Monday, May 26, 2008

Borders misses the point

I was at an innovation conference last week in Boston. Borders books had set up a booth to sell innovation related books. OK. That makes sense.

But they really missed a chance to shine.

They had a table of mostly hardcover books. Many looked quite interesting. But I'm thinking: who wants to carry back a bunch of books. OK, they offered to ship. That's good customer service. And to be fair, they were quite nice about the whole thing. It was a good experience.

But they sold about $5000 worth of books at the conference. With two people manning the booth. That cannot seriously be the point of attending a conference. They had an opportunity to position themselves as true innovators. In product or service. Heck, anything. They could have offered to send me an email on the spot with a link to a PDF file that I could use to download the book when I got back (with cost savings since it's cheaper for them). Or they could have offered to put it on a flash drive. Or they could have offered to have it delivered to the Borders closest to my home or office while telling me about the book signings or events they were hosting in store.

And all these ideas are not super innovative. I didn't invent them. Imagine what they could do if they sat down and brainstormed for a few hours. They had a bunch of innovators at this conference from some high-powered companies. I'm pretty sure that the reputational benefits they could have gotten would have far exceeded $5000.


Alex said...

You are looking at the big picture.

The booksellers at you conference were looking at the little picture.

A classic case of suboptimization. How does this occur you may ask? It happens because the folks you were dealing with were from a local store. For the GM at that store $5000 was a great day. It probably brought them over plan for the the day, perhaps two days if they were clever in how they rang the sales.

Corporate Borders probably wasn't aware of the event, and generally these kinds of event are beneath contempt.

Adam said...

Alex that's a great point. And a good example of the impact of boundaries (see my recent post on boundaries:

When we establish a boundary between corporate and the local store, there are incentive differentials. Borders as an entity lost out.

We need to find a way to align incentives. And one way is to make sure that we draw the right boundaries.

Anyway, thanks for a very insightful post.

jjray said...

The last post on this blog offers up some idea on how Borders can innovate in the market place:

They either innovate or die. Got any ideas?