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Thinking Inside the Box: Cross Channel Time

March 1, 2014
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Say “cross channel” to anyone in Europe, and their first thought always used to be someone is going to either swim from France to England, or vice versa. Then it became about who would co-ordinate how to agree how to build the tunnel under the English Channel.

For some time now, it has been more about how Tesco Direct was “diverting” customer traffic away from stores to the small army of vans crisscrossing the United Kingdom and making home deliveries.

We are seeing this so much more in North America and in other parts of the world. It is widely reported that Peapod, Fresh Direct, Safeway, Wal-Mart and others are aggressively moving to the online sector. Smaller groups are frantically trying to do whatever they can to link up with mobile customers. Order and drive through to pick up is a stop gap, but the fast-growing cohorts of consumers with no time to shop, but plenty of time to roam electronically, is a developing threat to our business if we are stuck to the time-honored mantra of location3. On top of all this, we see AmazonFresh with reported sights on 40 U.S. markets (and maybe 1 Canadian) this year. Add the drones to that, and where are we?

It has never been more important than now to reconsider what products we are developing in our store brand portfolios. Amazon will likely not have “Food You Feel Good About,” “Simple Truth,” “Greenwise,” “O Organics,” “Kirkland Signature” or “President’s Choice Decadent.” Their drones will not be dropping “Great Value” or “Ol’ Roy” on your doorstep anytime soon. So what to do?

Reconsider your entire approach to product and brand development. If your old tested-and-true strategy of good, better, best was OK yesterday, then give it some new thought. As we have seen for the last 20 years, anyone can imitate the two- or three-tier strategy. Hire a few store brand team members from someone that does it well, get yourself a list of suppliers and a good design firm, and “voilà!” you have a good imitative program. But now what? More of the same? Maybe not. If we expect Amazon and the others that emerge in this space to not do what many of us have been doing for years, then our space is ripe for invasion and cloning. Time to think again about unique brands and products. Time to become brand and product developers. It’s no good buying the equivalent of a 3D printer and launching what we can churn out from these machines (as good as they are). It is definitely time to think about protecting our turf with brands and products. Not more bricks and mortar.

Till next time, when we might be moving “outside the box.” 

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