Showing posts with label eCommerce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eCommerce. Show all posts

May 26, 2018

Amazon's Dangerous Genius

I am marveling at the Genius of Amazon and Jeff Bezos but also concerned about their future direction. 

Traditionally, they have invested for the long-haul!

For years, Amazon never made a dime, actually operating at a loss.

But all the time making long-term investments in infrastructure (warehouses, supply chain, logistics, etc.) and in customer acquisition. 

Their great selection, reasonable pricing, free shipping, and easy return policy lured hundreds of millions of people to drop the brick-and-mortar stores and even other online retailers to go Amazon all the way. 

Most people I know get virtually everything and anything on Amazon these days. 

Of course, the fear always was that Amazon would become such a dominant player and monopoly that no one else could compete. 

For a long time, they didn't even charge sales tax!

It seems people can't even imagine not having Amazon--where in the world would they shop and get all their stuff in 2-days or less (Prime Customers) and still be able to return all the crap they don't even want. 

So here is the rub.

Now that Amazon is so dominant, guess what?  They are raising the Prime Rates and cutting back on returns--with customers actually being banned for returning too much. 

Ah, the lure, bait and switch. 

Amazon got us all as their slave customers--and we let them and love them for it. 

And after they snared us with all the convenience and security of being able to return stuff, they pull the rug and what can you do, but cry foul?

I love Amazon for their genius and what they have done for eCommerce, but I don't like that they've built in a sense a dark empire to prey on their loyal customer base. 

Mr. Bezos, here is my message to you...

Please stay true to your ideals of customer-centricity and long-term investment in the company that has been the foundation for what you have built into such a retail juggernaut.  

Keep valuing your customers and serving them well and not trading them in for short-term profit gain.

In the end, that is a winning strategy that won't land you in either regulatory hell and/or antitrust action to then force you to bend your knee or your ultimate breakup. 

Remember, you have one chance to make the right decision for Amazon or I fear that it's not product returns that you'll be for long worrying about. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 11, 2017

Amazon + Teva = A Marriage Made In Heaven


Amazon has upended so many industries--and you can basically buy almost anything there.

And yes, what you can't buy today, you will be able to buy tomorrow. 

What started as books and DVDs is now virtually synonymous with e-Commerce itself!
Next up for Amazon is pharmaceuticals!

Some people may think that Whole Foods gives Amazon the footprint it needs to sell these and dominate.

But what people aren't considering is that Amazon can sell the pharmaceuticals online.

Amazon can do what other online drug distributors can't.

Why?

Because Amazon has the most unbelievable distribution network in the world. 

Currently, people can order drugs through the mail, but these tend to be for regular reoccurring prescriptions that have lead time. 

However, Amazon can outdo these mail order pharma companies, because they can get you the drugs you need when and where you need it. 

- You don't feel well and can't make it to CVS, Amazon will deliver to your door. 

- Need same-day delivery, no problem. 

- Plus do all your shopping together in one fell timesaving swoop. 

My prediction: 
Amazon the low cost, efficient online seller of everything to everywhere is going to partner with Teva Pharmaceuticals, the #1 world leader in low cost generic drugs.

Teva already produces 120 billion tablets and capsules every year, operates in 80 countries, and currently fills 1 in 6 generic prescriptions in the U.S. 
Together, Amazon and Teva can make beautiful music, that is medicine + money!

Who needs CVS when pharmaceuticals perhaps soon can be gotten at Whole Foods or at your Trusty Amazon.com.  

One more time, I see some radical disruption--and this time it will bring you cheaper and more convenient drugs--make a l'chaim to your health. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

(Endnote: I am a big fan + investor in Teva, and of course, all opinions here are my own.)
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February 23, 2017

No Smartphone, No Life

So we are utterly and helplessly dependent on our smartphones and mobile communications.

If our enemies strike our communications networks, we are as good as dead. 

Can you imagine the panic and chaos that would ensue?

Cut off from family, friends, and colleagues.

Unable to get unto the Internet!

No eCommerce. 

No online Banking. 

No social networking.

No easily and readily available information.

No online music, videos, or gaming.


No online (fake) news. 

As you see in the photo, under the smashed smartphone...it says, "Disaster"!

We wouldn't know what to do with ourselves. 

And we wouldn't know how to conduct ourselves by ourself. 

We are completely dependent on mobile communications and connectivity to each other.

Without, we wither and die. 

And G-d created the marvels of the Heaven and Earth in 6 days. 

