Amazon Has Bullseye on Target

Quartz: “Target has a supply problem. The discount retailer has too much unsold merchandise on its shelves, and hasn’t figured out how to get all of it to customers quickly. To make matters worse, a new survey shows that two in five Target shoppers are also members of Amazon Prime and among those that aren’t, one in five are considering a membership in the next year.”

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“Target has made some attempts to keep up: Participants in the company’s REDCard credit card program get free shipping on all online orders. ‘I do think we can get more credit for REDCard than we potentially have,’ Target’s chief digital officer told Recode last month.”

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De-Branding: A Shift From Products to Places

Fast Company: “It’s misleading to use a totally different set of qualities—good stories—to sell a product that has intrinsically nothing to do with these qualities. Hiring a top filmmaker won’t improve the quality of your energy drink … You could even say that the better the stories, the more dishonest the companies are being.”

“Here’s where debranding comes into play … the focus will shift … from branded products to branded places: stores and their owners who select and sell the products they like … Back to the traditional shopkeeper responsible for measuring bulk food and acting as an advocate for his products. Back to the real Dr. Browns, Uncle Bens, and Aunt Jemimas. Instead of brands, real people and real tones of voice will become the interface between consumers and products again.”

“And it is totally in line with today’s networked society … increasingly in the Internet age, consumers are comfortable with the idea that everything is interconnected. So what distinguishes brands is less important than what brings things and people together—whether your iPhone can talk to your Prius, for instance, or whether you can read articles from disparate sources in one place, like on Facebook. The brand that screams the loudest no longer commands the most attention; the one that offers something genuinely useful does.”

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The Netflix ‘Binge Scale’: Savor or Devour?

The Guardian: “Netflix said customers who chose to watch an entire TV season finished it on average in just one week, watching a little over two hours a day. It said viewers typically binged on thrillers such as Breaking Bad and The Killing, but were more likely to take their time over the more political narratives of House of Cards or Homeland.”

“According to something Netflix calls the ‘binge scale,’ ranging from ‘savor’ at one end to ‘devour’ at the other, its original drama Narcos, about the rise to power of Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, was the platform’s slowest-burning hit in the UK, with viewers ‘savoring’ it over six days.”

“Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said the company would use the findings to make ‘subtle improvements in helping people choose what kind of programmes they want to watch, depending on what mood they’re in’.”

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Botto Bistro Takes Out the Trash on Yelp

The New York Times: “Botto Bistro is far from the worst restaurant in America. But it doesn’t mind if you think so … The attitude is a little brusque. ‘We have no ice, no butter, no ranch, no lemon,’ a sign behind the counter warns. ‘We charge for bread. We charge for everything’.”

Botto takes a similar attitude when it comes to reviews on Yelp: “The bistro did not want to be reviewed and let itself be subject to the whims of people with no names but plenty of opinions … Some shady outfits try to load the dice by buying favorable reviews, but Botto went in the other direction. It asks people to trash it.”

“The restaurant has been fighting Yelp in earnest for nearly two years now. More than half of its 250 reviews are one-star.” Among the reviews: “The pizza tastes like the rag at Denny’s that they use to wipe down the counters and tabletops” and “the pizza arrived at the table with a dead rat under the cheese.” Davide Cerretini, the owner, routinely offers patrons a coupon for a half-price pizza in return for a one-star review. He explains: “It may sound to you like a suicide mission, but our business is up.”

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Minor-League Question: Rumble Ponies or Stud Muffins?

“There is higher-quality baseball elsewhere, so the minor-league experience is just as much about the silly antics … as it is about the game,” reports The Wall Street Journal. So it was all in good fun when the new owners of the Binghamton Mets, the Mets’ upstate Double-A affiliate, announced earlier this year that they would be rebranding the team, complete with a new name. They even gave local fans in this small city about 150 miles northwest of Manhattan some potential names to vote on.”

“What could possibly go wrong? … When it’s all said and done, Binghamton will be home to either the Bullheads, the Gobblers, the Rocking Horses, the Rumble Ponies, the Stud Muffins or the Timber Jockeys … The B-Mets hired a brand marketing firm, Brandiose, to help with the renaming project … They said the name options were culled from more than 1,500 fan suggestions that referred to something unique about the city. A Bullhead, for example, is a local catfish, while Gobblers “honors the outdoorsman lifestyle and turkeys who call Binghamton home.”

