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Unless it is 3D, smellable, wearable or a complete disaster (hello Healthcare.gov) a new site launch is simply not newsworthy

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Today’s blog post is a roundup of three apps that have recently earned a place on my home screen. They

The holiday weekend stats you need to know (so far):

– Compared to last year, the National Retail Federation reports more people went shopping in stores. 141M vs. 139M. They (we) spent 3.9% less.

The story online and in mobile:
ComScore is reporting that Black Friday was the season’s first billion-dollar day in desktop online sales. $1.198B to be exact. Up 15% from 2012.

– According to IBM, 39.7% of all online traffic was mobile. Mobile was 21.8% of total online sales. This is a 34% increase over Black Friday 2012.

For the record, I’m cheering for digital and mobile to excel but that’s my misapplied competitiveness. How much overall money is coming out of our wallets, independent of device, is what really matters.

Cyber Monday results are our current cliff-hanger. (Btw Cyber Monday is a name so outdated we should have to access it via flip phones and dial-up connections.)

Given the deep discounts, all indications are that consumers are able to stock their stockings twice this year. We are in the midst of a full on fire sale. Large font. Exclamation points. Deals that defy time constraints.

There is a retailer panic that feels palpable. A race to the deepest discount. Prices are fluctuating in a way that makes the value they reflect seem shaky.

This holiday we’ve become a barter culture without the need to negotiate.

Three things I think about this:

1. Retail is crying wolf.
Deals are no longer held to Black Friday or Cyber Monday. You think the deal is expiring and then it lasts all week. Black Friday was not the first time this season that Levi’s had 40% off everything.

For consumers this is good. But it undermines trust. If Banana Republic has consistent 40% off sales why would I ever buy full price? Do people feel excited or duped if J.Crew’s 30% off continues unexpectedly through the weekend?

2. The peer pressure is worse than Jr. High.
Amazon competes on price in a way that has altered the game. Wal-Mart does too but the attention on them is now diluted. The retail industry currently caters to the assumption that lowest price is the end all-be all. It is fear-based, defensive and rough. And very real.

3. A hangover awaits.
Gap’s CEO Glenn Murphy, on a recent analyst call, said that customers are sick and tired of being bombarded by sales. “…have we – I’m just being honest – as an industry not been that innovative in order to give the consumers a value proposition that doesn’t look like wallpaper day in, day out?”

Gap’s discount on Black Friday? 50% off of everything.

I like though, the gauntlet he throws. It’s going to take nerve to find solutions other than price. But finding solutions must happen.

I recognize it’s easy to be critical. Constructive criticism comes with proposed solutions. Here are three from me:

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Yesterday several of us at Fluid attended PSFK’s Future of Retail conference at Fort Mason. The presentations were short, sweet,

A Letter to the President of Levi’s

Thursday, 24 October 2013 by

In September, I saw James Curleigh, the EVP and President of Levi’s speak. He opened with a roaring rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA. The song ended with his back to the crowd, his fist in the air and the attention of the crowd on Bruce’s famous pose.

That is, if you are old enough to remember Springsteen. Or album covers. Which was Curleigh’s point.

People used to raise lighters at Bruce concerts. Now they raise cell phones. In 1984, Levi’s rode the wave of a best-selling album, spending zero marketing dollars. Think Bruce would do that for free again now? Times have changed. And so has the denim market.

WW1. WW2. Hollywood. James Dean. Woodstock. The Berlin Wall. Curleigh described these events as the edge of the modern frontier. Levi’s had a presence at all of them. In fact, everyone loves Levi’s. But that doesn’t mean they’re buying.

Curleigh posed questions: How do we make Levi’s relevant? Where is the edge of the modern frontier today? What do you do when there is no longer one edge? How do you turn brand love into brand buyers? These questions have been on my mind ever since.

So below is my letter to the President of Levi’s. I was going to send the letter in private but why not go for(th) it. The edge of the modern frontier is open, so my letter is as well.

My letter…

Dear Mr. Curleigh,

Have you ever been in a New Jersey bar when Bruce Springsteen comes on the jukebox? Pure awesomeness ensues. Bruce conjures up America, blue collar strength, good people, rock and roll…and Levi’s.

