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How Not To Compete in a Digital World

February 2, 2011

Filed under: Management,observations — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 7:36 am

As a former professional photographer I was sad to hear that my local photo shop, was going to close – so I decided to stop by and see what was up. The manager insisted that they were not going out of business,  – just looking for a smaller location. There have been published reports of the imminent demise but I figured I’d play along with his story if they hadn’t made a formal announcement.

But I couldn’t help thinking the store was textbook example of how not to compete in a digitally based, internet-centered world. I’ve patronized the store for many years. They processed my film ‘in the old days’ and when I had questions about what digital camera to buy, that’s where I got advice. And to pay them back for the service I bought three cameras from them – even though I knew I could get them cheaper online.

They are a family-run two-store chain where I used to have to wait in line for service. No more, the store is pretty much deserted as film has disappeared and  people discovered they could order good quality prints online, or simply upload digital files to a website where grandma and grandpa could log on and see the kids anytime they wanted.

That was about 60% of their profit.

Then, when web sites made it possible to compare prices online and postage-free, tax-free delivery was available from anywhere, the rest of their profits started to melt away.

My local store never bothered to put up a website that was anything more than a place saver. There was no on-line store to buy anything. There was no listing of products beyond general terms, there was no buying advice about how to choose the best digital camera and there was no online marketing to make sure that even their most loyal customers knew they were still around.

In short they just seemed to stick their head in the sand and hope it was just a poor economy and that business would come back. The store manager says they are working on all those things, but I’m afraid it may already be too late and my main street will have a vacant store front and just a bit less traffic.

The tragedy is, it could have been avoided with a little effort put into leveraging the expertise and good will they had built up over 20 years of business. There are numerous example of small local businesses who have able to survive in the digital age but unfortunately there are many more  who simply become case studies of how not to compete.

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