Enterprise hits and misses – Black Friday gets a retail assessment, B2B buyers face a dichotomy


This week: Black Friday and Cyber Monday are in the books – we glean insights from the chaos. Plus: B2B buyers face a dichotomy – why technology buying remains a conundrum. Your whiffs include Twitter potshots, breaches, and an unfair/hilarious video about Millennials.

Cheerful Chubby Man

Lead story – Black Friday chaos and Cyber Monday lessons – holiday retail analysis by Stuart Lauchlan and Barb Mosher Zinck

MyPOV: With the holiday shopping kickoff in the rear view, it’s time to wade through the digital rubble. Stuart found that Black Friday had some US/UK variations (Black Friday – mobile and mayhem in the US, not so much in the UK). Ugly Black Friday stories of U.S. consumers brawling over worthless crap they are addicted to holiday bargains were contrasted by a 16.9 percent shopping boom versus last year.

Then there was Cyber Monday. Stuart spliced the Adobe data in Cyber Monday chalks up the biggest US online retail day to date. The smart phone stats were the big story:

  • Mobile transactions accounted for 33.1% of revenue, with 24.1% coming via smartphones and 9% from tablets.
  • Smartphone traffic specifically grew 22.2% year-on-year, while revenue coming from smartphones ($1.59 billion) was up 39.2% year-on-year.

As Stuart notes there is huge room for mobile retail UX improvements beyond Amazon, which gets it right, and so many others whose apps basically suck and cause abandonment need improvement (Stuart throws Argos and Banana Republic under that particular bus, but you could pick a host of others).  Stuart’s take:

Yes, smartphone shopping is the big growth trend this year, but it still accounts for a minority of online purchases. Until the user centricity of some retail sites is addressed and improved, the desktop will still have a lead in terms of online buying.

Who better to assess retail’s Thanksgiving dreams than our resident Canadian, Barb Mosher Zinck, who was therefore not distracted by turkey and was able to focus entirely on the important thing: shopping. (Winning with holiday retail – can retailers have their turkey and eat it too?).

Barb’s piece brings out the blend of mobile/online/in-store that consumers like her are gravitating towards – with some tips for retailers to get the experience right. Finally, Stuart delves into some retail tech envelope-pushing in Augmenting reality at Williams-Sonoma to boost customer experience.

Happy children eating appleDiginomica picks – my top two stories on diginomica this week

  • Software isn’t eating Caterpillar’s world, just spicing it up  – Our resident master of the frictionless enterprise and XaaS buzzword overlord everything-as-a-service reality checker Phil Wainewright finds the Caterpillar use case instructive. From Caterpillar: “For us, digital is how we enable that customer and that industry that we already serve — versus, we’re gonna go try to build another business around software.”
  • Solving for the technology skills gap in financial services – The financial services industry is hardly the only industry with a digital skills gap, with 72 percent citing skills as an impediment to growth. But as Angelica argues, “The financial services sector is unusual in that it is hard for firms to keep up with the pace of technological change – and the impact that has on their business.” Oh, and the “dress-down days and free beer fridge” aren’t going to close that gap by themselves.

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here’s my top choices from our vendor coverage:

A couple vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon’s grab bag – A few weeks ago, I had some satirical fun with blockchain hype, including turkey tracking. Jerry got to the meat of that story in Cargill blockchain lets you get to know your Thanksgiving turkey. Derek put the UK’s tech-heavy budget in a Brexit context in Industry broadly positive about tech-focused budget, but Brexit remains a concern.

Martin juxtaposes two IT forces in the well-considered Compliance vs innovation – a coming circle to be squared. The twist? AI-driven automation might be able to bridge the gap between the two. And Denis finally forks over what we’ve been waiting for in his three part series on what’s next. “What’s next” turns out to be an “unlikely candidate”: Sustainability as driver of the new technology driven economic era.

