5 Things Online Retailers Could Learn from the Game of Thrones

The Starks. The Lannisters. Dragons. Swords. Power. Blood. Sex. Aaaand violence. I guess this pretty much sums up a slightly superficial yet short description of the Game of Thrones series.

starks

Now if you’ve opened up your Facebook or Twitter account today, you definitely  know something happened. Last evening HBO aired a certain episode called “The Red Wedding”. I will not spoil it for you, if you’ve not seen it yet, but it was a pretty shocking episode. Blood and death ruled the storyline and social media reactions quickly followed.

Just to get an overview of how much impact Game of Thrones had, here’s a tweet from musician Ed Sheeran that pretty much sums it up:

Yeah, things got pretty violent. Shocking actually. And that got me thinking. Not the usual things one might ponder on but something closer to my professional interests. As the credits rolled in, I found myself wondering what could online retailers take away from the GoT Universe? I pretty much narrowed it down to 5 things (there is still a certain limit one can take away from blood, death and violence). Here they are:

5. Form alliances

Some alliances are better than others.
Some alliances are better than others.

You are not alone. Of course, you might have a strong company, you may not need partners right now and yes, others can sometimes slow you down.

However, you never know when you might need to launch a new product or face a strong competitor. That’s when allies such as industry bloggers, influential community members, thematic forums or websites will prove really useful.

Develop your customer community. Grow a company blog. Sponsor thematic websites. Maybe all of these. You never know when but your allies will come in handy.

4. Always be on the watch for challengers.

Retail is a fast moving industry. Online retail moves even faster. You might be the king of the hills today only to find out your market share has dropped faster than you could say “Winter is coming”.

If you’re not the market leader you probably want to be. That’s human nature. Also – online retail nature. With hard work, creativity, and a couple of other things you too can reach the “Iron Throne” you’ve battled for. Once you’re there you need to keep an eye for certain news that might predict a strong challenger:

  • a more flexible business model
  • better products
  • better marketing
  • better team

3. Technology can save you. Almost magically.

What is your company's Wildfire

If you’ve been watching the Game of thrones you might remember season’s two finale. Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion Lannister leads an outnumbered army against a potentially disastrous siege. His best choice is to use the “Wildfire” – a magical substance that acts as a very powerful and persistant explosive (consider sorcery to be the equivalent of technology in the Game of Thrones universe).

With the help of the Wildfire, Tyrion manages to save his castle and his life.

Now, just like the movies, technology is probably lurking somewhere around you. Be sure to reach out and use the best available technologies if you want to stay competitive.

4. Keep a look out for the new king product.

There is probably no secret to you by now that some products perform way better than others. For a limited time. Than some other products gain your customers best favors. And than others and so on.

Keep a look out for the king product. There is always a struggle on the market and while you can marginally influence the outcome you cannot predict it. It is really not up to you to decide what your customers want but rather what they can choose from.

Be sure to treat your king product or products royally and they will repay you. How can you do that? Here are some tips:

  • be sure to make it easy for your customers to reach your king product
  • bring on new customers by advertising your best sellers
  • if you don’t have one already – create a special products category

Remember though: different customers may be on the look out for different king products. Try to customize your online shopping experience according to each customer’s needs. With the help of technology.

And finally …

5. Kill your products.Well … not all.

A fairly iconic scene in the Game of Thrones Series. The death of Ned Stark.

Just because you have a virtually unlimited storage space doesn’t mean you really have to keep all products in your catalogue.

Some products are … well … underachievers. They cannot be kings. Or queens, or barons, or soldiers. They are not wanted. Your customers don’t buy them. Maybe they don’t even want to see them.

So – test your products and clean up the mess. You can handle an limited amount of products. Your customers want a limited amount of products, curated only for them. With the rise of flash sales focused on certain types of individuals online catalogues seem to be getting smaller and more focused on customer’s needs.

Don’t be afraid to cut out underperforming products. You get more time with your king products. Do the math – more focus on the best sellers, less on the underachievers. You can only improve.