So Blockbuster announced today that it would use its stores, of which there are thousands, as mini-distribution centers for its video rental service that competes with Netflix. All together now: Duh! Has this not been obvious to everyone on Earth for awhile now, except, apparently, for anyone affiliated with Blockbuster?
Big companies always seem to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to leveraging their strengths against upstart competitors in the Internet age. When I worked at a Barnes & Noble nine years ago, I wondered why there weren’t computer terminals that let customers see the store’s inventory, neighboring stores’ inventory if their store didn’t have the book, and ordering options to buy a book and send it home or to a store for pickup. (Of course, part of that was because I was wearying of having to look up and search for books that customers wanted. Who would want a book on dairy farming in Manhattan?) When B&N launched its website a couple of years later, it was a wholly separate entity from its stores, the one asset it had that Amazon didn’t. B&N got its lunch money stolen by building a facsimile of Amazon instead of using its strengths. Whatever happened to ye olde click and mortar?
And until now, perhaps, Blockbuster was doing the same thing. Of course, in the meantime, it’s let Netflix seize an early lead in a market it could have had if it had awakened to the power of its stores sooner. Instead it stayed mired in its weaknesses (late fees, less selection) and let the upstart build a brand by trumpeting its advantages there. But Blockbuster was sitting on its advantage all the time.
Clearly it’s still worth considering in late 2004 which big companies get it and which don’t when it comes to the Web and serving their customers. Who do you like? Who leaves you fuming at their idiocy?