Can Digital Save Retail?

This post originally appeared in our July '13 issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

My wife and I have a baby on the way. Literally any day now he or she (we don’t know which) could arrive. We’re as excited and terrified as all first-time parents are, fully aware that our lives will utterly change but unaware of exactly how. 

I’ve depended on my wife to lead me through these past nine months. Go to this doctor’s appointment. Paint the nursery. Install this light. However, as a bit of a techie, there were a few things I was excited about, and I was giddy to be given the reigns to buy our first high-end camera.


Bridging the Gap Between Digital, Mobile and In-Store Experiences

This post originally appeared in our January '13 issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

In the mid-’90s I was a teenager just entering high school. I loved computers, and the emergence of the Internet simply astounded me. I would spend hours on Prodigy, then AOL, chatting away and browsing every corner of the emerging web.   

My big prediction was that there would come a day when we’d go to the mall online. We’d walk a character through the mall, entering shops where we could buy real items. Turns out it wasn’t that bold a prediction, as I wasn’t far off.

Today e-commerce has become a formidable challenger to brick-and-mortar stores, which rely on customers getting dressed (it’s harder than you think), leaving their houses, driving to the store, finding parking and dealing with store employees who are too eager or absent to be of any assistance, only to realize the item is out of stock. But in the early days of the web, it wasn’t clear that anyone would ever buy anything online. Who would you be buying from? How would you pay, and would it be safe? Did you need that item now, or could you wait six to 10 days for shipping? Why buy online when you could get everything at the mall (or so you thought) in one day? What if the items didn’t fit? What if they never arrived?


Which 5-Star Resort Wants to Censor Your Comments?

[See 9/2/11 Update at bottom of post]
A strange encounter with a somewhat hostile innkeeper in the wilds of Nova Scotia has focused me on the escalating war that more and more businesses are waging against their customers' free speech rights online.

It all began as my wife Ellen and I tried to check in at Trout Point Lodge in the remote Nova Scotia woods. We had reserved lodging for four nights, but at the front desk we were told we would not be allowed to check in unless we signed a legalistic "Registration Card" that gave up our right to publish (or, perhaps, even talk about) our own opinions or accounts of the place.

Can customer reviews be trusted?

Can Customer Reviews Be Trusted?

This post originally appeared in our July issue of “Live Report from the Future of Marketing,” our monthly Post-Advertising newsletter. Subscribe for free here.

They're but one of hundreds of sites that allow anyone to publish their review of a business, product or service to the world, but on July 15, 6-year-old Yelp celebrated passing the 20 million review mark.

By any calculations, that’s an incredibly impressive number, especially considering all of those reviews are volunteer contributions by uninvested everyday people like you and me.


Amazon’s Moral Compa$$

Last week, outraged online shoppers threatened to boycott for carrying Phillip R. Greaves’s self-published ebook, The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure: A Child-Lover’s Code of Conduct. In fewer than 24 hours, the retailer had pulled the book from its virtual shelves. The decision to do so, however, was largely a financial, as opposed to moral, one. Regardless, the incident is a remarkable demonstration of the power consumers can exercise over brands. Did angry virtual mobs bully Amazon into violating the First Amendment?

MasterCard and Amazon Play Santa

It’s that time of the year again. Get ready for the fruitcakes, holiday sweaters, and other unwanted gifts you’re fated to accumulate next month. Or will you? Not if MasterCard and Amazon have anything to say about it! The two have paired up and launched the Priceless Gift Finder, a web-based tool that helps you pick out the perfect presents for your family and friends.