30 Apr The Wonkavision is here. And we haven’t seen anything yet.
It’s 2015 and we now live in the world after Willy Wonka created Wonkavision. Today, at any time of the day or night, people can reach into the glowing screen in front of them and grab whatever they want. Today, the distance between a consumer and a vendor is now about the length of an average arm.
With eBay offering same-day deliveries in many urban markets, and Amazon promising that within the next five years anything with a barcode will be available for delivery anywhere in North America within 24 hours, we’re already not far off from the promise of Mr. Wonka’s fictional invention. Add to that Amazon’s vision of aerial drone delivery (something that is apparently already well on its way to being reality in Australia), or that Google may be developing driverless delivery vehicles, and the idea of beaming products across television waves doesn’t seem that far-fetched.
The next generation of 3D printers will change everything, even dinner. Commercial Makerspaces have the potential to do so, as well. Boutique micro-manufacturers close to home will be able to make just about anything that you want, and deliver it to your door within a very tight time frame.
Hyper-customization is coming on in a big way. Major companies like Levis and Nike have embraced it, and small companies like Timbuk2 have been good at it for a long time. You can get custom, hand-built wheels for your bike from QBP, and – for that matter – you can get a custom-painted bike built to your exact specifications from Trek. As consumers get more and more used to buying items that are customized for them, they will demand it more as well. And timeframes for custom items will shorten dramatically.
With all of these options, it’s true that some people will choose not to choose. Or – at least – they’ll outsource their option to choose, and they’ll pay a premium for this pleasure. Concierge services such as Trunk Club promise to “help you build your wardrobe online or in person – leaving you time for everything else.” Bespoke Post – another concierge service – delivers monthly “boxes of awesome” to subscriber’s doors, which is a something like signing up to have gifts delivered to yourself from somebody who knows you well.
To take advantage of these types of services you don’t only have to buy premium products that arrive with a significant “wow factor.” Niche commodity providers offering everyday essentials promise convenience by delivering things that people need – or want – regularly, on a subscription basis. For example, Harry’s delivers razor blades so men don’t have to run out to the local CVS to get new ones; Lot 18 delivers cases of wine at regular intervals because – well – who doesn’t want that? Do you like to eat at home but hate to go grocery shopping and make meal plans? Plated will send home-cooked meals to your door, with some assembly required.
What these concierge and subscription services offer consumers is nothing compared to what they offer vendors: Virtually guaranteed sales with 100% sell-through on inventory. And inventory is the big question these days: Who owns it and for how long? The Wonkavision streamlines everything; products are not warehoused anymore as much as they are in constant motion between vendors and consumers, like bits of pixelated chocolate bar floating in the ether.
It goes without saying but we may as well say it anyway: Most of these initiatives are primarily direct-to-consumer.
Is the Wonkavision the end of the world for specialty retail? No, not hardly; not even close. But it is the end of the world as we know it. Increasingly, business models that have existed in that ever-narrowing space between a brand and a consumer – we’re talking retailers of all sizes, independent reps, PR, advertising, and media (among many others) – will be caught in the collision zone. The question everybody in these niches needs to ask daily is: “How do we add value now that the Wonkavision has been invented?”
In this time of ongoing disruption, the new normal will be constant change. We believe that those who engage this idea will thrive, and those who don’t, won’t.
How do we do that? That’s a longer conversation, but it starts when we embrace the Seven C’s. But more on that at another time…