A chat with William Wolfram about Article 3 of our Manifesto: The Internet is the Great Equalizer between the big man and the small man
Kat: So, Article 3 is “The Internet is the Great Equalizer”, which I know you were really inspired by a certain ad.
William: Yeah, this ad, back in the 1920’s from Colt, the revolver company makes the famous revolver. They had this ad which said “Colt revolver is the great equalizer between the big man and the small man.” I think that the internet is actually the great equalizer between the big brand and the small brand. It truly is! I mean e-commerce is still you know 15% of retail, in certain categories it’s a lot less but we’re competing on a level playing field. You know LVMH or one of these you know amazing successful conglomerates or companies like Procter & Gamble which owns lots of brands they don’t really have an advantage when it comes to direct to consumer e-commerce.
We both have access to the same logistics networks, you know we both get ships the same day, very similar costs and that part is being commoditized by Amazon, and other companies. We both have access to the same payment technology, we both accept payments “one tap”. Even if you pour a billion dollars into your website, I mean I can have a better website and all these parts of this value network have become modular and commoditized which means you know these big brands they don’t have a really large advantage.
Customer reviews are becoming as important if not more important than brand equity. So, if you’re an unknown player in a segment but you have some phenomenal reviews from consumers, you know would you rather buy $200 headphones from a really established headphone player but with 2.5 stars review used from thousands of people or from an unknown player at the same price but a 4.8 stars out of 5 stars review. I think customer reviews are only like 20 years old. Amazon came out with it you know 20 years ago, but it’s already changed the landscape and even the role of what is, what is the branch and why do we have brands. It’s a mark of quality. So, we’re seeing a massive reshuffling of even the underlying role of what the brand is.
Kat: I think reviews have really changed the game because you know in the previous generations without reviews on the internet you would rely on the quality of like the brand you’re getting it or the department store that was sourcing it or even just like word of mouth but that takes so much longer. Whereas I just had to buy a really expensive mattress and I could have gone for a really big brand, like you know one that I grew up with but then there were all these online mattress brands actually that had great reviews. I felt like I did my research so I felt even better informed to make the decision to execute. I’m a proud owner of a new mattress.
William: It’s really interesting, you know when you buy something on Amazon they send you an e-mail saying how was this product. When you book a hotel room on hotels.com, when you take an Uber? They are constantly asking for feedback. When I go to a department store or a brick and mortar store and I buy something, that’s it! So I feel like you get away with much more in the traditional brick and mortar when it comes to product quality. Whereas online, if you want to be competitive you have to have the best product quality, there’s no question about it. If customers don’t like your product, you can forget it. You will not succeed! So, when you’re competing on the internet you’re actually you know you’re putting your product in this limelight that you just don’t get if you’re selling to brick and mortar party networks because that feedback and constant assessment of your product and review, they really matter. So, you either have a quality product that customers absolutely love or you get the hell out of the internet!
Kat: Exactly. They will come after you.