Saturday, October 30, 2010

Outsourcing Selling

An interesting sight took me back to the desktop years of my life. It was a kiosk in front of a computer shop where you could mix and match components of your choice for an assembled computer. It instantly gave you a consolidated price without any involvement by the retail outlet manager. The manager had outsourced some of his job to technology.

For us buying an assembled desktop computer used to be a more interesting experience. And since all the friends bought computers roughly at the same time, trips to the computer shops had become quite common. The process was time-consuming and most of the times finding limits to your decision-making. Even if you clearly had in mind what configuration you want, still the shopkeeper would come up with offers which resulted in greed for more capacity splitting the mind.

Typically, he used to take out a big pad with names of most of the parts that went into making a computer written on it. Then you would discuss each component. He would tell you the price; you would oscillate, trying to balance the price and capacity with offers and counter offers.

The challenge for the shopkeeper was first that of the complexity of multiple customers with highly customized demand. Secondly, he was sitting and spending time with only a 'potential' customer. The buyer would take similar quotes from multiple shops before making the final decision. Afterall it is in our buying culture, specially of expensive items.

But a seller was more successful if he was more involved. One who educated the customer and helped resolve the conflicts. Giving the pros and cons of the components and many times not hesitating to tell that a certain part was expensive and not necessary for the needs of say a college goer. There were other sellers too, who just mechanically jotted down what you demanded and told you the total cost. They thought of you only as potential customer who is here to get one of the quotes among many from across the town. 'Why spend time on him? We will focus more when he comes to actually buy'. But the buying was done from the  person who had 'helped' take us some decisions.

A kiosk is definitely less hassle for the outlet, specially considering that a consumer today is far more knowledgable and knows what he wants. But it is definitely an opportunity lost for up-selling, cross selling and most importantly making a relationship which can help in completing the sale. A recent article in McKinsey says:
Many retailers assume that customers walk into stores for purely transactional purposes: they know what they want and just need to buy it. Yet McKinsey research indicates that as many as 40 percent of customers remain open to persuasion once they enter a store, despite undertaking extensive product research, reading online reviews, and comparing prices on their own.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commentators and Salesmen

CWG was a great marketing platform for a variety of sports. People saw athletes in action, winning medals and in the process making the sport popular. With that a hope arises that youngsters will follow them and in the process make India reach out to the world. More than that, make the sport reach out to Indians, making it as popular as Cricket. The process may be on and the change happening but can they reach Cricket's level of popularity and more importantly sustain that popularity? Tough. Very tough. Yes, there are many variables like more exposure, more games, more facilities etc etc. But one thing that I believe has played a pivotal role in marketing cricket is the commentary!

The difference between the cricket's commentators and the ones of the other sports was evident in the recently concluded CWG coverage. In cricket, since childhood we have been fed on the nitty gritty of the game. It has been helped by Gavaskers, Shastris, Bhogles who know the intricacies of the game and articulate it very well.
Why do We know that if there is grass on the pitch, it will be good for the fast bowlers and if it is a dry pitch having cracks,  spinners are going to rule the roost? Not because we know the science behind it. But because it was drilled into us again and again, match after match in the extensive pitch reports.  Keys were pushed in the pitch, the cracks were shown clearly, the grass or absence of it was clearly pointed out along with the implications. The 8 odd hours was literally a cricket classroom if you had the patience to sit and watch the whole match. And I am sure there are plenty of atleast my generation who have sat there listening intensly for 100 overs and more.

The knowledge of all the nuances of the game makes it interesting. You get more involved because you understand. And when you understand, you can talk and debate. And when something gets people talking, then it is.. well, popular!!
An understanding of why the sports person is doing something in a certain way enhances the experience of watching the game. I saw sports like Boxing, Wrestling and couldn't understand when and why they were being awarded points. What are the strategies employed? We saw boxers leading comfortably but still going for aggression in the final round rather than saving energy in defense. What were the reasons?

One can learn from observations. Yes. But commentary enhances the observation. Whenever a team needs  two runs in say 3 balls, all the fielders are brought closer to the batsman. We can know that by observation. But commentary adds a reason to it and supplements our understanding . For a youngster it is a terrific learning experience which they can simulate while playing on the ground.

There may be an argument that cricket is long and not very fast (like Hockey), giving plenty of time for a good commentary. It will be tougher in games like boxing, wrestling which last for 15 - 20 minutes. Yes, it may be difficult but the time can be utilized better. e.g. in Hockey, most of the time the commentary consists of who has the possession of the ball and to whom it is being passed. It is as if they are stuck in the radio mode describing the action in detail which is actually not required.

Organisations have  Brand Ambassadors as well as Salesmen. A Shahrukh Khan will make you aware of a new Hyundai car in town but for actual selling, a Sales man is needed to tell you the features and benefits of the car and to overcome your doubts.  In sports, we have the brand ambassadors in form of these medal winning and awe-inspiring athletes but what we lack is a Sales team in the form of commentators who need to do the actual connect, giving a good experience to the audience.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why don’t music co.s provide free music?

I know nothing about the technology involved in digital music. But what I know is that we are easily able to download pirated songs for free from various websites. These songs are then played on the computers and easily transferred to mobile phones, iPods etc.
Now the first thing that you notice when you open a site like apunkabollywood dot com for a 'pirated' music download is the number of advertisements flashing all around - supposedly their primary source of revenue.
So if they can do it, why not the record labels themselves? Open a website, put up ads on it and let the users download the songs for free. (Presently, the websites have the songs and they are available at a very low price of Rs 10. But still I have to pay that Rs 10 which takes considerable time.  )

Apart from the ad revenues, you can gather a lot of data on what people are searching, consuming, their preferences, patterns, trends. They can be segmented geographically, demographically and so on. All this can also go as an input while creating music.  And the information can even be sold off to other interested marketers from different fields.

This can also be used in other dealings by the music labels. You instantly get an accurate update on what songs are popular and differential pricing can be used to benefit more from licensing to radio and TV channels, to mobile companies for caller tunes, to concerts where it can be sung by artists etc.   Every marketer wants to pull customers . And here are people from a variety of backgrounds who will automatically get pulled for the sake of free music.

The point is that the labels are crying that piracy is killing their revenues. So why not change the  revenue source which they are blocking.  Those who want it for free are already getting it for free and giving nothing in return to the music company. By this,  at least gets some data, some information. And today, information is not cheap.  Google has become a behemoth simply by gathering data and using the information.

Speaking of Google, it is taking music to another level itself - to the Cloud. Buy music online and Store it on an online library. Then listen it anywhere on any device. The basic requirement - a very fast internet connectivity, which India lacks. But who knows, with 3G round the corner, we make take a long jump!!