Where in the World is Amazon’s HQ2 Going to Be?

Everyone seems very interested in this question.  As in most questions about real estate it all seems to come down to “location, location, location,” even when your business is basically online.  But in this case it is not the buyer (Amazon) who has to come up with the cold, hard cash.  It seems like other locations across the country are all in a bidding war to come up with the most attractive offer that will entice Amazon to choose their locale.  Even suburban Washington, D.C. wants Amazon to call northern Virginia their second home

The State of Virginia is weighing in to support their northern counties. The Washington Business Journal reported that the State was considering offering up to $30 million in property value to Amazon at no cost.  This property is currently occupied by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) near Washington’s Dulles Airport.  The CIT property is currently tax-exempt and assessed at a combined $29.45 million.  It includes the 173,000 square-foot CIT building, 13.5 acres of undeveloped land and is right on the edge of Amazon’s requirement of “30 miles from a population center.”  All of these transactions have apparently been done confidentially and not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

So hurry up everybody if you have an interest in being Amazon’s HQ2.  I only read about northern Virginia’s interest this past weekend.  You have just ONE MORE DAY to submit your proposal for Amazon’s HQ2!

Ray Myers

Technology Alters Shopping Habits

Tell me about it!  Unfortunately, my wife is a small business owner who has suffered through this business reality.  Consumers now have the edge in dominating the traditional retail market in their ability to make the best purchasing decisions.  They easily can compare product quality and prices with the devices they hold in the palms of their hands. Technology has made it so.  At the same time, general merchandise stores are “shedding” retail jobs since today’s consumers obviously need less customer service in making their purchasing decisions.  You can find all of the needed information online.  Just consider that general merchandise stores shed  34,700 jobs in March alone.

“E-commerce and technology have absolutely changed the rules of the game and given massive amounts of power to the consumer.  There is a self-help mentality now.  People walk around with their phones in their hand to tell them the best model and the best price.  You don’t need as many people walking around trying to convince you to by a sweater.”  Or almost anything else you might need.”  So in a sense, consumers are now skipping the “middle man or woman.”  It’s just you and your technology that can help in making your purchasing decisions.  Something’s lost, but something’s gained?  You have become your own best “personal shopper,” with a little help from your own technological devices and prowess.

Or maybe it’s all about consuming different things differently.  One E-commerce expert recently noted that “there has been a shift in consumer spending from things to experiences, that’s why restaurants are doing so well.”

Ray Myers

Vietnam – Open for Business!

The 2016 Vietnam International Retail and Franchise Show opened earlier this week in Ho Chi Minh City (Obama missed this one).  It is the eighth edition of this event which features 317 booths with all kinds of retail and training information.  Yes, the latest technologies to meet the demands of the modern retail industry are included in the Show.  Young entrepreneurs may find unexpected opportunities here that were nonexistent in Vietnam’s recent past.

I will be leaving here tomorrow, and am very grateful for having had the opportunity to visit here.  Go East, young man may not be for everyone, but it is more than a geography lesson to travel here.  Of course, there are still many challenges  that at one time may have seen insurmountable, but it is a young country that is not living in the past. They are ready to grow, and raise their children in a more modern Asia, that hopefully will be more peaceful and prosperous than in the past.  And I think they are more likely to see America as a partner in that journey.

It may have been a hard and tragic lesson for both sides to learn.  Older Americans (like me) and Vietnamese may remember it all too well, but perhaps the new world of mutual economic benefit aided by smarter business technologies will save us all?

Ray Myers

Vietnam (en route to U.S. the next few days, back to blogging next Wednesday)

Hershey Sweetens Its Candy With Technology

Retailers clearly recognize that they must begin to harness new technologies to stay relevant  – and boost sales.   Even candy companies recognize that the market place has changed and that they need to retrofit the shopping experience for today’s customers.  Candy giant Hershey is already integrating new technology in its store displays in an effort to enhance its sales approach.   They have even incorporated facial-recognition technology in their machines dispensing free pieces of chocolate.

When shoppers smile they are dispensed a free piece of chocolate. Sorry chocolate lovers, the technology is able to recognize when you try to come back for seconds!  Hershey is also testing ways it might use technology to personalize its treats, as shoppers increasingly seem interested in one-of-a-kind products.  For example, they have rolled out machines that allow shoppers to personalize the packing of an over-sized Hershey Kiss.  The customer/consumer becomes the designer of the candy packaging itself.  Companies are using technology to make the shopping experience a more memorable experience than simply a mundane errand.

I can remember the old sales campaign slogan “This Bud’s for you!”  Arguably, beer and alcoholic beverages in general may not be the best rewards for many reasons, but who can resist a candy Kiss just made and wrapped for them!  FYI, Hershey has also been able to double the sales of associated Kiss products in stores.  And Valentine’s Day 2016 is just around the corner.

Ray Myers

Social Media Wants to Make Your Connectivity More Commercial

Remember the days when you could go to a social media site like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and not have to worry about scrolling through online sales pitches.  Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective and financial resources, you will now be seeing more “buy buttons” as you try to keep current in your social media world.  Pinterest calls them “buyable pins,” while Instagram prefers “shop now.”  What’s in a name anyway?

Social media experts estimate that one out of every five minutes spent on a mobile phone in the United States is devoted to Facebook or Instagram.  What a marketing opportunity!  But data collected so far does not support the commercial effectiveness of this social media strategy.  For this past holiday season, social channels accounted for 1.8 percent of overall online sales.  Over the same period in 2014, social media led to 1.9 percent of online sales.  One of the explanations offered by retailers is that there is a “conversion gap” on mobile devices, meaning that there has been a surge in the number of people browsing sites from mobile devices, but only a small share of them making purchases.  The biggest impediment appears to be the small screen size of the mobile device itself.  The checkout process has often been described as an inconvenient hassle.

So I guess that size really does matter when trying to make a purchasing decision digitally.  Who knows, you might even want to walk into a retail store and see the “real thing,” and have an unmediated social shopping experience?

Ray Myers