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Friday, October 3, 2008

More lessons for stores from Caravan...

I attended an interesting meeting yesterday-- an update on the Caravan Project. There were several interesting takeaways, but one that struck me in particular was a comment by Steve Potash from OverDrive. Paraphrasing, he noted that digital content delivery is not a "build it and they will come endeavor," rather, it is an investment in the future. During other parts of the meeting we discussed how publishers have really begun to move forward, but that retailers have, by and large, not embraced digital content delivery. This, to some extent, has forced publishers to find solutions that bypass the store, and has given other potential players in the market, such as Amazon, a greater foothold on sales, which, in turn has allowed for greater strangleholds to be placed on publishers. Another good quote coming out of the meeting yesterday is that "if we don't solve our problems, someone else's solution will be forced on us." The "us" in this case was a different group than the retailers, but it applies equally to us as anyone else.

So, what are the key takeaways from stores from this meeting:

- You can't expect digital to take off overnight. If you are not already driving traffic to your site and do not have experience handling online transactions, adding digital will not change much.
- If stores continue to play a waiting game to enter the digital market, they may not be part of it. Stores must invest in their futures now, even if initially it is not profitable, so that they have a place and role as the technology and product takes off.

Finally, I heard discussion about the roles of large stores versus small stores, and what some of the different experts had to recommend. I know this has been a concern among the membership since the initial NMS pilots were announced, which includes no small stores among the initial seven. I am working on a posting for this coming week (likely Tuesday), to address this question more directly and that should raise some discussion points.

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