But we have become so tethered and dependent on our technology, we are toast in just a split second. 

If we don't get serious about cybersecurity, and fast, there is going to be hell on Earth to pay. 

And not a single shot needs to be fired. ;-)

(Source Photo: Rebecca Blumenthal)
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September 29, 2016

USA Surrendering The Internet

So here we go again, we cut off the hand (and arm) despite the face.

We are recklessly giving up control of the Internet, specifically of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Domain Names Servers (including all the DNS root zones like .com, .net, .gov, etc.) that handle all the addressing of our Internet traffic.

Despite repeated cautions from many in industry, academia, and government not to do this, we are moving ahead anyway with tomorrow being the transition date!

Why would we give away anything, let alone control over the awesome technological power of the Internet that we depend on in some way for virtually every activity we do these days?

Aside from non-explanations of "fulfilling historic promises" to cede control (i.e surrender the Internet out of fear that other countries will challenge us and set up their own alternate DNS's) and nonsensical talk of "protecting Internet freedom" by giving it away to authoritarian regimes and despots--there seems to be no REAL reason to do this drastic action that weakens our country and puts our technology, commerce, critical infrastructure, and national security at risk!

Rather than defend the Internet that the USA invented (specifically DARPA), here we go again in fear and weakness going in the wrong direction--surrendering and giving up control of the web.

If you love the Internet and recognize how important this asset is to us, then like an FCC Commissioner said this week, you should be worried about what the h*ck we are doing to the freedom (vice censorship) of the Internet and to ourselves . ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 11, 2016

Transitioning To Virtual Ease and Triviality

I took this photo a few weeks ago on the streets in Washington, D.C.

This was a huge box from eBay coming to someone.

In my building, they recently built an extra storeroom for all the deliveries that are coming everyday--there is no where to put all of them.


While today in the Wall Street Journal, even the revered retailer of Herald Square, Macy's, had their stock price shed half it's value in the last year, and other big box retailers are hurting just as bad. 

eCommerce is threatening the very survival of brick and mortal retailers, as they are seriously eating their lunch--and breakfast and dinner too!

But this is part of a much larger transition occurring from our physical to virtual worlds...

As we abandon department stores and the Mall for online shopping, 
movie theaters and playhouses for home theaters and video streaming, 
physical activities for gaming and virtual reality, 
and even factories and office work for telework and robots,  
soon we will have no real place to go and nothing to physically do. 

From the bed and couch to the computer and gym, like hamsters on the wheel of triviality, we might as well package ourselves up in the big eBay box and send ourselves to outer space--but only as long as we can get Internet access there. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 

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July 8, 2016

I'm Telling You They're Really New

So I ordered a pair of swim fins to replace a pair that recently ripped in the pool. 

I went online and ordered a brand NEW pair. 

A few days later, the fins arrive in an envelope (no box). 

Already sort of terrified at what I will find in this strange bag, I slowly open it up, and find a completely disgusting dirty, scuffed, USED pair of fins with no tags or packaging

Ew...I am so grossed out and contact the vendor right away to return these, but instead of customer service, I got a boat load of b.s. and chutzpah.

They made a million excuses, tried to make me feel bad, and basically refused to provide for a return, saying that the product is not really used, that it just got dirty in the mail and on the trucks and all, and I just have to clean them off a little!

When I question them about why there was no box or packaging, they say, "Oh that, well we take it out of the box, so we can ship it more cheaply for you

I said, "What right do you have to take it out of the packaging when I ordered it new--maybe I want the packaging or need to give the item as a gift?"

Then they go on to give me an ear-full about about the high cost of shipping and that I should thank them for removing the packaging to the keep costs down (but the problem is that they were trying to keep costs down in more ways than one here). 

They continue to berate me as well about how I should be more understanding as to the dirt and scuff marks, since it's no big deal, because when I put it in the pool, the water and the chlorine will wash it off and kill all the germs anyway!

After patiently taking this abuse for a while, I went online and saw that others had the same experience with this merchant--getting sent used goods in the mail that had been advertised and paid for as new.  

Now I had had it up to HERE, and I promptly did my duty and went online to give them an appropriate customer review to help others from getting cheated like this in the future. 

Guess what happens next? 

They email me to tell me that they took note of my feedback and not that they are sorry about what happened and want to fix it, but that "We will never ship to you again." 

My wife explodes laughing...mwahahahahaha--like who would ever want to go back and do more business with these crooks. 

People are absolutely crazy out there.

