Believe it or not, worldwide there are many cities that are more expensive than New York City and San Francisco — or any other U.S. city — in which to live. The most expensive U.S. city (New York) only ranks as the ninth most expensive.
Are subscription boxes a fad or sustainable business model? According to Jameson Morris, a specialist in the field: “A subscription box is a recurring, physical delivery of niche-oriented products packaged as an experience and designed to offer additional value on top of the actual retail products contained in a box.”
Morrison further notes that to be considered a subscription box service, these elements are needed:
“Must be a physical delivery (digital subscriptions can’t be classified as a subscription box).
Must be a recurring subscription/membership (of any term or frequency).
Must feature one or more of the following value propositions:
Surprise (at least 1 or more items in the box must be unknown to the customer before delivery). Discovery (slightly different than ‘Surprise’. Discovery-oriented subscriptions don’t have to have ‘mystery’ items, it’s more about consumers ‘discovering’ items they’ve never seen before).
Curation (a thoughtfully picked variety of products related to a specific niche or category).
Savings (a clear savings on the price paid for the box versus the total retail value of the items inside).
Thoughtful Presentation (From custom packaging to the way products are arranged inside the box).
Convenience (convenience cannot be implied solely by the fact that it’s a recurring ‘auto-delivery’. Rather, think of the fresh ingredient subscription boxes like Blue Apron or Green Chef–they deliver convenience in the form of pre-prepared ingredients and recipes).”
“A March survey from AYTM Market Research of 1,000 US consumers showed that while a little over half of respondents said they have used at least one subscription service, almost two-fifths who had used one said they had canceled.”
“’To stay the distance, brands using a subscription model need a very strong point of difference and superior customer service,’ said Sarah Boumphrey, global lead of economies and consumers at Euromonitor International. She added that subscription services also need to come up with other avenues of revenue. For instance, Birchbox, a leader in the space, has brick-and-mortar stores.”
“Differentiation will be even more crucial, as there are signs that suggest the industry’s growth is slowing. Traffic to subscription service sites in January rose 18%, according to Hitwise. Though that’s healthy growth, it’s well off the 56% gain registered a year earlier.”
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For several years now, Americans have been consuming more bottled water and less soda. Now, for the first time, the sales of bottled water exceed those of soda in the United States.
“Bottled water has been enjoying growth for years, while sales of traditional sodas have declined. Research and consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp. (BMC) says Americans drank an average of 39.3 gallons of bottled water in 2016, and 38.5 gallons of carbonated soft drinks. In 2015, bottled water was at 36.5 gallons while soda was at 39 gallons.”
“Other industry trackers define drink categories differently, so may see the cross at different times. Beverage Marketing includes sparkling waters in bottled waters and excludes energy drinks in sodas. The reverse is true for another tracker, Beverage Digest, which projects bottled water will surpass soda this year .”
“’Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace,’ said BMC Chairman and CEO Michael C. Bellas. ‘When Perrier first entered the country in the 1970s, few would have predicted the heights to which bottled water would eventually climb. Where once it would have been unimaginable to see Americans walking down the street carrying plastic bottles of water, or driving around with them in their cars’ cup holders, now that’s the norm. With the exception of two relatively small declines in 2008 and 2009 — when most beverage categories contracted — bottled water volume grew every year from 1977 to 2016. This period included 17 double-digit annual volume growth spurts. Since resuming growth in 2010, bottled water volume has consistently enlarged at solid single-digit percentage rates.’”
Fortunately for both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo, they both have popular brands of non-carbonated bottled water, including Dasani, Vitaminwater, and Smartwater from Coca-Cola and Aquafina, Lifewater, and LIFEWTR.
McDonald’s is revamping its global strategy in hopes of stimulating sales and profits. Some of its planned changes are substantial. And, it has offered an honest self-assessment in a very public way. [Many firms do not even acknowledge their weaknesses outside of the company itself.]
