My global partner for Field 2 is the “handy” for Argentina, so we have spent several phone calls thinking about this same disintermediation issue. We are specifically looking at the car services vertical, enabling Argentinians to book on-site car cleaning / maintenance appointments on-demand. Our service faces the same issue that handy faces in the US — that of people circumventing the app once they have established a first-contact with the service provider (the “cleaner”, in Handy’s case). Our proposed solution to this problem is to add features to the web / mobile app to enable the end-to-end service experience to be better when performed through the app than offline.
Examples of these ‘sticky’ features we are considering include real-time opt-in notifications that inform you when the service person is on his way, when he has arrived, when he has started the service, finished it, etc. These notifications could be via text, photo, or even video. Another example of a sticky feature is loyalty points that reward people after every 5 bookings on the app. These loyalty rewards could either be coupons for future bookings on the app, or offers for other partner organizations (e.g. retailers).
The problem you have pointed out exists in many online marketplaces and I’m excited to see what Handy and others like it will do to mitigate the risks of disintermediation.
I see your point that a shift to online would have extended RadioShack’s lifetime, but I’m not confident that this online move would have been sufficient for the company’s survival. The online channel for electronics is saturated and RadioShack may have struggled to achieve scale and beat the ecommerce companies on cost.
I wonder if they could have won under a modified offline strategy, perhaps in one where they partner with brands and build a really pleasant in-store experience (e.g. showrooming for fancy home surround sound systems). But even this would not have been sufficient since shoppers would have come to RadioShack to get educated and enjoy the showrooming experience but ultimately buy from Amazon. Perhaps they could have differentiated on product uniqueness, or customization, or other value added services (e.g. where they assemble / install electronics for the customer).
Interesting insights Sam, thank you for analyzing and sharing.
I am an avid Chipotle fan and I do appreciate their fast cycle times. In addition to the optimizations you mentioned, I believe their staffing model is also very intentionally designed to keep customers moving through the line quickly. They staff more people in the assembly line during peak hours than during non-peak hours.
One area where I have seen Chipotle mess up quite frequently is with information flow through the assembly line. I often order a “double chicken bowl”, and as the bowl passes from person to person, the “double” often gets lost in translation or they forget that I asked for “chicken” instead of steak or tofu. I have seen that they pass this information via word of mouth, but when the line is crowded and when the store is noisy, they mishear each other all the time. Only at the END of the line, when the order is complete and the lid is placed on the bowl, do they write the order on top of the foil lid for the cashier. I’m curious why they don’t use the pen earlier in the assembly line to mark the bowl as it is being passed through the line. I have a hunch that it would reduce mistakes with minimal incremental cost.