When Borders began liquidating its 399 stores this summer, nearly 11,000 employees lost their jobs. This week, a group of former Borders employees will be operating mobile bookstores at multiple locations throughout Manhattan to emphasize the consequences of not treating digital as the most important challenge facing businesses today.
By 2012, half of all retail purchases in the United States will be either influenced by or transacted on the Internet, according to Forrester Research -- and this figure is only set to rise. What happened to Borders is a good example of what will happen to any company that is not treating this evolution in consumer behavior as their all-consuming priority.
Here's what Borders did wrong. Borders was years late to sell books online. When it did, it outsourced the project to one of its chief competitors, Amazon. At the start of 2011, after the company took back control of its Internet operations, online hardcopy sales accounted for less than 3 percent of Borders' revenue -- that's less than a third of what Barnes & Noble derived from its online hardcopy sales. Then to add insult to injury, it was also late on the e-book craze, creating a me-too e-reader almost three years after Amazon introduced the Kindle.
The single, most effective remedy to this scenario is for business leaders to prioritize their users, the people who interact with their company through digital media and technology, above all else. They must research the needs of their users and then use these insights to guide everything from product development to marketing, sales, and customer service. And if you want to learn how to do this, it's all in Users Not Customers, which a former Borders employee would be happy to you.