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We are now offering some of our management content as podcasts.
The podcasts available on this page are specially written by David Pollitt. They are drawn from reviews in the Emerald Management Reviews database.
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Is Silicon Valley the rust-belt of tomorrow?
Business Week ran a cover story in 1990 about the future of Silicon Valley. The article examined whether the USA needed a high-technology industrial policy to bolster the competitiveness of the country’s information technology and electronics industries and combat the threat from south-east Asia.
Silicon Valley seems to have survived the intervening 19 years without kinds of market interventionism that some were calling for. But what comes around goes around, and in 2009 the journal is once again asking whether Silicon Valley is losing its magic. Hamm (in Business Week, 12 January 2009) reports on how venture capitalists are failing to invest in the area, shying away from risky ventures and making it difficult for innovative technology companies to establish themselves.
As the original 1990 article pointed out, steadily rising capital intensiveness, ever-shorter product life-cycles and the ease with which new technology can be copied do militate against investment for the future. Yet Hamm’s discussions with some of the IT industry’s most prolific inventors and company builders reveal that breakthrough innovation does continue at a handful of Silicon Valley’s large companies and a few small ones.
In the acclaimed Stephen Poliakoff TV drama Friends and Crocodiles, maverick entrepreneur Damian Lewis’s vision of the future was famously a bookstore equipped with comfortable chairs and a coffee shop – almost unimaginable in the pre-Waterstone’s early-1980s, when much of the story was set, but very much the norm today. But how important are décor, ambience and quality of beverage in the coffee shop as factors in deciding which traditional bookstore to visit?
If you know exactly which book you want, the likelihood that the store will actually stock it will be a deciding factor. If you do not, you will want a wide selection on the shelf, for browsing. The helpfulness of staff is likely to be a key consideration, and probably the price at which the book is offered. You will also be swayed by such geographical factors as the closeness of the bookshop to the station, bus stop or car park.
Now think about buying online. Price, slickness and reliability of delivery will be among the most important considerations, plus how easy the bookstore’s site is to navigate and the confidence you have in providing it with your credit-card details.
Customers’ perspectives differ, then, according to whether they are buying online or in the high street. While the Internet can be more convenient and less costly, both for consumers and retailers, it has also sharpened competition. After all, the customer can switch from one merchant to another at the click of a mouse.
From a study of consumers’ text comments on the performance of more than 50 retailers selling digital cameras through the Yahoo! online-shopping system, Qu and Zhang (in Decision Support Systems, December 2008) confirm the importance to online shoppers of the availability of the product, the quality of the order processing and the timeliness of the delivery. Retailers must get these basics right if they are to build the trust, satisfaction and loyalty needed to succeed online.
In general terms, the study shows that customers rate post-transaction services more highly than online-transaction services. And in particular, it seems, few things irritate customers more than finding their inboxes stuffed with other with special offers.
Spam, then, should be off the menu for retailers.