Warren’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet
Food seems an unlikely application area for 3D printing–with thin margins and relatively low premium placed on physical structure, many of the biggest benefits of the technology seem to be blunted or eliminated. While there may be a market here for very high-end experiences (think Michellin-star dishes that reflect the customer’s design tastes), I can’t imagine a broad-enough use case for this technology-industry pair to warrant significant investment.
Given the nature of GE’s businesses–high-design, low-tolerance products that are produced along the same specs for all units sold of a certain model (i.e. that do not require or benefit from mass customization)–I’m not sure additive manufacturing is the kind of obvious game-changer that requires getting ahead of. Though the acquisitions may be fruitful for the IP they involve, a “wait-and-see” strategy may be the better move, particularly while the company has more immediate-term stresses to handle.
Co-creation is the new norm in products of all types–and I expect transportation to be no exception. Though more morose, government and Big Auto will, too, begin to lower the barriers to getting good, timely feedback from customers both on existing services and upcoming ones. Who doesn’t benefit from knowing better what their customers/users want? The only caution that warrants adding is that popularity may not always equal the best next-step; a detailed understanding of operational challenges and expected return are needed before greenlighting new offerings.
Marketing was early to the idea of using data to improve business, and so it seems strange that this particular slice of the industry has resisted improvement to the limited Nielsen metric when the digital targeting revolution has demonstrated that there are more powerful alternatives. Though I imagine Nielsen ratings will either evolve or be replaced with better metrics, I expect there to remain a strong market for broad-audience advertising, because the broadest and most mature brands will continue to seek to serve everyone–and therefore seek the broadest audiences.
Par for the course, I think Amazon is ahead of the game here–and expect this innovation to spread far and wide once they’ve demonstrated it can be achieved at scale. That may be a long time coming, however–the change-over costs will be enormous for big-box grocery (and other retailers), so I’d expect them to drag their feet on implementation until the market demands the service. For a parallel, consider automation in food distribution: though the robotic technology exists and is commercially available to eliminate “pickers” and reduce errors, the labor used is inexpensive enough and the build-out costs of automation high enough that virtually no distributor is yet fully automated.
I am disappointed that Amazon cancelled the crowdsourcing project, and wonder whether it faltered simply due to lack of attention rather than lack of potential. It seems if they’d invested in developing the screenwriters that were submitting content and pushed toward one marquee success, they’d have built the buzz needed to really drive an uptick in fresh ideas through the platform. Before I fully cancelled the initiative, I’d reframe it as an idea-generation platform (i.e. actually move UP the funnel), as opposed to a script-generation platform, which would open up the project to many more people and allow well-vetted, talented screenwriters to be hired to build out the most popular or unique concepts.