• Facebook features: Innovation for the sake of innovating?

    In the technology sector, if you are not innovating, you are letting opportunities slip away to your competitors. This thought process has led some companies to make questionable decisions in the name of innovation. Most recently we can look at Snapchat adding “Snapcash”. Snapcash was good for a laugh, but I haven’t talked to anyone who seriously considered using it.

    The company who had tried to acquire Snapchat before that announcement, Facebook, just announced a new feature that was added to its social networking platform. The feature sounds kind of scary at first, but the more I think about the new feature, it seems more like a natural evolution.

    What is this new feature you ask? Facebook now allows you to list items for sale. It is like Craigslist but more personal. Sounds kind of scary, right? But hear me out, Facebook’s feature has one thing that Craigslist doesn’t have: accountability. I think the fact that you know nearly everything about the person who you are going be meeting in real life would discourage any funny business. Over the

    I also think that this feature is a very natural evolution for Facebook for two reasons. The first is that people are already selling things on Facebook and this just makes it more streamlined. The second reason is that this is a perfect entry to the eCommerce category. What is one of the most valuable assets in the eCommerce sector? Information about your customer. Facebook arguably has one of the most organized database of customer data out there. Utilizing this data can help Facebook get a foothold in the eCommerce sector, which looks a little bit less daunting after news of the Ebay layoffs.

    The more that I contemplate this feature, the more I begin to wonder how this didn’t happen sooner. This feature has a really natural feel to it, but it is also a bold step by Facebook into the world of eCommerce. I like it, it makes Facebook more tangible.

  • Southlake Mall: Trendsetter?

    In a couple ways, Southlake Mall is something of an anomaly. In an age when the institution of the shopping mall is dying, its parking lots always seem to be full. Despite hearing the last couple years about how retailers like J.C. Penney and Sears are on their last legs, both stores remain open in Merrillville and seem just fine. And a decade or so after movie and music stores faded away in the era of digital download, Southlake still has one.

    But a trendsetter? A mall? In 2015? The very idea is almost laughable, but Southlake says so.

    Shoppers can now sign up for the mall’s OH, SO Simple Rewards program, in which they’ll receive $10 in credit for every $250 they spend at the mall. Loyalty programs are pretty standard among individual businesses of all kinds, but Southlake insists it’s the very first shopping center to create such a program for all its stores.

    If that’s true, well, it’s frankly a very minor occasion in business history.

    It’s a fair guess that this program is about convincing customers to bring their business to the mall’s physical stores instead of shopping online. Even though Southlake might be behind the curve as far as losing business to the web, it’d be foolish to think they’re immune.

    Will OH, SO Simple Rewards help increase Southlake’s sales? Well, it’s overall unclear if such programs really attract that much extra business. Several stores that have gone out of business in recent years had them (I still have my Borders rewards card).

    Even if it is successful and catches on with other shopping centers, however, I don’t see it doing anything to reverse the trend of more and more shoppers going online. Maybe brick and mortar retail will die out more slowly than experts predict, or never go away completely. But it’s never going to return to what it was once upon a time.