• Amazon Opens a Physical Store. Will it Lead to More Physical Stores?

    Amazon opened its first physical bookstore in Seattle on Nov 2. This is not the first time a pure play online retailer has opened a bricks-and-mortar store. Warby Parker and Bonobos have done it before. But Amazon is the 800 pound Gorilla of online retailing and has steadfastly resisted going offline thus far.

    So why did Amazon bite the bullet and open its physical store? Several factors may explain this development. First, despite the phenomenal growth in online retail, a substantial chunk of sales is still offline. People still love to go to physical bookstores and browse books. Second, it could just be an experiment. Amazon may want to test the waters offline given that many pure play online retailers have been doing it before. Third, it could be firing a salvo at Walmart, the world’s biggest offline retailer and its biggest rival, which has made tremendous strides in online retail. Fourth, it may be changing the way brick-and-mortar stores designed. It has designed its physical store with data collected from its online store based on customer reviews and sales measures. Finally, sales of e-books may be leveling or even falling.

    Whatever the reason, when the world’s most valuable retailer like Amazon enters the physical turf, it promises to elevate omnichannel retailing to a new level. Let the games begin!

  • The Future of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC)

    About six years after they made a dramatic splash, have MOOCs moved from their promise of education for all to education for employability?

  • How to Increase Social Media Followers and Sales? Ask Uniqlo

    Growing sales is an important goal for every retailer. How do you do it in a foreign country and a huge market where you are relatively unknown? How do you leverage social and mobile media? If you are thinking along the lines of conventional strategies such as run promotions using social media and create a contest, think again. In the Chinese market, Uniqlo, the Japanese fast fashion retailer, used a simple but powerful idea, comprising the following principles.

    • Be relevant to everyday life of shoppers through social and mobile media.
    • Use physical stores to let shoppers try out its clothes, take selfies and pictures against exotic backgrounds, and share with their friends.
    • Create buzz and excitement around the brand through fun associations.

    The results were impressive; WeChat (China’s ubiquitous social mobile app), users doubled and sales of some items rose by as much as 30%.

    Lessons learned? Be relevant, keep it simple, and think different. 

  • How to Recruit the Best High Level Talent with the Right Questions

    Recruiting at a senior level is a hard job. Interviewing a senior, experienced person to discern whether that person is right for the top job is not easy. Most senior people are skilled at giving the desired responses. Surprisingly, a simple question such as “Please tell me your professional story” followed by intermittent questions and active listening may do the trick.

  • Do Companies with Marketing CEOs Create More Shareholder Value?

    With the stock market posting record declines in the last several days, the focus is on shareholder value or market capitalization of companies. A key to improving shareholder value is demand growth, which is typically more conducive under a marketing CEO. A relevant question is: What proportion of CEOs have marketing background? Importantly, do companies whose CEOs have marketing background have greater market capitalization than firms whose CEOs have non-marketing background, such as accounting, finance, operations, and legal/law?

    To answer these questions, I studied Fortune 500 firms in 2006 and 2012-14. The preliminary findings of my study offers fascinating insights. The proportion of marketing CEOs have more than doubled during this period. Curiously, the market capitalization of companies with marketing CEOs are significantly higher than those of firms with non-marketing CEOs (See the video of American Marketing Association’s interview of me https://youtu.be/cDttMnqQBNM). Why and how is this the case? To answer this question, I’m on to my next phase of my study. Stay tuned for more findings. https://youtu.be/cDttMnqQBNM

  • How to Make Money by Licensing Your Brand: Ask Hello Kitty

    Growing the business by licensing their brands is tricky business for many firms. On the one hand, if the brand is not that well-known, there will be a few takers for the license. On the other hand, if the brand becomes too well-known and too many licensees want to be part of the game, quality control is difficult to accomplish. Compounding the dilemma is the stability of the target audience’s preferences and tastes.

    Take a brand like Hello Kitty. While people may have liked it when they were kids, do they still retain their preferences when they grow up? Typically not. Therefore, most marketers of kids’ products face the challenge of targeting a moving audience. Companies like Disney, MTV, and Mattel toys have constantly faced this challenge. One brand, Hello Kitty, seems to have retained many of its customers by marketing to them over different life stages. Is that the key to its profitable growth? There are interesting lessons from Sanrio, the Japanese parent company of Hello Kitty. It seems making money by licensing its brand is child’s play for Hello Kitty 

  • Global Trends & 2050 Projections

    Fascinating global trends and 2050 projections on aging, automation, food security, unions, market cap by Merrill Lynch  

    According to the report, in 1995, only 1% of global population had internet access; today, 40% has; aging and longevity issues of China and India will dominate those of the U.S. by 2050; in the past decade, industrial robots have grown by 72% when U.S. workforce has shrunk by 16%; water and food shortages could be key future issues; and the U.S. still tops the world in market capitalization with a 52% share ($20 trillion).

    While we all know that China and India will have more people and larger economies in the future, technology domination (e.g., internet based interventions, robot usage) and food security issues are key unknowns to watch out for. How will these all lead to the valuation of firms in 2050? Which type of firms will be the most valuable firms? Energy companies? Technology firms? Food management organizations? Which country is best positioned to host these firms? Will the U.S. continue to lead the world in this regard? These are exciting questions for which the answers will slowly unfold as we move forward.

  • Which Retail Mobile Apps Standout and Why?

    For successful retail shopping engagement, mobile app quality matters. Retailers lag behind in app quality, but Fanatics, Domino’s and Groupon stand out. Jimmy John’s, Michaels and McDonald’s fare the worst. The best performing retail apps meet customers’ high expectations, curate passionate fans, and offer the shopper value in mobility.

  • Will Google brand become generic like Xerox and Kleenex?

    Google’s brand is valued at $66 billion (source: Interbrands). Is Google in danger of being confined to the “brands that turned generic” roster–a  la Xerox, Kleenex, and Aspirin?