Caveat emptor (buyer beware) a million times.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 14, 2015

Smokem Peace Pipe

So we are almost all settled in our new place (now about 2 1/2 months)...

And in the kitchen, I am re-organizing one of the top cabinets. 

I reach in the very back, and I feel something all the way in the corner. 

I pick it up and pull it out, and it's this really weird looking smelly pipe. 

The pipe has a face on it and a blue and red stone above and below it. 

My wife says it looks like a peace pipe, although I've never really seen one of those before. 

There are no feathers or pictures of Indians on it, just this crazy-face staring up with crooked teeth and a big schnoz. 

Did someone actually smoke this thing? 

Ick, washed my hands like 3 times. 

Left it on the counter to show the rest of the family.

Throw that G-d darn thing out!

Dirty smokem peace pipe with ugly face heading down the garbage chute--wonder if I should've sold it on ebay. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 13, 2014

Smartphone Or Kitty Litter

Interesting...Bloomberg Businessweek ran a special anniversary issue with a countdown of the 85 most disruptive ideas (in the last 85 years), and guess where they think the smartphone fell in that?

#78!!! 


Right up there with the white board (#82) and good 'ol high frequency trading (#80).


But not as important as get this...the corporate campus (#77), the VCR (#74), Kitty Litter (#73), Singapore, literally--{Uh, and how about Israel?} (#71), bottled water (#56), High-fructose corn syrup (#48), Air Jordan sneakers (#45), Napster (#43), and junk bonds (#7).


They ranked the smartphone so low in disruption, even after giving it a two-page spread with no less than 32 "things the smartphone killed" and they probably missed a few hundred!


There is no need to list everything the smartphone does for you, because you use these functions every moment of every day


To most people now, the smartphone is one of their most prized possessions and they don't go anywhere without it and rarely do you see anyone not "on it." (Uh, I know more than a few people who even dropped them in the toilet!)


Honestly, Businessweek...I think you missed the significance of the smartphone big time. 


Yeah maybe Starbucks (#68) and the Pill (#9) are competitors, but not as important or disruptive as Kitty Litter...shame on you!  ;-)


(Source Photo: here with attribution to Lonely Bob)

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November 26, 2014

Goods AND Serices --> AMAZON

Really like what I read yesterday...Amazon is expanding from selling goods to also adding services.

Amazon is the #1 stop for just about any daily purchase (except things like cars and houses, which I think Amazon will eventually consider for an acquisition in the future as well). 

With their nearly effortless shopping experience, free shipping (for "Prime" customers), and easy returns, it is eCommerce as it was meant to be!

Now according to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is adding local service providers from plumbers to electricians.

The cross-selling possibilities are luring--so that as you purchase a household item, up pops local services providers for someone to install or service the item--it's all integrated.

Moreover, Amazon will do background checks on these service partners, determine if they have liability insurance, and offer a money-back guarantee on the services rendered (Oy vey to Craigslist and Angie's List).

Amazon is a brilliant retailer, once they have holodeck like virtual reality experience where you can simulate actually being next the goods to look at them, feel them, even try them (on), then we will achieve shopping nirvana and will never have to enter a Best Buy or other useless and obsolete bricks and mortar retailer again. ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Yo Mostro)

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November 9, 2014

Lowest Price Guaranteed!

So I bought a really comfy chair--everyone wants one of these. 

(Note: Pictured here is not the actual chair or store from my story today.)

Anyway, I was so happy thinking about how lush the sitting experience would be. 

Yes, the "retail price" seemed high, but I got the "Veterans Day discount" and then bargained some more. 

So I thought I probably did okay on the negotiation, especially since I was dealing with a major national brand.

Also, the contract/invoice had in writing a "lowest price guarantee"--so that if within 30 days, I found the chair for cheaper, the company "would gladly refund the difference in full"!

Sounds good, right?

But something wasn't feeling right and when I went home I had trouble sleeping--something seemed off with this purchase and this merchant. 

So in the morning, I checked online and found the exact same chair for almost $300 less!

Well, I headed straight to the store with a printout of the lower price I had found and promptly presented it to the store manager for the refund of the difference as promised.

But instead of the glad refund, I got stonewalled and the dumbest look on the store manager's face I have ever seen. 

He started the million excuses why he wouldn't refund the difference in price as promised. 

First he said, oh, the chair I found was a different color--I showed him the chair online and the one in his showroom, and they were the identical color and everything. 

