I agree that brick and mortar is still hugely important in the shopping experience. However, the role of stores is evolving and I think that M&S needs to evolve its stores to be more integrated with its online presence. Many retailers are struggling with omnichannel, from the perspectives of both inventory and brand management. From my experience at Ann Taylor, I think that improving and integrating digital technology into the shopping experience will allow M&S to collect more data on its consumers and their shopping behaviors across all channels. When a retailer controls consumer experience across all channels, their ability to retain consumers and shift behavior increases. Given M&S’ declining performance, this move will hopefully put them back on track.
Found this post really interesting – Interswitch has clearly thought through the gaps in Nigeria’s financial services sector and created an integrated payments product. The one thing I wonder about is the risk that Interswitch is taking on. While I completely hear your point on increased transparency through an e-payments model, I think that corruption is still a possibility and I wonder what level of responsibility Interswitch is assuming as the platform for these payments. I can see Interswitch running into significant PR issues if they aren’t able to establish some boundaries around responsibility.
I agree with Vincent – I have a hard time believing that consumers’ willingness to pay for items is so high that they are willing to pay enough of a premium for Airfrov to make decent revenue. I also question whether this business model is sustainable as markets keep opening up – I feel like the issue of access will continue to diminish. To counter these issues, I like your idea of Airfrov creating a marketplace. However, I do wonder if they have the economies of scale to do this more profitably than Amazon or Taobao.
I think Daily Burn’s biggest advantage is the data they are able to collect on users and their workouts. The company should use this to provide customized advice and workout plans for users. This would be a key point of differentiation versus the other apps that are coming out in the space. I think it would also make sense for them to create a network effect through the app, which would help serve as a motivator for users to continue usage. They could create competitions among users (like Jawbone or fitbit) that would allow them to better understand user behavior and grow the app’s offerings.
As WRE points out, the central challenge of Panera going after a digital strategy is that it is inherently against the core of its business model. However, I disagree with Erica’s post above that Panera should shy away from digitizing its platform. From my perspective, the industry is trending towards less customer service, with customers valuing convenience and price more. If Panera bucks the trend, they risk becoming less relevant to consumers and eventually putting themselves out of business. To stay competitive, I believe that Panera should fully roll-out a eCommerce platform, but seek to differentiate its model in other ways (because as competitors also digitize then they lose their competitive advantage). One way to do so is with its menu, offering more organic and natural choices which would be in line with current food trends. They could also explore using real estate differently, creating a cafe/co-working space that would increase loyalty to Panera.
Agree with you that Levi’s has taken a big step toward introducing sustainability in its supply chain. A couple of thoughts on things they could do differently. First, I think that promising to make 80% of jeans in Water<Less program by 2025 is a pretty generous goal. I think that it can be fairly challenging for companies to come up with innovative ways to introduce sustainability into their supply chain. However, once they have an idea, I don't believe it should be that hard to scale. I think the 2025 goal signals Levi's fear of reduced financial performance with the onset of the sustainable jeans program (since their business thrives on consumerism). Second, I wonder if the quality of the jeans would be at all compromised with this program. If so, it could induce consumers to wash their jeans more frequently, partially offsetting the impact of the Water<Less program – I disagree with the point that anti-smell or -stain jeans are a viable option because I just don't think that consumers can get comfortable with that. I think Maria's point above about a recycling program is interesting – it is something that is used in the shoe industry (particularly running shoes because they have a short lifetime). However, the challenge with these is that that element of the supply chain is now out of the company's hands and they are reliant on the consumer to be willing to take on the burden to recycle the jeans in store (and receive a discount). I think that Levi's could absolutely charge more for their sustainable jeans – conscious consumers are typically willing to pay more and this would relieve the financial burden of the program a bit and make it more appealing to the Levi's.
There are a couple things that stand out to me – first, I had no idea that companies regularly invested in natural resources (e.g. Pampers buying a forest). It makes sense from a vertical integration perspective and and obviously gives the company complete control but I also cannot understand why P&G would want to to take on the headache of dealing with an asset that is not in their core competency. The other thing I struggle with is how to incentivize companies that produce goods with inelastic demand to actually change their practices. Recently, so much of the pressure on companies to change their practices has been coming from consumers who are increasingly conscious of where their item is being sourced from. However, diapers aren’t really a product that stir up that kind of a response because parents want something reliable and easy for their children and are highly unlikely to take risks on a product that is new to market. This made me think of the rise in start-ups that produce environmentally friendly tampons. While there is significant competition in the space, I’m not sure they are gaining enough traction with the consumer to be economically viable. Both diapers and tampons are use cases where consumers are weary and tend to be blind to the environmental impact. Not saying that that is right, but it seems like a much larger shift in mentality to get them to buy into to sustainability for these products.
I think conservation of energy alone (regardless of type) will not be enough to have any significant impact of stopping the impact of climate change. The first reason is because of population growth. By 2050, the world population is expected to be 9.6 BN, with growth coming from developing countries (predominantly in Africa). While the population growth in and of itself makes conservation challenging (given that we have more people competing for fewer resources), it is also challenging because the growth is coming from countries that feel that they have a right to growth, which necessarily means further depletion of resources. While I agree with you that desalination plants work against the goal of conserving energy, I believe that they are absolutely necessary to ensure clean water supply in the future. Singapore has been notable for building up its future water resource, now building its fifth water desalination plant. I agree with Alex that as technology improves, there will be ways to perform desalination in more energy efficient ways but until then I think that the US should continue to invest in building desalination plants around the country.
Very interesting post and totally agree that we must continue to push wind energy but I have a couple considerations. First, building wind farms are only economical when companies receive hefty subsidies from the government (Warren Buffett has been outspoken on this view). You called out the political risk related to continued construction of wind farms but I also wonder whether as other forms of renewable energy are developed (particularly ones that require a lower initial capex) whether the government will still be willing to front the tax credit. If the government is no longer willing to do this, then will wind still remain a viable source of renewable energy? The other consideration I have is around reliability of wind energy. Because you need specific conditions for energy to be generated, turbines are often highly under-utilized. I wonder whether wind is perceived as reliable enough to justify the investment (especially without subsidies).
I think your post highlights the central challenge of start-ups that emerge in this space: scale and impact are (often) conversely related. You are correct to highlight that corporate titans like Starbucks are likely to continue to develop their own programs for waste recycling so that they can continue to manage the supply chain (and their reputation). However, bio-bean could be hugely helpful to smaller coffee shops that do not benefit from economies of scale (I’m thinking of all the random coffee shops in NYC or other big cities). Many of these smaller players may not consider environmentally-friendly disposal of grounds do to lack of scale, minimal reputation risk, or high cost but the aggregate impact of collecting from all these places could be quite large (especially as the movement for counter culture coffee continues to grow).