From clicks to bricks

It seems only yesterday everyone was saying I must get on this internet. I can sell things, increase profits and attract out of town customers… the rush from bricks to clicks.

Now, we suddenly find that ‘web companies’ are getting into bricks and physical items. Google with its hardware (via the purchase of Motorola Mobility and also with the Nexus range of products); Microsoft moving from software to the Xbox, surface tablet and pop up stores; Amazon going from a reseller to a manufacturer (Books, Kindle and internet hosting); and Facebook, with the rumours of a Facebook phone.

So does this mean that we should all drop our beloved internet and go back to selling physical things? No – this just shows that the power of a good sales channel now means that you can convert one solution to another and, in the process, create a stronger brand.

The main common factor is that they all want to get in your pocket, and replace the money in it! But is there really an issue with doing this? Surely it’s just good business sense. If you’re in the same situation, the important thing is that care must always be taken to ensure you don’t over expand or upset your core customers too much.

Brand loyalty is not enough

Let’s look at Microsoft with the Zune. Did it work? Yes and no.  It led to the XBox Music and XBox Video, which is essentially the same concept but one which brought the branding back, rather than going as a standalone new brand. However, brand loyalty alone is not enough. The recent events at Suzuki Motors in the US show that having brand loyalty in one market does not necessarily transfer to a different one. In other words, just because I have a Suzuki motorbike and Quad bike does not mean that I will buy a Suzuki car.

With care and thought about keeping your loyal customers, and ensuring that you give them the same brand experience, the change can be successful; as I am sure Microsoft will be with the Xbox concepts. It’s important not to be scared of failure, while making sure losses can be controlled without the core brand being damaged – perhaps that why Zune came about in the first place.

So how far are we from getting the full experience, which Google seems to be leading? From the original search engine and the total solutions now offered through phone, laptop, image editing, video editing, hosting, analytics, email, mapping and more to our future Google self-driven car, using our Android-driven tablet and browsing the world on Chrome.

One lane for all

Where does this leave the other competitors? Will we have four lanes on the road for Google, Apple, Microsoft and open source powered vehicles? I hope not and trust that we can get them all to work together using the same lane. If we are really lucky maybe that will happen with hardware and software. We already have Gmail on our iDevice and iTunes on Windows; maybe this will continue with Kindle on all devices or Facebook on all devices.

Maybe the latest thinkers don’t care so much about the platform, just the method of selling and ensuring that they get the best slice of the market without having to be the first to enter it.

Graeme Wigglesworth, chief technical architect

email From clicks to bricks

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