Then, he goes for a second attempt, saying, uh the price guarantee doesn't apply to prices found at outlets, and I said where does the price I found say outlet anywhere? He couldn't find anything like that. 

So he tries a third time to get rid of me, and says, the merchandise has to be advertised under "the same terms and conditions," and it wasn't.  I said what terms and conditions weren't the same?  He said, well, they just weren't the same. 

At which point, he told me plain and simple that he wasn't going to refund the difference and that I should get out of the store. 

I won't tell you all the (legal) details how, but let's just say this guy was sorry for trying to do that...and I walked out with the price difference refunded. 

Buyer beware--lot's of crooks out there trying to take your money and giving guarantees that are complete b.s. 

This is probably especially the case with many brick and mortar retailers who are having serious problems competing with their significantly lower overhead online brethren. 

Beware--Beware--Beware!!! 

I learned again today and taught my daughter to stand up for what is rightfully yours and don't let anyone take advantage of you!  

You work for your money too and no one should cheat you out of it. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 16, 2014

There's No Line In Online

I loved the article in the Wall Street Journal By Andy Kessler. 

Kessler's point is that technology is all about convenience. 


The way I put it is that online, there is no line!


With technology, we can do things proverbially--better, faster, cheaper.


But so much of technology really is about doing things with the utmost convenience--that means that rather then spend time hunting or gathering, searching or shopping, traveling or transacting, gaming or gambling, we can go online and in Internet speed it's done!


The beauty of the Internet and technology is that there is no queue, no lines, no waiting--just lots of convenience mainly with point and click.  


I couldn't hate lines more--hate wasting time--hate doing stupid things that have no real meaning-->time is absolutely precious! 


We are mortal and one day, time stops for all of us, so we better use what we have well--use it wisely, not wastefully. 


When we have convenience from technology, we have to spend less time on the mundane and have more time to do the things we really enjoy or that can grow us.


So get the doldrums done quickly online, and spend more time with family and friends, on fitness, pursing spiritual matters, and even learning the secrets of the universe--and then blogging about them. 


Technology is a convenience and a true G-dsend. ;-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 25, 2014

What A Waste Of Coin

Coming to work this week, I saw a penny on the ground...then another...and another.

I saw people passing the money, and instead of picking it up, they kicked in off the curb.

That's even worse than throwing them into the fountain where at least you might get some good luck from it. 

Thus, the state of our minting of coinage--it's essentially worthless.

After getting a pretty basic Venti Java Chip at Starbucks for a whopping $5.45, I quickly calculated, I would need 545 pennies,109 nickles, 54.5 dimes, or 21.8 quarters o pay for this--how ridiculous!  

And uh, how many of these would you need to pay someone one hour at the new proposed minimum wage of $10.10 if you did it in coins?

Otherwise, I could just give them a credit or debit card--yes, sort of a no brainer, right?

Why do we keep making coinage that no one wants or needs in the digital age?

We have direct deposit for payroll, automatic deductions for many expenses, online banking, ecommerce , credit and debit cards, paypal, and even bitcoin...let's just be honest and admit it, traditional money is basically obsolete. 

At Starbucks, I see many people now just use their Smartphone App to pay and get rewards--another advance. 

Someday soon, we will have embedded chips that simply add and deduct payments as we go along and live life--it's really not all that complicated. 

The funny thing also is that it costs more to make many coins then their intrinsic worth--and hence the drive towards making coins with cheaper materials. 

According to Business Insider, in 2012, a penny cost 2.4 cents to make and a nickle 11.2 cents--quite a losing proposition. 

While there truly are some valuable coins out there and I appreciate that there are many coin lovers and collectors--numismatists--perhaps there are alternate hobbies to consider. 

A colleague once told me that "If you watch your pennies, the dollars will follow"--and that may be some good investement advice, but in a 24/7 society and after decades of inflation, there isn't enough time or room to collect all the pennies we would need to make much of a difference. 

ABC News reports that while our northern brother, Canada, got rid of the penny in 2012, we still make something like 5 billion of these useless things a year. 

Full disclosure: my first job in Washington, D.C. was for the U.S. Mint, and while there were good things about it, I could never feel good about the mission--it just had no purpose. ;-)

All Opinions my own.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Maura Teague)
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July 26, 2013

Sears Couldn't Sell An Appliance Let Alone A Rolex

So I was amazed at the depths to which Sears will go to try to save their horrible brand. 

The Wall Street Journal (21 July 2013) described how Sears online has started a marketplace where they are now hosting the selling of high-end goods at their low-end department store site. 

