Great article WRE! As a frequent customer at Panera, I love their kiosks. I really like being able to input what I want myself to make sure there are no mistakes (i.e. if I do not want cucumber on my salad) and getting my food faster because there are no lines to use the kiosk. I understand that Panera is all about providing the “warmth” to their customers, but I think in the 21st century where we are all busy and used to getting our way, most customers prioritize these two positives above providing the Panera love and therefore overall Panera is net positive in their business model for having installed them.
I applaud Panera for promising their employees that this digitization will not affect their jobs, however this is just not doable in the long run if they would like to be competitive in the marketplace. For instance, as we discussed with taxi drivers being phased out do to technological improvements (i.e. Uber) – if we pay them for now despite the digitization, when will it end? Do we continue carrying the dead weight forever? Panera can’t do this if they would like to keep their prices manageable to their customers and I think it is unreasonable for them to even try. These workers should be alerted sooner rather than later that their jobs are being replaced by technology so they can start looking for a new job.
Ranj – great, very timely post! I really enjoyed reading this and to be honest, in line with what I would expect.
As many of us start (or continue) doing consulting, we as business traveler’s are a huge revenue stream for hotels. However, when we go to hotels every week we do not want or need the personal touch that you get when you check in at the front desk. Monday evenings all the lines to check in get astronomically long at hotels as consultants wait to check in at the front desk and get their key card. For frequent travelers, getting to check in online is ideal and expedites our journey.
For more infrequent, worried travelers (like my mom), she actually loves her ability at Hilton to log in and select the room (a functionality you mentioned above). While she still (as her normal nervous self) stops by the front desk at a hotel to make sure everything is ready, this overall length of interaction is seriously decreased therefore decreasing the cycle time of the check-in process as a whole.
Overall I think Hilton is on track with these roll-outs and I think it is the only way they will compete in the 21st century with competitors like AirBNB, to your point.
Really interesting post – i have never heard of Wag! and absolutely loved learning about it. While I definitely understand the need for on-demand dog walkers, I am very dubious of this business model. A few reasons this makes me nervous:
1) In our Uber case the other day, we discussed as a class how scary it is the drivers (and possibly other passengers in uberPool) can see exactly where you are getting dropped off (which may very well be your house, your office, etc.). This is scary because as a customer, you are sharing more about yourself than you might choose to with a random driver. From Uber’s perspective they are opening themselves up to a lot of potential responsibility – what if the fellow passenger from my uberpool breaks into my apartment? Would Uber be responsible? Wag! brings this risk to an all new level, as you mentioned, because the dog walker must enter the house. The dog walker can easily steal from you when inside.
2) If a Wag! dog walker is given a code to the use the lockbox for someone’s home, what is stopping that dog walker from going back at a later time, using that code, and breaking into the house when Wag! no longer has the $1M coverage? What if that dog walker is “fired” (i.e. removed as a potential dog walker) due to issues that popped up, and now the disgruntled former contractor goes and breaks into the customers house – is that Wag!’s fault?
3) The people who tend to have enough disposable income to request a dog walker at last minute, tend to be very well off. For folks that have jewelry at home, live in larger homes, etc. – they may have over $1M worth of valuables stolen and could likely sue for even more. I am worried Wag! is not protected enough.
4) As we saw in Uber, it is really easy for an app to start slipping on doing background checks on their contractors. What guarantee do dog owner’s have that their dogs are in capable hands?
5) How can Wag! possibly test if a dog walker is a good dog walker, and an incident like the one you described where the dog ran away will not repeatedly happen? Dogs are part of the family (as you mentioned we are a nation of dog lovers) – I think the customer base will become really dubious really quickly of the service if even one or two more issues pop up that are publicized.
I am really curious to see if Wag! can make it despite my concerns. They definitely have their work cut out for them moving forward!
Kelly – great post on Teladoc! I really enjoyed reading about the way the business model works, I had no idea that they didn’t have their own doctors but rather pulled on the excess capacity of other physicians.
As great as this model sounds in theory, I think some of the barriers you listed are insurmountable. I had Teladoc as a service through my employee benefits at my last job and I ultimately never used them for two key reasons:
1) When I thought (and actually did) have strep throat, I wanted to use Teladoc services and couldn’t. If I had called Teladoc, the doctors wouldn’t have been able to do anything for me since they could not prescribe antibiotics at that time in my state. So ultimately when I was most desperate for immediate care, these services could not work for me.
2) While I am luckily healthy and have no pre-exisiting conditions, I wonder how Teladoc will work for others who are not in the same boat. Getting Teladoc your previous medical records would be extremly challenging due to HIPAA regulations. I know this is a problem other healthcare start-ups face, like ZocDoc – but in ZocDoc’s case, patients can bring their physical medical records with them to the physician’s office who they have never seen before. Has Teladoc done anything to figure out how past medical records can be shared with physicians treating patients virtually?
Grace – Great article on Groupon. I was a very early user of Groupon for all the reasons you listed above – it offered me great services at a discount. I was able to go to wine tastings, pizza making classes, and spin classes all at a steep discount, which made it affordable to me as a recent grad from college. However, as Groupon scaled I started getting overwhelmed with options for goods/services/experiences I had no previous knowledge about. Trying to comb through all of them was unmanageable and I was therefore more interested in shopping on something like Gilt City, which only has a few options at a time at better known or trendier places. In the end I think Groupon’s scale hurt itself as you mentioned and inadvertently, has become the “Walmart” of online discounted experiences. I don’t think anyone can say Groupon was a failure though – yes it did drop 90% of its value by 2015 but it completely revolutionized the way of selling on the internet in the process and IPO’ed for $18M.
