here.)

TiVO finances offer a superb example of how early communication failure dooms a new product. Remember, you rarely get a decent second chance. And even if you do, your stumble at the beginning may open the door for rivals to muddy the waters.

And that’s where their failure started. TiVO’s first communication was based around the concept of “pause and rewind live TV” and similar VCR related ideas. As a proud TiVO owner, those ideas are miles away from the real reasons we love our TiVO’s – it reflects a minuscule part of why TiVO matters. Even worse, in advertising it sounds, frankly, quite silly and unimportant. It created a strong fear of meaningless gadgetry rather than a useful perception about the value the TiVO delivers. Read more…