Sears which normally sells kitchen appliances, tools, and crappy clothing is now trying to market $33,000 Rolex watches and $4,400 Chanel handbags.  

Good luck to that after their failed 2005 merger of Sears and Kmart--as if combining two lousy companies make one good one.

Since 2005, the company revenue has steadily declined about 25% from $53 billion to $39.9 billion and they lost $4 billion in 2011-2012. Yeah, that today's Sears!

My own horrible experience with Sears:

I went online to order a range, and Sears botched the order over and over again and kept me holding endlessly throughout the miserable process and at each stage asking for my feedback and apparently doing nothing with it. 

Problem #1: It started out pretty simply--I asked for some guidance comparing a couple of models, chose one, and they entered my order. However, when I looked over the order, they had entered the incorrect delivery date--when I wasn't available. So I contacted Sears back to correct the mistake, but they couldn't get their system to reflect the correct date--it would only show the original incorrect date--and this is a multi-billion dollar company? But I shut an eye when a supervisor finally assures me that it will arrive on the correct date. 

Problem #2: The next day or so, I get a call from a Sears customer service representative who asks me whether I am the Andy located in XYZ (some G-d forsaken location)--ah, no! Well, they explain that's where they have my order shipping to. They can't explain how that happened, but promise Sears will fix it. 

Problem #3: This time, I get a call from the Sear's installation company. They are demanding that they will not come out to do the install unless I pay them a required inspection fee.  But I explain that my order from Sear expressly states that shipping and installation are FREE. Sorry, they tell me free is not free, and if I have a problem, here's a number to their national whatever line. 

Three strikes, Sears is out--I contact them to review what had happened and to cancel this order. They refuse to cancel it--again, I think to myself this is a multi-billion dollar company? Over and over again this goes on, until finally they agree to cancel the order and refund my money. 

All this nonsense literally wasted hours of my time.

Sears is no longer that brilliant mail order catalog of the early 20th century; now they are a dumpster diving junk company trying to sell brand stuff, but they are laggards to the brilliant Amazon and eBay retailers--and soon Sears will be out of business headed to the big retail trash bin of history. 

The Rolex watches and Chanel bags are just another Sears circus sideshow. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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June 29, 2013

Back To The Computer Stone Age

According to Charles Kenny in Bloomberg BusinessWeek (20 June 2013), the Internet is quite a big disappointment--because it "failed to generate much in the way of economic growth."

While on one hand, the author seems to see the impact that the Internet has had--"it sparks uprisings, makes shopping easier, help people find their soul mates, and enables government to collect troves of useful data on potential terrorists;" on the other hand, he pooh-poohs all this and says it hasn't generated prosperity. 


And in a sense, don't the facts seem to support Kenny: GDP is still in the 2-3% range, labor productivity growth is even lower, and unemployment is still elevated at over 7%?


The problem is that the author is making false correlations between our economic conditions and the rise of the Internet, which already Jack Welch pronounced in 2000 as "the single most important event in the U.S. economy since the industrial revolution." 


Kenny seems to think that not only aren't there that many economic benefits to the Internet, but whatever there is we basically squander by becoming Facebook and Youtube junkies.


It's a shame that Bloomberg BusinessWeek decided to publish such a ridiculous article as its "Opening Remarks," blaming the failure of the Internet for economic challenges that have been brewing for decades--with high-levels of debt, low levels of savings, hefty entitlement programs based on empty national trust funds, the global outsourcing of our manufacturing base, elevated political polarization in Washington, and various economic jolts based on runaway technology, real estate, and commodity bubbles.


It's concerning that the author, someone with a masters in International Economics, wouldn't address, let alone mention, any of these other critical factors affecting our national economy--just the Internet! 


Kenny adds insult to injury in his diatribe, when he says that the Internet's "biggest impact" is the delivery of "a form of entertainment more addictive than watching reruns of Friends."


Maybe that's the biggest impact for him, but I think most of us could no longer live seriously without the Internet--whether in how we keep in touch, share, collaborate, inform, innovate, compute, buy and sell, and even entertain (yes, were entitled to some downtime as well). 


Maybe some would like to forget all the benefits of technology and send us back to the Stone Age before computing, but I have a feeling that not only would our economy be a lot worse than it is now, but so would we. :-)


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)



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December 16, 2012

Amazon Will Bury Walmart

I've never seen the great allure of Walmart. Actually before I moved from NYC to the DC area more than a decade ago, I had never even seen a Walmart--and that was just fine. 