Your presentation that used this as your starting point has been on my mind. Specifically I think about it twice a day when I bike past your Market St. flagship store. Where is the edge of the modern frontier? The many edges?

[For the record, the neon sign in the window that says “The Future is Leaving” freaks me out a little. I don’t want to miss that train.]

You and your colleagues have strategies and solutions in place for the questions you asked at that conference. I geek out though on challenges like the ones you posed. So here goes.

There are four main things I think.

1. It’s less of a movement. It’s more of a mindset: I think we all have our own modern frontiers. Maybe massive movements are now made of mini-movements. What if the frontiers and edges Levi’s celebrated were at the individual level?

Relatable. Believable. Human. Aspirational. Attainable. And awesome.

I’m talking about a focus that gives back the love that Levi’s gets from people who love Levi’s. A focus on, and love for, the people who do amazing things in your jeans. Actually, a focus on the amazing people who do amazing things in your amazing jeans.

2. There’s a gap between me and the modern frontier: The modern frontier is exciting. It also sounds intimidating. I want in but I fear I’m looking at it from afar. Is Levi’s offering an invitation or is the movement passing me by?

What I really want is to wear the love I have for Levi’s on my legs.

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The dust has settled. Does the launch of Instagram video mean the death of Vine? I say no.

Digital is big enough for both to thrive.

Vine came out of the gates strong. So strong. Gaining 10M users in just over three months. As of June, Vine’s 13M users were uploading 1M videos a day. In fact, Vine’s engagement rates almost equaled YouTube’s in just over 6 months on the market (YouTube .048%; Vine .031%).

Boom. Enter Instagram video.

In the first 24 hours after Instagram launched video, 5 million videos were uploaded. 5 million videos. (Instagram has a user base of 130M users). As you’ve seen widely reported, Vine sharing reportedly plummeted 40% on that day.

The numbers game has gone quite quiet since June. But one bang before the quiet. In June Vine was the most downloaded non-game application on Apple’s store. That seems to signal that they are alive and well.

As a brand, how do you decide whether to use Vine or Instagram?

Use Vine if you:
1. Want to share mainly on Twitter
2. Don’t need a full story arc
3. Love the throwback feel of animated .gifs (that loop)
4. Want to keep it simple (no filters)
5. Like the challenge of a six second snapshot

Use Instagram if you:
1. Want to share mainly on Facebook
2. Thrive on short stories (15 seconds tops)
3. Have strong Instagram activity and presence

You never have to leave the house again.

Slight correction. You never have to leave the house again if on a Tuesday night at 7pm you realize you’re about to run out of toilet paper. Or if you crave Trader Joe’s cinnamon almonds immediately.

Actually, if you’re out of the house maybe you need a cell phone charger delivered to the bar where you’re having a beer. While you’re having that beer.

Digital has you covered.

Instacart. Safeway.com. Google Shopping Express. AmazonFresh. eBayNow. Munchery. Task Rabbit. Etc. Take your pick. (There are more picks if you live in the Bay Area or New York City.)

When it comes to digital shopping, on-demand delivery is the new free shipping. In fact, it’s often both as early players waive delivery charges in order to incent folks to trial. Order your heavy and awkward items now.

The milkman, restaurant delivery and online shopping have converged to offer unparalleled convenience.

This isn’t new. Remember Kosmo.com? Small goods delivered by bike within an hour. Usually by a sweaty person (I lived at the top of a hill). They had $250M in investment, including $60M from Amazon. Webvan. $1.2B valuation post-IPO.

The inflated dollars involved detract from the fact that some of these companies were ahead of their time. Others did have fatal flaws. Wow those were big dollars.

Netflix, Hulu and other content providers are all over on demand. Order online, pick up in-store is on the rise. But the wave of on-demand delivery services I’m talking about feel personal. They have a wow factor (for now).

Especially if someone delivers your items within an hour of ordering.

Shop via digital and people run around in the real world for you. Immediately. They show up on your doorstep. When you want them to show up. With what you ordered.

On the surface this is quite simple. It’s an advanced courier service. Those offering it know it’s not simple. Either way it’s awesome.

Why will it succeed? As I snack on pretzels from Safeway.com, I see a few reasons: