Much was made this last week over United Parcel Service’s (UPS) failure to deliver packages before Christmas. The media seemed to border on delight in sharing the stories of customers who were upset that their packages didn’t arrive in time. As I heard these stories played over and over again I kept wondering how we got to this point. Last minute shoppers who were Amazon Prime members could order their gifts on December 22nd and still expect them to be delivered anywhere in the country before Christmas with free two-day shipping. But when some gifts didn’t arrive in time who’s to blame – the retailer, the shipper, or us, the consumer?
SimonDelivers had launched as a online grocery delivery business in 1999 at the height of the Dot.com boom. By 2001 many of their competitors had imploded in the Dot.com bust. Miraculously SimonDelivers had managed to be one of the few that weathered the storm only to be later caught up in the real estate bust of 2008. Often times we can learn more from failures of others than from their successes. This story is a glimpse into the lessons learned from the failure of SimonDelivers.
A few weeks ago I wrote a post on how Jeff Bezos creates opportunity for vast discovery at Amazon (my post Amazon Drives Innovation by Creating Opportunities for Vast Discovery). I had actually been working on this post at the time when I found a great quote from Bezos on the culture of “pioneering” that he was trying to create at Amazon. It made for such a great story that I just had to run with it and push this story aside. Well, Bezos has done it again. He threw the world another curveball yesterday with the announcement that he is purchasing The Washington Post for $250 million. The pundits are in a whirlwind discussing whether or not Bezos will be successful with this big gamble. Knowing Bezos and his long-term orientation I would give him better odds than most that he will find success.
Last week I was in a golf tournament for my college fraternity Beta Theta Pi and had the pleasure of being grouped with several current students. After a few stories of debauchery and crazy antics from over twenty years ago we got on to the subject of careers. One of the students mentioned that he was majoring in Information Systems which also was my undergraduate degree. The discussion triggered a flashback of the amazing amount of discovery that seemed to be bombarding me at that time in my life. Looking back over my “career path” I now realize how I have continually struggled to maintain that extraordinary sense of discovery I felt then.
Almost nine years ago I had reentered the retail business after a fourteen year hiatus. The company I joined was just beginning a zealous journey to focus on the customer. The entire organization was determined to be more “customer centric” in every decision they made. They had gone so far as to identify six demographic target profiles that they were going to cater to. The goal was to get intimately familiar with each of these customer segments so that we could offer them the “best” and most appropriate goods and services. Some of those goods and services were already available but we were not aware of which customers needed them or why. In other circumstances we needed to be more innovative and seek out or create new products or service offerings. As we sought to delight the customer, we assumed that they would reciprocate by buying more or at least more profitable goods and services.
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