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Is “Me-tail” the next frontier?

“@edenthecat: Hello, welcome to Twitter Dot Com: where people try to become brands and brands try to become people. Enjoy your stay.”

Recently I spoke with a friend who has worked over a decade in the retail industry – across numerous leading dot com retailers in a variety of marketing and merchandising leadership roles. When brainstorming what we should do next, she seemed surprised at my suggestion – “Why not media?”

A decade ago, the line between a CNN and an Amazon seemed to be bright white. But today, social media sites like instagram and pinterest are doubling as not just entertainment but also as meaningful sales channels – and traditional media companies from Refinery 29 to Conde Nast are looking to cross the chasm from product discovery to sales conversion.

This, the blurring line between media and retail (“me-tail”?), does not mean that the two industries are entirely converging; what it does mean is that consumer behavior hops seamlessly between the two, and companies are scrambling to catch up. I read a magazine and see a necklace I like, and as a digital-savvy consumer, I expect to be able to purchase those in just a few clicks or taps. And when shopping on a favorite website I expect to have an immersive experience, seeing rich content and user-generated posts around the product.

I read the tweet at the top of this post just last night, and thought it nailed it; no one has cracked the code in seamlessly bridging media and commerce. But that’s ok – as consumers we continue to win as the overall experience gets richer on both sides. And as media and/or commerce entrepreneurs, it means that we can bring valuable skill sets in established industries to new, growth-stage ventures in adjacent sectors.

What I personally take away from these trends is that functional expertise – sales, marketing, development, design – is just as important (arguably more so) than sectoral expertise. So in thinking through your individual strengths and value, and where in the startup ecosystem you can drive impact, bear in mind that no industry is static; the skills used in one sector today may also be critical to the future of another.

20 September 2016

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