April 3, 2009

TOO MANY CHOICES

I have news for everyone, the stock market can’t recover without the help of the economy. The reason lies in the enormous changes that are occurring in our economy that are affecting it’s number one resource, the consumer, otherwise known as you. This has been driven home during the G20 meeting whereby the rhetoric that preceded the meeting gave way to more realistic behavior. In short the international community owes it to US to help kick start the American consumer.

But there is trouble in paradise for the consumer that has been brewing form some time. Not the itch to buy is disappearing, rather the way companies are able to deliver their goods and services is being hampered by their outdated distribution models and overtaken by more cutting edge companies, Google and Amazon (GOOG, AMZN) for example that simply make the universe the oyster of the equipped. For an economy that was originally designed to distribute locally but evolved into a service driven model became the victim of it own challenging development. Advice becomes the superior product, and anything more tangible was outsourced, otherwise referred to by its code name, globalization.

So what are we doing? There is a very interesting book available on AMZN called The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson. I refer to it because it touches on the problem that traditional selling resources, such as bookstores and music stores, have given way to unlimited personal access. For those who haven’t spent a lot of time on AMZN the model is daunting. Five million titles compared to less then 10% available in the average national bookstore creates a vast number choices at the same time it creates potential for overload, and that’s where it gets cosmic. AMZN manages those obstacles by offering information that is technically impractical in the bookstore setting. Sure you can read the first chapter in a bookstore but you can do that on AMZN. The ability to read a tidy synopsis, often more informative and better written than Wikipedia, and a number of reader reviews which, while not necessarily useful, are nonetheless more information and its information that is driving the way to reach the American consumer.

Repeat after me, “Information is not a service” on the contrary ask anyone who’s ever filed a patent for intellectual property. Information is what the promise of the personal computer was all about all those years ago. Not more of it, but more access to it. However companies have failed us for the most part because we are stubborn. We like newspapers, we like paper books (I confess, so do I). Did you know that AMZN currently prints many of it books from a digital resource? That isn’t to perpetuate the use of books but to be prepared for the inevitable shift to a digital format. We will have to get used to it, and it may not happen for many of us in out lifetimes (too expensive) but the point is accessing the consumer though digital formats and provide access to information. A paperless world saves trees and a digital world created jobs, which would be good for the economy and therefore the stock market. So what to do, I say be patient, the economy is moving in the right direction; it just needed to take a step back.

My father used to say to me that “salesmen ruled the world”, and from my experience I have found his words to be true. The need to get information out, no matter how daunting the database is nor how fragmented it seems to the uninitiated information is the new product that equips the American consumer with the necessary skills to resume his rightful place as the most insatiable consumer in the world.