Friday, March 17, 2006

Rule #243.2: The Internet forces the Real World to be More Interesting

I seem to be in a nostalgic mood lately, seeing things in a semi-long view. It may be due to the job change, but a lot of news seems to stretch my mind back to the really incredible thoughts that were born back when all this Internet stuff was brand new.

In that vein, there's a story on CNN/Money about a European chain that blends electronics and luxury items with (what else) coffee. It put me in the mind of a idea-thread launched many years ago by a book called the Experience Economy. The book sort of dismissed the Internet, which was unfortunate (and actually takes a sort of odd, metaphysical turn toward the end). But the idea was that retail was going to need to shift away from selling stuff to selling experiences.

Though not mentioned in the book, the best example of this (to me) is Old Navy. Certainly you buy clothes there. But the prices, the design, the ads, and the promotions (i.e. item of the week) clearly say that they are selling Shopping. The stuff you buy is practically a souvenir. The appeal seems to be toward younger people who want the experience of shopping, but don't have the ability (w/o credit cards, transportation) to indulge completely.

At the time, the theory was given a bit of a boost: we figured that the broad availability of products online, at easily compared prices, would force retailers into a corner. There would need to be a more compelling reason for people to come to the store than simply the products.

The fact that this story brings this store to light is, I think, evidence that this idea is still sound. There has to be a point to being in a store...making it an experience in some way certainly answers that need.
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