But I had heard these amazing tales of how they were superstores with everything you could ever want and at low prices and the shopping experience was supposed to be, oh what a delight!

So I cannot tell you my utter disappointment the first time I went to Walmart--shabby storefronts, elderly door greeters handing out store circulars and stickers, messy aisles and shelves, with low price tags on a swirling everything, and sort of the image of crummy leftover merchanidse throughout, and top that off with pushing crowds trying to save a couple of bucks on the junk. 

Let's just say, I'm not running back to Walmart, especially when we have online shopping experiences like Amazon--now that is much closer to nirvana. 

No drive, no crowds, no wait, no up and down the aisles looking for what you want, no shlepping, and no in your face "everyday low prices" image and we won't let you forget it--instead easy to find, interesting, varied, and quality merchandise of all types, at reasonable prices, with an easy checkout process, home delivery, free shipping, and easy returns. 

And as opposed to Walmart which is stuck in costly and inconvenient large brick and mortar stores, Amazon is investing in infrastructure of the future with convenient warehouse and delivery centers throughout the country, and more recently with their purchase of Kiva Systems in March 2012 for implementing robotics in their fulfillment centers. 

On top of it, Walmart (with nearly 2.2 million employees worldwide) in its endeavor to keep prices low, have spun up their workforce with jobs--that are often part time and unpredictable, low wage, lacking proper benefits, unsafe working conditions, and with questionable advancement opportunties (especially for women). Throw on top of that bribery allegations for which they've hired a new complaince officer. Yet, Walmart has also somehow managed to keep their workforce from unionizing to improve things. 

So how should we say this: how about straight out--Amazon gets it and Walmart does not!

And while Walmart has their own .com site--which coincidentally looks very much like Amazon's--Amazon is eating Walmart's lunch online, with according to NBC News a 41% revenue increase for Amazon's online sales versus just 3.4% for Walmart's. Moreover, Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 March 2012) reports that Walmart's 2011 online sales amounted to less than 2% of their U.S. sales--they just can't seem to make the digital transformation!

So While overall Amazon sales at $48 billion are still only about 1/9 of Walmart colossal $419 billion, Amazon with it's high-tech approach (including their successful Kindle eReaders, cloud computing, and more) is anticipated to reach $100 billion in online sales by 2015

Like the other big box retailers of yore, Kmart, Sears, JC Penny, Circuit City, Best Buy, and more, Walmart will decline--it will just take a little longer and with a little more thrashing, because of the size of their checkbooks.  

Perhaps, as the New York Times implied years ago (17 July 2005) only stores like Costco (and throw in Nordstroms as well) with their tall aisles stocked neatly with quality goods, at low prices, and with better human capital ethos, will survive the big box retailer Armageddon.

My prediction is that within a generation Amazon will bury Walmart, if not literally so they are out of business, then figuratively with the best and most lucrative online shopping experience around--and as for the matchup betweent them, it won't even be close.  ;-)

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Fuschia Foot)
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October 13, 2012

Amazing Internet Statistics 2012

Star_wars
So what happens in only 1 minute on the Internet--this cool magazine Ideas and Discoveries (October 2012) provides some amazing examples:

- Information Sharing--639,800 gigabytes of data are exchanged
- Information Generation--6 new Wikipedia articles are created
- Information Visualization--20,000,000 photo looked at on Flickr
- eMail--204,000,000 emails are sent
- eCommerce--$83,000 of sales on Amazon
- Social Networking--320 new users on Twitter and 100 on LinkedIn (wonder how many for Facebook...)
- Cyber Crime--20 new victims of identity theft

And in the same month, Harvard Business Review reported on the growing significance to commerce with the Internet contributing to GDP (in 2010) as much as:

- 8.3% in the UK
- 7.3% in South Korea
- 5.5% in China
- 4.7% in the US
- 4.7% in Japan
- 4.1% in India

Moreover in HBR, this is what was reported that people are willing to give up instead of the Internet for a year--and the numbers are pretty startling--check this out:

- 91% of UK would give up fast food
- 89% of Indonesians would give up smoking
- 86% of Japanese would give up chocolate
- 85% of Chinese would give up coffee
- 78% of Indonesians would give up their shower
- 60% of Japanese would give up exercise
- 56% of Chinese would give up their car
- 56% of Japanese would give up sex--go figure! ;-)

While this is all sort of light, there is also a very seriousness dimension to this. For example, in the Wall Street Journal today, it quotes Secretary of Defense, Leon Paneta warning that with Iran's digital assault on the U.S., the concerns of cyberwar are growing with the SecDef going so far as to say "Is there a cyberwar going on? It depends on how you define war."