Owner John Hughes says: “The rebrand will have short-term repercussions, but what we’re looking for is establishing a long-term connection with fans … For the first time in a long time, Binghamton baseball is relevant.” Mets star David Wright says “if he were in Double-A he might have been happy about any name change simply because it would mean getting new uniforms to replace the old, ratty ones often found in the minors.”

Mets left-fielder Michael Conforto, who played for the B-Mets last season comments: “Maybe now I think it’s funny because I’m not there.”

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Treasure Hunt: The Joy is in the Journey

The Wall Street Journal: “The internet isn’t just a way to speed up the shopping experience; it is a tool to draw it out. Consumers enjoy the anticipation of a big-ticket item, in contrast to the quick fix that comes from an impulse purchase at an inexpensive, of-the-moment fashion chain … The result of all this due diligence: Shoppers are feeling much more satisfied with their purchases.”

“Stylitics, a fashion technology and analytics company, partnered with market research firm NPD Group to look at this behavior. Handbags are a natural fit for this thoughtful approach, as women seek to combine fashion with function. The study found roughly four in 10 women ages 18 to 34 said they started thinking about their most recent handbag purchase more than a month in advance. Six in 10 said browsing online stores was a major influencer in their handbag shopping.”

“Once shoppers go through the drawn-out process and make up their minds, they are happier. Handbag return rates at luxury online retailer Net-a-Porter are among the lowest across the site.”

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The Walmart Goliath

Quartz: “Walmart isn’t a unicorn, and it’s no longer sexy. But it is massive. With $482 billion in revenue, it sells more than Apple, Amazon and Microsoft put together, according to Fortune’s annual ranking of companies by revenue … It’s bigger than the No. 2 company, Exxon Mobil, and No. 3, Apple, combined. Its sales are greater than the GDP of Poland.”

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“The future of shopping may be online, with goods delivered via self-driving cars and drones. But will be a long time before anyone topples the Walmart goliath.”

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The Art of Hospitality Goes Local

The New York Times: “Seeking to appeal to guests’ desire for new experiences and stand out in a competitive market, hotel brand managers are mining their local art communities for everything from inspiration to installations … The evolution in how managers view hotel artwork is similar to the shift toward showcasing more local ingredients in hotel restaurants.”

“Experts say the roots of the trend — a preference for experiences over objects, a penchant for tagging and bragging on social media — started with millennials. But travelers of all generations are taking note and boasting online to their friends.”

“While many prominent examples of hotels’ investing in local art are at the high end of the spectrum, lower-priced chains are not ignoring the trend. Graduate Hotels, a six-hotel chain that started in 2014 whose target market is college towns, uses local art to help it stand out from comparably priced competitors like Best Western and Quality Inn.”

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‘Listening Guides’ Enhance Live Music

Creative Review: “The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘listening guides’ make use of symbols and morse code-like notation to aid the experience of a live performance … A deft mix of text and graphics, the guides can be read while listening to the performance, their layout visualising the thematic progression of the music, indicating the keys in use, what instruments feature and, using morse code-like notation, their duration.”

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“Guides of all types to aid listening and comprehension of symphonic music have existed since the mid-to-late 19th-century … the guides were created to help develop audience appreciation for the art form,” says Hannah Chan-Hartley, who created the guides.

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Project Pinnacle: Caddy Tests Virtual ‘Test Drive’

Wall Street Journal: “Buyers walking into a Cadillac dealer in the near future could find an interesting thing on the car lot: nothing … Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen will this month begin looking for commitments from some store owners willing to set up showrooms where buyers can get a car serviced or learn about products via virtual reality headsets without getting behind the wheel. Driving off immediately with a new vehicle will be impossible because these stores won’t have inventory.”

“Virtual stores are a part of ‘Project Pinnacle,’ an extensive retail-strategy overhaul by Mr. de Nysschen,” who “is revamping the way the company compensates its dealers by rewarding them less on the basis of vehicles sold … and more on the way those dealers mimic better performing luxury brands with perks such as free roadside assistance. Those who do adopt the virtual model will have tester cars on site, which can be loaned to people getting their car serviced or used in test drives.”

“Auto makers have long flooded dealer lots for two reasons: car companies book revenue on production volumes, not retail sales. An overabundance of output can boost revenue, and the problem can be taken care of later via discounts or production cuts. Car buyers are also used to having ample selection to choose from. Mr. De Nysschen says this isn’t the case with luxury car buyers. He said: ‘I don’t think Hermès or Rolex are famous because they have a sale every month. They have brand cachet’.”

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