Posted in Management, Research, Strategy

Net Success or Gross Failure

When I migrated to Australia, my dream job was to run the e-commerce initiatives for a shopping centre group. E-commerce because that was the future, shopping centres because they were ideally positioned to capitalise on the future.
I was right about e-commerce. I was wrong about shopping mall owners.
I strived to internally ‘position’ myself as someone who had a handle on the internet thingy. This was in 1999. (See image attached from my file manager.)
I wrote a thinkpiece on the topic that I circulated to a few decision makers.
Eventually I got the job I wanted, a few years later, but I was in charge of unwinding everything.
The document started like this:

The are many very smart minds out there all figuring how to make a buck on the Net. So far, the success rate is 0; zero, zilch, nada, nothing. There are many companies with high stock values where investors are betting a bucket-load of money on several companies who still have not made a dime. There is no reason why e-commerce ventures should be given more time than any other business to ‘prove’ themselves. Bad business is bad business.

Before looking at the keys to success, one should answer the big picture question first, and that is whether the question is worth asking and answer is worth seeking? That is:

Is the Internet really worth pursuing as a business opportunity, or is just another piece of technology that is basically like VCRs or mobile phones merely another new business segment that will create a new industry segment, but does not substantially alter the way we do business in other industries?

In order to answer this question about the future, we can only go back to the past to attempt to answer the question. What are the definitive events that revolutionised an era and changed the fabric of society fundamentally, unequivocally and eternally. 

I went on to discuss the chimney, the wheel and the router. (It makes sense when you read it.)
And then I came up with the 5 rules of eCommerce success (bearing in mind the industry – and that it is 1999):
  1. Give up control
  2. The key resource: People
  3. The same rules apply
  4. Connect, converse, convert
  5. Forget research

This was 1999.

I also identified what I thought the changes for shoppiing centre landlords might be:

 

  1. It will continue to exist, but its income will be derived from different sources.
  2. It will increasingly become entertainment destinations & showrooms making money by charging admissions rather than selling goods. That is, it will sell a ‘service’ and not necessarily the goods.
  3. The shape of the stores will change as the function that the stores fulfil change.
  4. Back-of-house activities like delivery logistics will become a more important function.
  5. The dumb-bell effect where the smallest convenience centres and the largest regionals flourish and grow, and the mid-sized community centres are squeezed out of existence except for speciality/themed centres that have some niche or novelty value.

 

Did I mention that this was in 1999?

 

Before Cluetrain was read (I think it was published in 1999 too).

You can download the full 7 page document here. (Scroll to the bottom of the list. Document is titled: Net Success or Gross Failure.)
How do you think I did? with my predictions?
How do you think the Landlords would have done if they stuck with the strategy?
What is the future? 
What is your current strategy – if you have one?
And tell me again, how do you think I did 😉
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