Business successes and failures – blockchains are changeable, sentient AI is questionable, and retailers face loyalty and pricing tensions

Main Story – Will the holidays spur the collapse of the vaccine economy?

My POV: Shopping behavior is elusive: Yes, consumers have returned to stores, but they are scared off by inflation.

Consumers are looking for digital convenience, not long lines and out-of-stock shelves. Can the holidays bring joy to retail adversity? Stuart analyzes the first data in Plan early for Christmas! Salesforce research suggests the retail holiday season in the vaccine economy remains complex. Is slowing digital sales growth an early warning signal for the holidays? Not necessarily, says Stuart:

These levels of growth were never going to be sustained once customers could walk the real-world aisles again. Rob Garf, general manager of retail at Salesforce, notes that, based on research data, the first quarter saw a 3% decline in digital growth.

Stuart quotes Garf:

Looking at this in isolation, you’re like, ‘Wow, digital growth is over. It’s behind us!’. That’s not necessarily true… What’s important to remember here is that this negative 3% growth is based on a first quarter of 2021 of triple-digit growth across many categories.We are looking at a high baseline.

This, however, puts pressure on retailers. Go digital, right? Get stores, right? Not enough. Merge the two. The potential gain? “Garf says retailers with a physical presence will grow 1.5 times faster than those without.” Stuart:

The challenge now, as stated many times on diginomica, is to achieve that elusive omnichannel balance between online and offline, with brick-and-mortar stores heavily back in the mix.

How should we apply this to vacation expectations? Factors include:

  • Expect a longer-than-ever holiday shopping season, rather than a “Black Friday” style explosion.
  • Expect a discount environment this year, with inventory levels higher than in recent years.
  • Want “loyalty? Set the right price – consumers are more price-conscious than ever.

Yes, we may see some early holiday-related NFT efforts, although consumers are still in the early stages of NFT awareness, don’t expect a big surge in holiday NFTs (looks like I still have a year before I had to explain NFTs to my mother). Sustainability, however, is now on the table: according to Salesforce research, 83% will look for sustainable brands and products. But how will this square with price sensitivity? Stuart quotes Garf:

Sustainability is a hot topic, but retailers and consumers don’t always put their money where they say it does. But what we find is that it drives loyalty or at least influences the purchase decision.

A holiday season full of known unknowns, then. We can expect something different, that’s for sure.

Diginomica Picks – my top stories on diginomica this week

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here are my top three picks from our provider coverage:

New customer use cases – and lessons learned:

Noteworthy quote:

Since Ocado does not use third-party technology, it now owns the development of its retail data platform. With the third-party technology it previously used, Ocado had no control over what it put in the tool, how it looked, and what it offered to vendors. The Tableau-driven platform is much more customizable and supports rapid changes. Johnson gave the example of the company wanting to focus on a specific operational KPI, such as availability.

A few other vendor choices, without the quotes:

Jon’s handbag – Derek reports on a major global infrastructure game in G7 leaders announce $600 billion global infrastructure and investment plans. Neil wonders why lessons about events aren’t applied intelligently in Are virtual lectures on the way out?

Finally Brian has an ice bucket challenge for service businesses advises clients to refine their IS assessments in Big changes in professional services and their clientele – are you asking the right questions? (This week, I also released the podcast version of our previous analysis on this topic, with Brian Sommer and Bonnie Tinder, Why Aren’t Service Companies Part of the Transformation They Provide?)

The best of business web

My top seven

  • Pentagon Findings Regarding Blockchain Vulnerabilities – As I said on Twitter, while these findings aren’t true for all blockchains (and I suspect they aren’t), I hope this puts some no more absurd techno drive assertions of “immutability”.
  • TikTok Says It’s Placing New Limits on Chinese Workers’ Access to US User Data – Yes, TikTok is quite far from the business (except for B2C marketers), but that’s part of a story broader on data privacy across borders – and how hard it is to nail down.
  • Cruise’s Self-Driving Cars Begin Offering Rides to Paying Passengers – Given the recent PR successes of self-driving cars (including the broadsides in this column), I have to acknowledge this milestone. Even though a San Francisco taxi that can only travel on certain roads is quite inconvenient, a technical achievement is a technical achievement.
  • Top 4 Software Selection Pitfalls – Third Stage Consulting publishes field-tested advice:

    When you start a software selection process, you need to be very clear about the different indicators or key performance measures (KPIs) you want to measure and see the progress made with this new software. As an organization, ask yourself:

    Does the software give us what we need as a single organization?
    Does achieving cost-benefit make sense?

  • Supply chain leaders, chained to tradition, facing the whip – Lora Cecere makes her triumphant return with a generally understated title (and essential reading, which I found once I created a custom RSS feed so I can follow his posts again, now that his site’s RSS feed is gone (sigh)).

  • “Sensitivity” is the wrong discussion to have about AI right now – I won’t lie, I find “is AI sentient?” debate to be popcorn-fun. But when you already have ethically problematic AI systems operating at scale, sensitivity is definitely not the right place to focus on.


Brian Sommer unleashed a vigorous exorcism of PR buzzwords this week:

My contribution, “immutable” is posted above. Then you have to take the art of the possible and inflate it with helium to see how high it will float above reality:

Then there’s this one via pal (and corporate video mentor) Brent Leary I always forget to include:

Hey, maybe it’s an amazing time to be on CNN, but it helps if you actually have a job there… See you next time.

If you find a #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses – good or bad – let me know in the comments like Clive (almost) always does. Most articles on Enterprise successes and failures are selected from my @jonerpnewsfeed.

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