August 30, 2012

Just Declutter!

Here in the office at MBF, we feel the overwhelming amount of clutter just as much as you – from the amount of emails that come in everyday to smartphone notifications to balancing work and play. With the rise of technology and the digital age, things are supposed to be easier, right? Unfortunately, it isn't that simple. We live in times of fast change, demands for ultimate convenience, and an increasing overload of information. How do you balance it all? And when is enough, enough?

photo via NY Times

You never would think so but it seems major, suburban retailers like Wal-Mart, Office Depot, and Target are actually downsizing their stores as they begin to open smaller-scale brick and mortar operations in urban populated communities. Due to space issues as well as zoning regulations, high rents, and saturated markets, it is generally much more difficult to open up shop in a city versus suburbia. Naturally, both city and suburban settings vary, so many of these typically massive-sized retailers need to accommodate to on-the-go city dwellers with smaller, lighter packaging, clear and concise signage, speedy checkout systems, and appropriate product assortments.

photo via NY Times

For many smaller boutiques around the country like Totokaelo in Seattle or Penelope's in Chicago, the majority of their sales are being driven by their widespread online presence. While large retailers can offer free shipping, smaller ones can provide specially wrapped packaging and personalized cards during the holidays. As major competition ensues from both larger retailers on and offline, from Barney's to Net-A-Porter to Shopbop, Zappos, etc, can they really compare to the authenticity, devotion, and intimate relationship with their customers that these more humble boutiques offer? The more competitive the retail arena gets, the more companies are driven to re-define what makes them special. One thing is for sure, you won't be receiving a handwritten thank you note from anyone at Amazon anytime soon!

From baby products to cakes, even the face of E-commerce business is changing as some start-ups have shifted their storefronts and typical websites to Facebook or as it's called F-commerce. Using Payvment, a social commerce platform, businesses can set up shopping transactions, promotions, discounts, and coupons through Facebook. It's easy, cost-effective, and creates a large international customer base for smaller companies, who nonetheless would not have access to this. However, there are major downsides to F-commerce as Facebook owns these businesses' pages and some customers do not feel comfortable purchasing through the site. While both large and small businesses are still trying to understand how to earn a profit from social media platforms, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail analyst at Forrester, "small businesses seem to be having more success on Facebook than larger companies." In the last year, larger companies like Gap, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney, and Gamestop have all shut down Facebook stores.

photo via NY Times

So what does this mean for consumers? As a shopper, there are more considerations to take into account now than ever. With access to this online world of social media, promotions, giveaways, product reviews, varying designs, endless assortments, and a plethora of brands, how are we supposed to make a decision on what to buy? Even if you have a specific item in mind – meaning brand, quality, size, color, and/or model – there is still the issue of where to buy from. With this, leads to other concerns of trusting particular websites and doing price comparisons between companies for the best deal. The amount of research we have access to and the amount that we feel we need to do before committing to purchasing is overwhelming in itself. Sure, now we can test products out in stores and throughly compare different products to find the best price and best fit for our lifestyles, but is it worth all the energy, time, research, and stress it involves, for what a couple of bucks? Not to mention, with everything happening so quickly, things move from hot to not before we barely get our hands on them.

Everything has become so much more of a process. Because so much is out there, our ability to make smarter, well-informed choices has definitely improved. However, with all these options, come major complexities. Are these variable actually helping us make better decisions or simply creating more indecisiveness? Will we ever find simplicity again?

photo via NY Times

Luckily, there does seem to be a shift to at least add the term "simple" to advertising promotions as buzzwords like "easy," "honest" and "clear" dominate the airwaves to counteract our forever busy lifestyles. McDonald's "simple joy of a wholesome breakfast," Whirlpool's "To simplify life, we design it," and Coca-Cola's "Simply Orange," are just a few of the companies strategically incorporating the word "simple" into their product marketing campaigns. Even the Got Milk? campaign has brought the word into its tagline, "Real. Simple. Got Milk?" In addition to this, we have started to see design simplifying as well as the amount of products on store shelves shrinking, which we discussed on our past blog, "Simple Minds." According to the managing editor at Real Simple, "Simplicity is the new luxury." We couldn't agree more!

photo via Snob.

As the last official holiday weekend of the summer is upon us, check out this weekend, enjoy the company of family and friends, and simply live!

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