If you’ve spent more than a few minutes here on the screed you’re aware of my unbridled passion for golf. As any golfer will tell you, when all else fails and your game hits rock bottom, it’s time for new equipment. As sure as the sun will rise it’s always the tool and not the carpenter. From where does one buy that new driver that is going to solve all of one’s issues? The answer to that is actually instructive for most businesses.
In general, one either goes to the pro shop at your local club or to a golf store. Of late most of those golf stores are located in cyberspace. This has hurt the big brick and mortar golf chains badly. In fact, not long ago Dick’s laid off 500 PGA Pros and is scaling back its golf business. After all, the irons are the same not matter if you’re buying them from the manufacturer (who will sell direct), a big box retailer, the golf store, eBay, or your pro shop. Suddenly, while every brand of club is different, once you’ve decided on the make and model the club itself is the same no matter which source you choose. This has placed pressure on margins. In this case, as is the case in many other businesses, the internet wins every time.
The real question is why should a consumer bother going to the golf store? In the case of Dick’s, they did exactly the wrong thing. eBay can’t do proper club fittings – making sure the length, lie, and swing weight are right for you. Sure, you can get golf lessons from YouTube but that’s not nearly as good as having one on one instruction. The shop at my club will put new grips on my existing clubs, extending their life. I’m certainly not going to mail them someplace to have that done.
In other words, every business needs to figure out why consumers should care about them – why they should bother. Price works for businesses without a human touch. In fact, the move toward more personalization for web-based businesses points directly to the advantage any real-world business will have: the human touch. We’d rather speak with humans. Don’t automated customer service lines frustrate you? I don’t want to press 3 if my issue involves an odor of gas – I want to talk to a person NOW!
We need to think about how our brands and businesses can get consumers to care. Otherwise we’re completely vulnerable to someone who will do what we do and sell what we do for a dollar less – free shipping included.