Yes, the Internet is amazing for so many reasons and we can't take it for granted--we need to be vigilant and defend the Internet (cyber) with the same zeal and commitment as the other domains of war--land, sea, and air--all are vital to national security and for the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This is a lesson we need to learn quickly and decisively--before the old Star Wars is passe and cyberwar turns deadly. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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July 19, 2012

What's The Internet Worth To You?



What a great question--what's the Internet or your Smartphone worth to you? 

Most people seems to say they wouldn't give these up--not even for a million dollars! 

Maybe $15-20 million--enough to never have to work again. Okay, now you're getting closer. 

Nah, I want a billion dollars to give up the Internet--that's what some people responded.

For me, I'm not certain even a billion dollars could keep me off the Internet--but I could certainly try it for a few days.

Being able to communicate, connect, learn, share, and transact online is like air and water to us now-a-days--an absolute necessity for modern survival. 

Without being able to do these things, you may as well be on a stranded island--you may own that Island (like Larry Ellison who bought the 6th largest Hawaiian Island of Lanai) and it may be quite a nice one at that, but you'll still be quite secluded and alone in the Internet age. 

Yes, the Internet and all we get from it costs only pennies on the millions (and/or billions) of dollars worth we each receive from it--and that's why on some things you cannot put a price tag. 

We're in this world to learn and grow and for that we need other people far and wide--either that or you'll need to have one heck of a big and non-stop party at home in paradise. ;-)

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April 10, 2010

Knowing Who Your Friends Are

You’re on the Internet doing your business, but who is at the other end and how do you know that you can trust them?

That is what so called Reputation Systems are all about—creating mechanisms to authenticate the identities of partners online and measure just how trustworthy they are or aren’t.

Some familiar examples of reputation systems include everything from scores for vendors on Amazon or eBay to activity statistics on Twitter to recommendation distinctions on LinkedIn to networks on Facebook.

The idea is that we measure people’s trustworthiness through the number of transaction they conduct, reviews and recommendations they receive, and associations they keep.

These are all instances of how we unmask the identities and intent of those we are dealing with online—we obtain 3rd party validation. For example, if a vendor has hundreds or thousands of transactions and a five star rating or 99% positive reviews or is a select member of a power seller” network or other select organization, we use that information of past performance to justify our current or future transactions or associations with them.

MIT Sloan Management Review, Spring 2010, has an article about reputation systems called “Online Reputation Systems: How to Design One That Does What You Need.”

According to the article, reputation systems are “the unsung heroes of the web,” because “they play a crucial role is building trust, promoting quality, improving collaboration and instilling loyalty.”

Without some way of knowing whom we are sending a credit card payment to, friending, or chatting with on the Internet, we would be violating the cardinal rule of safety that our parents and teachers taught us from the earliest time that we could understand that you “don’t talk to strangers.”

I remember a very good video for children produced by Service Corporation International (SCI) called “Escape School,” which taught just such lessons by Bob Stuber a former police officer and child safety expert.

Even as we grow up though the dangers from people criminals and predators still exist; hopefully we are a little older and wiser in recognizing it and dealing with it, but this is not always the case.

For example with online dating networks, people sometimes pretend that they are a rich brain surgeon or the proverbial “tall, dark, and handsome” physique to lure someone on a date, only to be exposed for who they really are upon the first date.

People are inherently driven to connect with others, and online we are able to connect easier then ever before—with people from all over the globe, virtually anytime of the day or night—and it is often tempting to let our heart lead and dismiss any concerns about who we are dealing with. Further, the veil of anonymity online seems to only heighten the opportunities for abuse.

The dangers of people pretending to be something they are not and the need for recognizing whom we are dealing with is an age old problem that society struggled with—from the snake oil salesman of time past to those occasional dishonest vendor on sites like eBay today.

The MIT article states “Small, tightly knit communities arguably do not need central reputation systems, since frequent interactions and gossip ensure that relevant information is known to all. [However,] the need for a central system increases with the size of the community and the lack of frequent interaction among members. In web-based communities with hundred or thousands of members, were most members typically know each other only virtually, some form of reputation system is always essential.”

Predators act out online everyday using social engineering to trick people into divulging personnel or organizational information, getting them to send money (like the fake emails from Nigeria or a lottery) or sending out malware when you click on the link that you know you shouldn’t be doing.