Just a few days ago, the fast-food giant issued a major press release, “McDonald’s Unveils New Global Growth Plan.” Here are some highlights:
“The growth plan focuses on enhancing digital capabilities and the use of technology to dramatically elevate the customer experience; redefining customer convenience through delivery; accelerating deployment of ‘Experience of the Future’ restaurants in the U.S.; initiating a new 3-year target for cash return to shareholders; and establishing new financial targets for sales, operating margin, earnings per share, and return on incremental invested capital.”
“The strategy connects key tenets of the brand to well-defined customer groups built around three pillars: (1) Retaining existing customers by fortifying and extending our areas of strength. Through a renewed focus on areas such as family occasions and food-led breakfast and transforming the experience in our restaurants, McDonald’s will build on the strong foothold it has and grow the core of the business. (2) Regaining customers lost to other QSR [quick-service restaurants] competitors. As customers’ expectations increased, McDonald’s simply didn’t keep pace with them. Making meaningful improvements in quality, convenience, and value will win back some of McDonald’s best customers. (3) “Converting casual customers to committed customers by being more present in underdeveloped categories and occasions and competing more aggressively given the untapped demand for McCafé coffee and other snack offerings.”
“We have fundamentally changed the trajectory of our business over the past two years. Now, we are ready to build on our momentum and transition to focus efforts on profitable, long-term growth. We are building a better McDonald’s, one that makes delicious feel good moments easy for everyone, and the moves we are making will reassert McDonald’s as the global leader in the informal eating out category.”
“To bring customers into the restaurants, McDonald’s must matter to people and be relevant in their daily lives. To do so, McDonald’s is accelerating digital capabilities and enhancing its use of technology in restaurants, in the drive-thru, and on the go. The result is a more stress-free, personalized experience, enhanced by technology and world-class hospitality that puts customers in control.”
“One of the most significant disruptions in the restaurant business today is the rapid increase in delivery . Because of our extraordinary footprint, McDonald’s is uniquely positioned to become the global leader in delivery. In McDonald’s top five markets (U.S., France, the U.K., Germany, and Canada), nearly 75% of the population lives within three miles of a McDonald’s. Currently, McDonald’s is experimenting with different delivery models including partnering with third parties for ordering and fulfillment throughout the world.”
“Experience of the Future restaurants elevate the customer experience at McDonald’s to provide a more convenient, more personalized, and more enjoyable visit. It leverages the convenience and technology of kiosk ordering and table service, increasing functionality of the mobile app to enhance the enjoyment of our food and the hospitality of the McDonald’s crew, all in a more modern, more exciting restaurant environment.”
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As we get closer and closer to the commercial launch of autonomous (self-driving) cars, one key factor has not been addressed enough: What is an autonomous car — because one type of car does not fit all? The answer is not simply “a car that takes over all/most driving functions for you.” The possible configurations of cars complicates things for both manufacturers and potential customers!
Here is a very good list of the types of autonomous driving experiences, from Lauren Flanigan (writing for The American Genius) that are ahead. Which type is best for YOU?
“From self-parking to collision avoidance, there are an array of different features that will be made available to consumers. But before you start saving for your next dream, take a look at which kind is best for you and your futuristic needs.”
Level 0 (zero automation) — “Your car is most likely a zero automation car. A human driver is required to operate and fully control the vehicle.”
Level 1 (driver assisted/function specific) — “These cars are for those who don’t trust automobiles with their lives. They still require a driver to operate the vehicle, but act as an aid to the driver, providing [specific] intelligent features.”
Level 2 (partial automation/combined autonomous functions) — “At this level, a self-driving automobile can perform two or more simultaneous tasks like steering, lane keeping, and speed maintenance while in cruise control mode.”
Level 3 (conditional automation/limited self-driving) — “The car assumes more than just partial control, and acts instead as a co-pilot. Although the driver can relinquish a lot of tasks to the car, the driver must to be ready at all times to resume control.”
Level 4 (high automation) — “These cars can perform all safety-critical driving functions while monitoring environments in defined-use cases without human intervention. Drivers enter the destination and navigation details and the car does the rest.”
Level 5 (fully autonomous) — “This car does not require any effort or driving on behalf of the human owner. There is no driving equipment in the car, which is designed to resemble comfortable environments like lounges and offices. The vehicle is in full control.”
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