Are retailers caught in a content trap?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.
Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand has pinpointed some of the key reasons why traditional businesses, including retail, have found it so difficult to find their footing in a digital-first world. Too many companies fall into what he calls the “content trap.”
In his book of the same name, Prof. Anand writes that, rather than focusing on the new world of connections that digital enables, companies remain fixated on the content they produce: a news story, a song, a taxi ride — and, in the case of retail, the products they sell.
“When digital came along, its power seemed to be about creating reach,” Prof. Anand said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. The ability to reach consumers “multiplied” significantly versus the analog world.
But what was different about digital technology versus, for example, television and radio, was its impact on user connections.
“It changed the hub-to-spoke model,” said Prof. Anand. “Traditionally a company was the hub, producing content (or a product) and distributing it to the spokes — viewers or customers. Digital increased the number of spokes, but now a spoke could interact back with the hub. They could be part of creating content or a product.”
Moreover, “The spokes could now talk to each other. That’s what many organizations still miss: the user connections — user-to-company or user-to-user.”
Some retailers are in a “better position” to adjust to the content trap. For instance, Home Depot emphasizes curation, advice and inspiration in its stores and Best Buy has added strong service components to its product offerings with its Geek Squad.
Part of the challenge is that many businesses view the new technologies as “substitutive” to the original analog or physical product rather than “complementary” with an ability to enhance it. Retailers are also “still so product-focused versus customer-focused,” and adapting involves a shift in mindset toward creating connections.
Prof. Anand said, “The real role is curating, or serving as a platform, and recognizing that other people are creating as well.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why do you think retailers have been challenged adapting to co-creation — two-way dialogue that defines the digital-first world? Do you see something particular to retail that is inhibiting change?