Friday, May 25, 2007

Bricks and Clicks (Revisited)

Is it just me or is "Bricks and Clicks" starting to really take hold? I'm seeing more and more businesses -- and mind you, not necessarily the kind of tech-friendly kind that you might typically think of (e.g. Circuit City) -- embrace a "bricks and clicks" mentality and I'm personally loving it.

For instance, the other day I went to Tito's Tacos to do the wait-in-a-line-for-20-minutes-but-it's-worth-it thing and as I walked up to the building, I noticed a sign. It said that if you ordered online, you just wait here with your car and they'd bring out the food. Holy crap. You mean, after 20-some years of coming to one of the landmark Culver City eating joints and dreading long waits and (sometimes) unsavory characters, Tito's is now gone digital and in the process will save me time and frustration? Hooooooly moly. Talk about revolution! Arriba! [Caveat: Ok, I haven't tried it yet and it may very well be slow or the quality of the food may suffer, but c'mon, you always have to pay some price for that kind of convenience, no? -- Caveat update: According to the website, it's only for orders over $75. Bummer, but it will still come in handy next time I have a Tito's party]. Give it a shot:

A greater example of this, however, is buying Wine online. Think about your process for buying wine: you go to a store, maybe a wine store, maybe a more general store, and browse through the aisles, sometimes getting some help if the shop is knowledgeable and well marketed, but mostly not. So how do you decide then? By what's on sale? The label? Ick. Hate the process. But now, you can order online and pick it up at your local shop (at least near me, on the Westside of Los Angeles).

Here's how it worked: I went to the website, looked up some wines, read about them, selected some, paid for it, and in less than an hour, the wine was picked and packed in a nice box and ready for me to pick it up. Fan-frickin-tastic! No going down aisles, no shlepping a shopping cart around the store, eyes glazed over looking at label after label, no asking store personnel how much a bottle is, no scanning a label for the region of the wine or what grape it was made from, no wishing for a description or a rating, it was all there. They even had the real labels scanned in for you pretty-label people. Best of all, I got to do it all in between other work on my computer, then got to save $40 on shipping by picking it up. Saves time, saves money (since I also price-compared online), saves my sanity. I was very impressed and I'll definitely do that again.

So, is the world ready for this? Maybe not yet.
The penetration and awareness of these types of services seems to be low and, of course, there's still the pleasure of occasionally walking down physical aisles looking at real goods, but the world will definitely warm up to it. It's the perfect blend of online and physical store convenience. And if these businesses with their not-so-sophisticated appearances are any indicator, when the world is ready, they will be too. Now only if we can get Home Depot (my biggest nightmare online) and my local supermarket to offer such services. What a wonderful world it would be!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Marvel Vs. DC

Love these parodies of the Mac/PC commercials:

The Future of Mobile: Crush or Flush

Heard of "Crush or Flush"? It's a new "Hot or not" for today's mobile set. Although it's a simple idea, I think simple applications like this one (users only have three choices: "crush", "flush" or "tell a friend") is where mobile will finally shine. I think there's been too much effort in recreating the web on phones. That's just silly. The web is great for elaborate graphics, depth of content and endless linking. Mobile is NOT good at those things and it may never be.

Developers/entrepreneurs need to start thinking smarter about delivering apps that facilitate use by the normal person's cell phone before mobile becomes anything substantially more than a phone. They should keep in mind the fact that typically there are limits to battery life, user patience, what the user wants to learn and the time period users want to spend using their phone.

Is Crush or Flush going to change the world? Hardly. But maybe it'll change mobile and mobile marketing for the better.