Depending on who you ask we either live in an age of rampant consumerism or endless choice -- the answer doesn't necessarily lie in the middle but both are true. The Internet has connected us personally, politically, socially and humanity's consumer nature has built a retail channel unlike any other before. Choice has become king, brand loyalty continues to erode and low prices combined with high quality has become a real option.
So why are many retailers providing less and less choice?
The archaic practice of providing less for more is beginning to shake at its very foundation. Telecoms like Bell, Telus and Rogers in Canada or Verizon and AT&T in the states have controlled captive markets for decades and deftly placed hands around the neck of ignorant consumers. As people become more connected via the Internet they have also begun to realize you can't trust a telecom business any more than say a gaggle of American senators in a Walmart washrooms.
These businesses will face their day of reckoning as the next great disruptive technology like Uber or Facebook develops a way to crush their business model. In the meantime they offer a great lesson that much smaller and more nimble businesses can't ignore -- make choice easy and distribution comprehensive and you will gain customers.
The music industry offers valuable insight into what happens when comprehensive distribution fails to realize -- people pirate what they want. In Canada the most recent kerfuffle is similar -- Game of Thrones. Without affordable options to stream the show in the country the only legal option is acquire a TV subscription costing over $1200 per year. Realistic for most that is not, audiences are no longer captive and if they feel like a price is unfair they will pirate any type of digital product without remorse.
Musicians need to take a note from this example. As musicians revenue model has shifted from album sales to live events, albums have become a marketing tool but the implementation is far too often restrictive. The Dutch post-hardcore band John Coffey is an example of great tunes combined with poor distribution.
Their latest album VANITY is only available for digital download via the iTunes store, leaving anyone interested in legally paying for the music in the bind of having to download an invasive piece of software to acquire their fantastic album. It's a trend all too familiar in music, film and television -- distribution models still lag like it's 1999 and the artists themselves feel the crunch as people want to buy a product on their own terms instead of the ones dictated by iTunes or HBO.
Make it easy to understand and directly available and the clients will come. It's why President Clinton is more likely than President Sanders and why President Trump is more likely than either of those two -- simple messaging wins the day every time regardless of how accurate it is. The current American election feels like the upheaval of many years of poor, restricted choice and it is most evident in messaging focused on change and alternatives. America hasn't had a field of misfit candidates like this in decades and the power of instant communication has ensured it will stay competitive to the very end.
The captive audience of the American voting public does feel hijacked but inevitably like the example of the telecoms and John Coffey, every business has a choice and it should be to provide as many options as possible -- to do otherwise is laziness. Choice has become the new king of how distribution, sales and the status quo has become another name for stagnation and eventual obsolescence -- adapt or die. The alternative may not be a better or worse option but it is another choice in a restricted culture that rightfully demands to stop being choked by lackluster choices and colluding competitors.
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