Another example with children is evident on NBC Dateline’s “To Catch A Predator” series where Chris Hansen stakes out the child predators who arrange meetings with kids in chat rooms on the Internet and then make their appearance at their homes or other meeting spots. Child predators prey on the fact that the children online don’t realize who they are dealing with and what their evil intentions are. Thank G-d, law enforcement and NBC has been able to turn the tables on some of these predators when law enforcement is pretending to be the vulnerable kids in order to catch the predators---who are fooled into thinking they are talking to children, only to be caught often literally “with the pants down.”

Whether we are socializing online, surfing the Net, or conducting some form of ecommerce, we must always pay attention to the identification and reputation on those we deal with. As the MIT article points out, with reputation systems, we can use ratings, ranking, and endorsements to build up information on ourselves and on others to build trust, promote quality, and sustain loyalty.

Of course, even with reputation systems, people try to manipulate and game “the system,” so we have to be ever vigilant to ensure that we are not duped by those hiding their true intentions or pretending to be somebody or something they are not.

As social creatures, optimists, and those of faith, we are tempted to just trust, but I prefer the motto of “trust and verify.”


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December 19, 2008

A Productivity Boost and Enterprise Architecture

For years, the IT industry has been putting out more and more devices to help us communicate, access and analyze information, conduct eCommence, be entertained, and generally increase productivity. To do these things, we have desktops, landlines, laptops, tablets, handhelds, cellphones, pagers, and all the application systems, social media, and internet to run on them. And for the organization, the CIO has been central to evaluating, planning, implementing, and maintaining these technologies.

You would think with all these tools for managing information, our lives would be simpler, more straightforward, and ever more carefree. Isn’t that what “tools” are supposed to do for people?

Well, think about your own life. Is your life less hectic with all the IT tools? Do you have more time to focus on what you’re working on? How’s your work-life balance?

If you are like most people these days, the answer is likely that you are more frantic and are trying to more things at the same time than ever before—almost driving yourself crazy, at times, to keep up.

The Wall Street Journal, 15 December 2008 had a book review by Christopher Chabris on “The Overflowing Brain.”

Here’s an excerpt of the review that I believes tells the story well:

“Take a look at your computer screen and the surface of your desk. A lot is going on. Right now, I count 10 running programs with 13 windows on my iMac, plus seven notes or documents on my computer desk and innumerable paper piles, folders, and books on my ‘main’ desk, which serves primarily as overflow space. My 13 computer windows include four for my internet browsers, itself showing tabs for 15 separate Web pages. The task in progress, in addition to writing this review…include monitoring three email accounts, keeping up with my Facebook friends, figuring out how to wire money into one of my bank accounts, digging into several scientific articles about genes, checking the weather in the city I will be visiting next week and reading various blogs, some which are actually work-related. And this is at home. At the office, my efforts to juggle these tasks would be further burdened by meetings to attend, conference calls to join, classes to teach, and co-workers to see. And there is still the telephone call or two—one of my three phone lines (home, office, mobile).”

Does this ring a bell for anybody? Dare I say that this is the reality for more of us these days.

So has IT (and the CIOs of our time) succeeded in giving us the technologies we need and want?

Well let’s look at what we said earlier were goals of IT—communication, information, commerce, entertainment, and productivity. Yep, we sure have all of these—big time!

Great, let’s just stop here at the outputs of technology and claim victory for our CIOs and the society we’ve created for ourselves.

But wait, what about the simpler, straightforward, and carefree parts—the anticipated outcomes, for many, of IT—shouldn’t we all be breathing a little easier with all the technology tools and new capabilities we have?

Ah, here’s the disconnect: somehow the desired outputs are NOT leading to the outcomes many people had hoped for.

One possible answer is that we really don’t want simple and carefree. Rather, in line with the ‘alpha male theory,’ we are high achievers, competitive, and some would even say greedy. And all the IT in the world just pours oil on our fire for doing and wanting more, more, more.

As many of us take some time off for the holidays and put our feet up for a week or two, we realize how much we look forward to some peace and quiet from all the helpful technology that surrounds us every day. But at the end of a few weeks, most of us are ready to go back to work and go crazy again with all our technology-driven productivity.

On a more serious note, from an enterprise architecture perspective, one has to ask if all this running around is leading to a strategic, desirable result in our personal and professional lives or is it just business for business sake, like technology for technology sake.


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