Nice analysis! Charlie and Carolyn definitely do raise some valid points. Having recently purchased an engagement ring for my fiancee through an online jewelry retailer (Brilliant Earth, which has a very similar value proposition to Blue Nile), I can respond to a few of the issues raised.
First, Blue Nile does indeed offer returns. I believe their policy is a 30-day money-back guarantee. I think that without this kind of offer to build a bond of trust between consumer and retailer, Blue Nile would not be nearly as successful as they have been. Second, a benefit of Blue Nile and sites like it is that it offers a far greater selection than most brick-and-mortar stores. I was astounded by the number of diamonds and settings that I could mix and match both at Brilliant Earth and at Blue Nile.
Finally, I totally agree that trust and providing consumers ease-of-mind is key in this business. One way that sites like Blue Nile have addressed this issue is with top notch customer service. Both at Blue Nile and Brilliant Earth, I spoke with at least a dozen times (probably more) representatives who were intimately familiar with the many considerations inherent in purchasing an engagement ring (for instance, they went beyond simply advising me about cut and clarity, and went on to tell me about the impact of fluorescence). At one point, a representative even persuaded me to buy a less expensive (but better) ring over the one that I was considering. I doubt that I would have had as much personal attention if I had purchased in store (my conversations with reps must have totaled several hours). Speaking from my own admittedly anecdotal experience, I quite enjoyed having as much time as I wanted to browse online, and then to consult with experts over the phone. I think it is key that Blue Nile continues to invest in high quality customer service, and that it does not tie their incentives to purchases. At no point in my conversations with representatives did I feel rushed or pressured to spend more money – this was critical to me being comfortable making a purchase.
Fantastic analysis! I’m so glad you chose to write about UP – I have really been inspired by their work over the last few years. I’m so happy to see students that have been underserved for so long get the opportunity for a top notch education. I know several teachers and members of the recruitment team, and definitely agree with your views on the importance of a focus on human capital at UP. I also think you hit the nail on the head with your mention of the residency programs – creating and mentoring a pool of high quality internal candidates with institutional knowledge is critical for UP’s success.
A couple of concerns I have for UP going forward are:
1. Teacher burnout. This is an issue at nearly all high-performing turnaround schools, and I hope that UP is putting the necessary resources behind addressing this potential problem. Since Scott Given is a former teacher, I assume he is taking steps to combat burnout.
2. Public resistance to “no excuses” education. There is no question that UP is demanding of its students, standing behind the “no excuses” system that has become popular in recent years. While I think this is critical to maintaining a positive and productive school culture, it has led to some public backlash in some cases. My hope is that the school’s fantastic student performance data is enough to preempt resistance to the behavioral system.
Nice analysis, Sagar! I used Tableau fairly extensively a couple of years ago and was quite pleased with its functionality. Compared to other BI tools I have used, its ease-of-use is clearly near the top of the pack. Although I used some SQL in conjunction with the product, this was by no means required depending on the datasource. In particular, I enjoyed the intuitive drag-and-drop interface, as well as the easy-to-use location-based graphing functions. Additionally, the speed with which it crunches data is quite impressive. I was also impressed by Tableau’s efforts on mobile functionality. I began using Tableau Public (which is free), and eventually lobbied my manager for a desktop license.
I do share Kathy’s concern about custom data needs, however – in some cases we found it a little to inflexible to consider implementing more broadly across the company. Additionally, although prices of some of their products are quite low, I have heard that Tableau Server can get very expensive very quickly. Finally, I have read a few concerns about their approach to data security. I imagine that as the company grows, this will be an increasing area of focus.