Best of the rest

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer Lead story – The B2B Technology Buying Conundrum by Hank Barnes

myPOV: Sometimes a short post packs a wallop, which Barnes manages to accomplish by breaking down the problems he sees for B2B buyers. The troubling opener:

Shouldn’t enterprise technology buying be easier by now?

Barnes sees a dichotomy between the power of the modern buyer and the negative undertow. Nutshell:

  • With everyone familiar with technology, there are endless opinions on what should be done.
  • With so much information and so many options, buyers may question if they have done enough research and if they have evaluated the right products.
  • Peers offer insights, but what is right for their situation, may not be right for yours.

That last point on the limitations of peer insights is why, in my view, review sites like G2 Crowd are having more impact on the SME market than with large enterprises where buying is more complex and criteria are more unique.  Barnes concludes:

These dichotomies create a conundrum. An environment that seems optimized for the buyer isn’t.

So what’s a buyer to do? Barnes issues advice for both vendors and customers. No easy answers, but “Require vendors to paint a very clear picture not of what is possible, but what is possible easily–and the path to get there.”

I would add: get outside more.  Vendors need to get out from under their KoolAid tent before they get tipsy, and buyers need to engage with a range of experts/influencers outside company walls – then turn those lessons inward.

Honorable mention

  • Can A.I. Be Taught to Explain Itself? – Via Phil Wainewright, an epic/important New York Times piece on AI, which pushes past the “machines can grind deeper data sets” cliche to grapple with a more disturbing/interesting problem: what happens when machines do things like facial recognition better than us, with no forthcoming explanation as to why?
  • Navigating the Supply Chain Management Fault Line – Speaking of epic, check this blast furnace from Lora Cecere: “Fire the narcissistic supply chain leaders that believe that they have the answers. We don’t have the answers. We have historical practices, not best practices.”
  • Tech Ageism and the Myth of the ‘Digital Native’ – A feel-not-good post on an overlooked topic. Good news for older workers: when you’re hired, you’ll stick. It’s the getting hired part that is tainted by ageism. Bonus points to The New Stack for skewering ageist job descriptions from discrimination dorks at Time Magazine, Intuit, Cisco etc.
  • Welcome to the era of Shock and Awe automation deals… it’s the only way – only Phil Fersht can juxtapose kitty pictures with RPA arbitrage. And this keeper: “Most clients avoided the painful transformation to their data processes and people, during their earlier efforts to source work to lower cost global locations.


Overworked businessmanShoppers behaving badly is expected this time of year in the U.S., but it’s a sad kinda whiff, not the funny ones we indulge in here. Re: Uber’s security breach and hacker payoff, Reader Chirag Mehta raised a good question on Twitter about Uber and trust. He deserved a better response than this, but I couldn’t resist:

In Imgur’s defense, Imgur says it has the “most awesome images on the Internet!” It never said anything about “the most awesome protection of your data!” (Imgur says 1.7M emails and passwords were breached in 2014 hack).

Meanwhile, hits/misses reader Frank Scavo passed along this fictionalized-but-all-too-real “interview” with a mobile-addicted millenial:

There’s a bunch of whiffs packed into this one; some felt that the video itself was a whiff due to its fictionalized nature. Whether it hits on a core truth or a stereotype is a worthy debate. I’d say it does both. It’s fair and unfair at the same time.

Dilemma: I could belly ache about the pending net neutrality end times, or I could take comfort that the next generation should be able to sort this for us, even if children are being named after Olive Garden restaurant chains. Let’s go with the latter – and we might as well root for this self-made rocket scientist who is taking the fight to The Man laboring to get his rocket in the air to prove the earth is flat while we’re at it. See you next time…

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses – in a good or bad way – let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does.

Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed. ‘myPOV’ is borrowed with reluctant permission from the ubiquitous Ray Wang.

NRF - 2018 - big show

Image credit - Cheerful Chubby Man © RA Studio, Happy Children © Anna Omelchenko, Waiter Suggesting Bottle © Minerva Studiom, Overworked Businessman © Bloomua, Leadership or Business Failure © ptnphotof - Fotolia.com - all from Fotolia.com.

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