The way forward seems unclear as they try to pull themselves out of the ashes – I’m wondering what you think would happen if they drastically cut the number of items on their website? Or what if they cut down on the categories of items they sold (i.e. no longer offering goods and only services)? Lifebooker tried something of the sort with only offering beauty services and ended up going out of business. Could Groupon be more niche more successfully as they try to rebuild themselves or will they be the “Walmart” forever?
Mubashara – Really interesting read. What I love about PepsiCo is they started being mindful of green initiatives prior to it being “cool”. I remember they were one of the first ones to change their packaging (an initiative stated above) with the introduction of their “new” Aquafina bottles, nicknamed “Eco-Fina”, in 2009. This bottle used 50% less plastic and became the most lightweight water bottle of its size at the time. While this saved a large amount of plastic annually, it also reduced their shipping costs (lighter materials means less fuel use for transportation). I’m so glad they have stayed true to that mission over the years and are doing things like building greener trucks and helping their farmers with drip irrigation.
Grace – I absolutely love this post. I agree with you and Rafi that an EP&L is such out of the box thinking that will (hopefully) really have an impact.
However, I agree with Rafi and Maria though that the solution for Cashmere may be in finding alternative materials. For instance with silk (one of the other materials you mentioned as a luxury good item currently in crisis due to the changing weather conditions), many people are looking into alternative ways to produce the material that were previously thought impossible. For instance, Bolt threads is a startup focused on creating spider silk — rather than using silkworms — without using actual spiders. They do this by using proteins found in spider silk, which spiders spin from glands in their butt, but could produce this silk on a commercial scale using proprietary technology. While spider silk has been around for ages, there has never been a clear way to commercialize it and never before a real reason to invest a lot of money to determine how to do this before people feared that climate change could cause the silk industry to go extinct. This material provides the warmth and soft feel of conventional silk but is easier to wash and wear. http://fortune.com/2016/05/11/bolt-threads-patagonia/
I wonder if companies like Kering will try to do something similar, with producing cashmere a new way in labs, or will choose to use an alternative material like Alpaca, as Rafi and Maria suggested?
Great article on the history of Pampers, Alexandros! I definitely understand the strength of the business decision Victor Mills made all those years ago in developing disposable diapers, since cloth diapers are by far more work. However, to be honest I find it very ironic that many companies today are on a mission to eliminate pulp from their diapers in order to make them “environmentally friendly” when their core product, disposable diapers, are completely at odds with being environmentally friendly. Disposable diapers account for 2% of the total garbage in the U.S. and one of the largest contributors to landfills overall – thus the industry itself is very detrimental to the environment. ( http://www.parents.com/baby/diapers/cloth/eco-friendly-diapering/ ). Despite that, companies like Earthy’s Best Organic and Nature BabyCare, who both make “green” diapers, use the fact that their diapers are “environmentally friendly” as their core platform to attract consumers. My question is – can making disposable diapers ever really be environmentally friendly? Are companies being smart marketing themselves as environmentally friendly disposable diapers, when the people that truly are environmentally conscious and willing to spend more money to live accordingly will likely revert back to cloth diapers to begin with?
Erica – I really enjoyed reading your article, great job in summarizing what Unilever is doing. I am so impressed to hear how much effort they are putting into being sustainable – from sourcing their palm oil to designing their products.
The fact that Unilever has had a history of designing products that use much less water as a whole including things like Lux (a body wash designed to use up to 11% less water since you do not need water for lathering – https://www.unilever.com/sustainable-living/the-sustainable-living-plan/reducing-environmental-impact/water-use/helping-consumers-maximise-water/ ) and Surf Excel Quickwash (a laundry detergent Unilever created in India for hand washing which uses less water because of the fast foaming action – https://www.unileverme.com/about/innovation/product-innovations/clean-clothes-less-water/ ) is something I hope other companies take note of. While both of these products are important for their environmental impacts, they also make business sense for Unilever since it is extremely difficult to get water in India and therefore their products are more marketable. I sincerely hope other companies will follow Unilever’s lead.
In the short-run I do not think Uber is doing enough to combat their impact of having an increased number of cars on the road, despite such services as UberPool. This is because in my opinion, it is very likely that people are choosing to Uber instead of walking, running, biking, or even taking public transportation, as the Natural Resources Defense Council state in this article: https://www.nrdc.org/experts/amanda-eaken/nrdc-urban-solutions-lead-first-climate-analysis-uber-and-lyft For instance, if you are on the outskirts of a big city (i.e. Alphabet City in New York) it is extremely difficult to catch a cab and public transportation is a long walk away. Before Uber, most folks would either (1) wait for the bus (2) walk to the subway – which could be decently far away at Astor Place or (3) go on a 30-50 minute walk home. Now with Uber, most people part of the upper-middle class will decide to Uber and/or Uberpool, thus severely increasing the number of people in cars that otherwise would have been sharing rides while not decreasing the number of buses and subways that run at any given time.
However, in the long-term I do believe the market will sort this out due to programs that we have seen employed in Uber and Lyft’s partnership with Public Transportation as stated in http://gizmodo.com/uber-and-lyft-come-for-public-transportation-1785330916 In a pilot program in Pinellas Park, Florida, two of the least-traveled bus lines were removed due to budget cuts and instead, the city partnered in a pilot program with Uber and Lyft to provide residents a 50% discount (up to $3) per trip. As partnerships like this increase, buses that would otherwise be running on a regular schedule (but empty) can be taken out of commission and people (whether they are lower, middle, or upper class) are incentivized to take part in ride-sharing programs (since $3 only goes so far). Therefore I think Uber and Lyft will help with climate change by reducing the number of unused buses in public transportation and increasing the amount of ride-sharing.