Disrupted … Again

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In a perfect world, everything is steady; you know what to expect from day to day. But who lives in a perfect world? Exactly. No one.

In the retail industry, we’ve become comfortable with disruption. Companies we once thought would dominate have taken it on the chin, while newcomers with ideas initially considered to be a bit “out there” are now being embraced by the masses … including me.

Still, the disruptions keep coming — sometimes from the most unexpected sources. Case in point: my church. There I was sitting in the pew, annoyed with myself for once again forgetting to bring along the envelope designated for a weekly donation, when the youngest parish priest made an announcement. Acknowledging that using an envelope system is somewhat archaic and that, despite the best intentions, people just don’t carry cash anymore, he announced that the parish is introducing online giving.

It’s pretty simple: Go to the parish website, click “give now” and set up a profile. Seriously, I didn’t see this coming. But, as someone who seldom writes checks, rarely carries more than $20 and is often consumed by Catholic guilt, I’m happy to be disrupted. In fact, I signed up as soon as I got home.

A few days later I was at an event listening to a chat with Amber Atherton, founder of Zyper, a software platform that lets companies identify their top fans on various social media. The company identifies the top 1 percent of a label’s fans by analyzing social media posts and then invites these advocates to join campaigns where user-generated content is seeded in return for various rewards and experiences. So far, partners include Topshop, Banana Republic, Boden, Lush and Dollar Shave Club.

Atherton said she believes influencer fatigue is setting in among brands who fear that consumers are losing trust in influencers, and among shoppers who are increasingly pushing back on the highly filtered and staged messages of so many influencer posts.

Disrupting influencers’ influence? That’s a disruption I can get behind. I have always looked skeptically on influencers — knowing so many of them are paid and questioning the validity of their endorsements. And after listening to this chat I’m prepared for my thinking to be disrupted again; it seems that while young people could not seem to share enough for the last five to seven years, they’re starting to put the brakes on.

And finally, happy birthday to one of the original disruptors — Zappos. It’s been 20 years since this new company with an odd name began selling shoes online. Talk about disrupting shoppers’ point of view! In record time, consumers stopped questioning how they were going to deal with fit issues and started ordering two sizes, trying new brands and experimenting with styles they might not have known were even available. Zappos’ customer obsession and its “Deliver Happiness” credo totally disrupted shoe shopping. Over the next two decades it has gone on to disrupt ideas on company culture, customer service (call center associates who were willing to chat for as long as one wanted), shipping and return policies.

Another reason to celebrate disruption.

Susan Reda
redas@nrf.org

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