What Blue Apron needs to do to survive the threat of Amazon – Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From MarketWatch

For a while, it looked as though Blue Apron was destined to become a culinary juggernaut in the American kitchen.

Founded in 2012, the company APRN, +1.89%  carved out a clever business model by mailing perfectly portioned, pre-packaged ingredients and recipe cards to home cooks in need of handholding. It’s not yet profitable, but growth is impressive. Last year, the company had $795.4 million in 2016 by delivering about 8 million meals per month to customers.

Recently, though, there have been challenges. Shares that the company had hoped to sell between $15 and $17 apiece in June were priced at just $10, hurt in part by Amazon’s AMZN, +0.23%   announced acquisition of Whole Foods WFM, -0.02% earlier that month. They now trade for less than $6, pummeled in part by Amazon’s plans to launch its own meal kits.

The twin revelations about Amazon are no doubt unnerving to Blue Apron’s executive leadership team and investors. And yet, they should also see them as encouraging signs. That Amazon sees so much potential in the industry is proof positive that the meal kit represents a new American staple, and not just—pardon the expression—a flash in our collective pots and pans.

True, Amazon is a formidable rival. And yes, the meal kit business is increasingly crowded. (Current contenders include: Plated, HelloFresh, Purple Carrot, and Sun Basket.) But Blue Apron has an opportunity to differentiate itself. To do so, it must focus on the needs, wants, and values of its target audience: mainly millenials.

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How traditional retailers could lure you back this holiday season – Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From Fortune

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas everywhere you go. Take a look in the five-and-ten—and while you’re at it, look at all the other store windows advertising spectacular sales, holiday discounts, and clearance extravaganzas. The markdowns are as widespread as they are substantial. This year on Black Friday, for instance, the average advertised discount across 17 major retail categories was 45%, according to the price-tracking firm Market Track.

As ecommerce continues to eat away at traditional retail, brick-and-mortar stores seem to believe that the best way to compete is to slash their prices. This tactic might be understandable if, say, the country were in a deep recession. But GDP has been growing for eight consecutive yearsthe unemployment rate is at a 17-year low, wage growth is strengthening, and the stock market is in the middle of a nine-year bull run.

In this economy, it is not necessary for retailers to pander to bargain hunters—nor is it wise. Sure, some holiday shoppers may be lured to the shops in search of a great deal, but if that’s what they’re looking for, they can easily go online. Brick-and-mortar stores cannot match the price-comparing capabilities the Internet offers.

Instead of competing on price, stores should invest to entice customers. By focusing on their core competencies—one-on-one, human-to-human customer service, sensory-stimulating in-store experiences, and promise of instant gratification—traditional stores have an opportunity to excel where websites falter.

There’s good news and bad news for retailers this year. On a positive note, consumer confidence is strong and customers are feeling flush. According to data from the National Retail Federation, sales for November and December are expected to clock in at about $682 billion, which would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014. But on the flip side, department stores as a shopping destination placed a distant third behind the Internet and mass merchants, according to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail survey.

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How companies will make you want a mobile wallet in 2015 — Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From Yahoo! Tech

One of the most fascinating business stories this Christmas season isn’t about how much people are spending or even what they’re buying — it’s about how they’re paying. Although a lot of people are familiar with using their phones to pay for a latte — think Starbucks — few people in the United States have started using a “mobile wallet” to any significant degree. The biggest players in the field are trying to change this by offering up holiday incentives to bring customers into the fold.

Google Wallet, the mobile payment system unveiled by the tech giant in 2011, is trying to entice customers by offering those who purchase gift cards using its system a $5 coupon in return. Customers who link the competing Apple Pay system to a Chase credit card can opt for a free music download. Softcard, the telecom companies’ mobile payment system, has also been attempting to woo customers with a variety of incentives and discounts.

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Partnering with Amazon? Think twice fashion retailers — Sharmila C. Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From Fortune

When I read that Amazon was in talks to partner with big fashion retailers like J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch and Neiman Marcus, it got my attention. Despite Amazon’s leadership position in online retail, you typically don’t associate these higher-end clothing retailers with a mainstream site that targets essentially everyone.

If we were talking about a partnership between Amazon and Wal-Mart  WMT -0.94%  or even Costco, that would be far less surprising because of their parallels in broad customer bases and emphasis on low prices. But rather than partnering, Wal-Mart is making its own investments to level the playing field with Amazon. So why are fancier retailers like Neiman Marcus considering such a partnership? What are the risks? And do these risks outweigh the possible benefits? I think they do.

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The retailer’s dilemma: Deep discounts make the holidays less than joyous — Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Sharmila Chatterjee

From Bloomberg Businessweek

For retailers, this holiday season has been far from merry. Indeed, much of the cheer retailers have managed to generate has gone to consumers.

Retailing has become a multichannel free-for-all. To the brick-and-mortar giants, online retailers are no longer pesky niche players but life-threatening rivals. The online retail space itself has gotten crowded with formidable competitors. Established stores also must compete with each other and local mom-and-pops for the dwindling number of shoppers willing to brave the frequent snowstorms that hit much of the U.S. in this key shopping month. Add the growing threat of mobile platforms, and your average retailer, online or offline, senses danger everywhere.

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