Your sitting in a beautifully appointed steak house, you have enjoyed a few glasses of the 2013 vintage Jemma Cabernet from Ellman Vineyards, (when your friends own a vineyard you have to hook them up when you can), and you are ready for your main course. You have ordered a perfectly aged porterhouse cut of prime beef grilled to your favorite hue of pink. During an unusual lull in the conversation you hear it first. That mouth watering sound of a hot plate sizzling from the main course about to be presented for your approval. And then you take your first bit and realize that not even the Ellman wine will be able to overcome the horrible taste of that steak you had such high hopes for. Alas. Bring on the truffle infused macaroni and cheese please.
During my time in this business I have heard many sales people tell me”it’s the sizzle not the steak.” In many cases this means that we are to prop up the marketing glitz so we can distract the consumer from the sub par product that is being presented. Is this what we are seeing in the e-commerce space today?
I am not saying that they are all bad products but I will say that I have tested several mattresses that are being sold on line and they are less than impressive. Some just aren’t that comfortable and when you look at the websites that some of these beds come from, they claim to save the consumer a lot of money while delivering superior quality. Really?
My good buddy Dave Perry features a story in the July 11th edition of Furniture Today about the Casper and West Elm relationship. Casper is now going to partner with West Elm and start selling its beds at 77 US brick and mortar locations. Dave suggest that this could be a mistake for Casper according to some industry insiders, because they will now have to compete with other brick and mortar retailers in the market in terms of look and feel. I suggest to you that the move into this particular store was very strategic for Casper because to my knowledge, West Elm has no other beds for Casper to compete with. It’s true that a consumer could shop Casper at West Elm and then leave to compare it to beds found at a sleep shop down the street HOWEVER, there are a lot of customers that will never go through that kind of hassle and will purchase that bed on the spot. Could Casper sell into a larger chain given its brilliant marketing approach and reputation? I think it probably could for the right deal. But if you place a Casper next to other competitive products you have to wonder how it would do. Can somebody conduct a taste test please and let’s see what the survey says.
The big advantage these e-commerce guys have is that the consumer is buying from them in a vacuum. There is a big advantage to a bedding producer when they own 100% of a retailers floor because they don’t have to beef up product to compete with the other manufactures. Isn’t this pretty much like that?
All of this talk about food and drink has turned my attention to other things. I have a nice bottle of Russian Rive Pinot Amanda waiting for me from the Ellman Vineyard. In this case the the steak is every bit as good as the sizzle.