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20 Practical Performance and Profit Pillars
by Don Libey

The ‘Multichannel Phenomenon’ has occupied our energies and imaginations now for nearly a decade-and-a-half. Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider what we are doing and renew a focus on the 20 Practical Performance and Profit Pillars that simply will not be denied...ever.

Once upon a time, in the Land of Buying and Selling, a great merchant class grew and prospered for over 150 years. This class of merchants lived mostly in the northeast and middles of the Land of Buying and Selling. They were known as the Direct Merchants. You could not see the Direct Merchants. They existed only on paper, in flyers and catalogs and letters. They had no face-to-face contact with their customers. They relied on words and pictures and trust for the buying and selling. The Direct Merchants believed fervently about Customer Service.

Living with the Direct Merchants were their brick-and-mortar neighbors, the Retail Merchants. The two merchant classes rarely mixed; they did things differently. The Retail Merchants believed fervently about location and image. They invited customers to come into their stores and engage in a new activity called ‘shopping.’ Of course, there were many, many more Retail Merchants than there were Direct Merchants. In fact, Retail Merchants had managed to corner most of the shopping business done with the Customer Class in the Land of Buying and Selling.

Then from the 1950s to the 1970s all of the Customer Class began working at two jobs for every family. Before that, they only had one job. But, in order to improve their life and their consumption rate, it became necessary to have two incomes. That way, everyone could buy stuff and new homes in which to keep their stuff. They would then outgrow those homes and would buy bigger homes so they could buy more stuff to keep in their bigger homes. Pretty soon, they had to work longer and harder to increase their incomes so they could get more stuff to make them happy.

The Direct Merchants really sympathized with the Customer Class and their hamster-wheel predicament. The Direct Merchants created ‘shopping convenience’ and made it easy to get stuff without having to go to retail stores to shop. They perfected their ‘Store-in-a-Book’ called ‘catalogs’ and learned how to describe stuff and take pictures of stuff and how to take orders over the phone using credit cards so it was even easier for the Customers to get their stuff. They perfected boxing stuff and making sure it didn’t break, and they also perfected shipping stuff fast so that the Customers would be happier quicker and would come back more often to buy more stuff. And they even guaranteed all the stuff; you got your money back if you weren’t happy. The smart Direct Merchants even perfected the dreaming up and making of all kinds of stuff themselves. They became Direct Stuff Merchants. Later on, they would go to a far-away land called “China” to have the people there make all the stuff so the Direct Merchants could just concentrate on predicting what stuff they could sell and to whom they could sell it. But, I’m getting away from the story.

The Direct Merchants became powerful. They actually began to cut in on the territory of the Retail Merchants. So, the Retail Merchants used more brick-and-mortar and built really, really big stores. These were called “Big Boxes.” And they began to sell stuff at prices below what anybody else could even make or buy the stuff for. This was called Wal-Mart.

One day, after there were lots and lots of Wal-Marts, the Retail Merchants and the Direct Merchants got really weird. Both of them wanted to be alike. Direct Merchants wanted to be Retail Merchants and Retail Merchants wanted to be Direct Merchants. But, only the Direct Merchants had gotten to be good at all of the customer service and fulfillment and customer tracking and keeping customers happy and buying more stuff. The Retail Merchants didn’t even know the names of any of the Customers.

And, then, in the early 1990s, it all got totally weird. The Direct Merchants and the Retail Merchants were all happy and competing and growing; the Customers were all happy and spending and consuming; the Families were all working and owning stuff and teaching their kids to, like, buy stuff, too; and then from somewhere inside the Earth came a whole new group of people called the Geek Class and they all had, like, computers and HTML connections. The Internet was introduced to the Customer Class.

And things have never been the same since.

Now, the Direct Merchants and the Retail Merchants spend all their time and money on creating online environments. One minute they’re listening to vendors selling Customer Relationship Management tools who tell them they need one of these things because it’s pretty much what that vendor sells, although nobody knows what it actually does or how it works, but everybody should have one. The Merchant classes are totally addicted to things called ‘clicks’ and they contract with huge vendors who auction off words that Customers might enter in a place called “Google.” They’ve begun to spend billions of dollars on concepts like usability and search and organic position and SEO and SEM and live chat and hundreds of other things sold by the Geek Merchants.

It has all become so complex in the Land of Buying and Selling. It is all so ‘unknown’ there anymore. The Geek Merchants only seem to ‘get it right’ about half the time; the other half things just don’t work right. The Customers seem to be roaming around, confused and only semi-attached to the Direct Merchants or to the Retail Merchants or even to the drifting clouds of irritating Net Gnats. We seem to have misplaced our map of the Land of Buying and Selling. We seem to be a bit lost and perhaps scared and hungry.

But, what about those Customers? What do they want? How do they want the story to come out?

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