A Brainstorming Exercise for Quarantined Amazon Sellers

Brainstorm Ideas Strategy

Think of it as a watered-down version of what Wall Street Analysts and Strategic Marketing Departments are Frantically Trying to Figure Out

For most of us stuck in quasi-quarantine, I can’t help but ponder what the world will be like 3, 6, 9 months from now, a year from now, even fifty years from now.

Now pondering, is different than obsessing, or worrying in fear. I am confident everything will be fine if we maintain our social distance, and “hunker down.”

We will eventually be un-quarantined, and “normal” life will resume.  But I also know things will be VERY different when that happens.

There is no denying, that this event is a tipping point, it’s changing the trajectory of things. That’s true even if it ends tomorrow.

Exactly how things will change is the mystery, and to me, I’m starting to think of it more as a puzzle.

But it is not a solvable puzzle, as the puzzle is extremely large, with lots of different components, and we don’t have even close to all the pieces to put it together.

We do have some of the pieces.

Not enough to get even close to an idea of the overall big picture, but enough to maybe figure out little tiny nuances within the overall picture, and those nuances could be extremely valuable for us as eCommerce businesses planning our next move.

In fact, by correlating just a few puzzle pieces over the next eight weeks, we could actually find our entire strategy for 2020 and beyond. Don’t worry there is no pitch at the end of this – I don’t have a puzzle for you to buy.

The puzzle pieces, as I refer to them, are actually just data.

Factual, supported data, that we can use to try and uncover little pieces of the mystery puzzle. Because we as eCommerce sellers thrive on data, I thought this might be a fun brainstorming exercise for quarantine time.

If people are really into it, I’d even be open to sharing pieces and trying to track them to see what we came up with.

Here is an example of some puzzle pieces I’m working on:

1. Corona Baby Boom

BabyA person in a Facebook group that I belong to joked in a comment that there will be another “baby boom” due to the fact that so many people are going to be required to stay inside their homes for so long.

I’ll leave it to your imagination from there. They even jested that the virus would lead to a new baby-boom generation they termed “coronials.”

I know the person was making a joke, but then I thought: “is that really a far-fetched conclusion?”

In 1997, I moved from suburban Philadelphia to start college in Massachusetts. It didn’t take long until I learned about a famous event in Boston known the “Blizzard of 1978” which left Massachusetts residents stuck in their homes and ultimately led to a local baby-boom.

As it turns out that many of those babies, known in Mass. as “blizzard babies,” were my friends and classmates in college.

So, is it really outside the realm of possibility that a whole new baby boom is upon us?

Will this be a catalyst for the millennial “hold outs” who are known for delaying marriage and parenthood until later in life?

Will this collide with a boom among the earliest members of Gen-Z (1997)? If so, what does that look like? An uptick in demand for parenting products, baby products.

Would a baby-boom ignite the real estate market even more, increasing demand for home improvement products? Or, is it too soon to say?

Perhaps my ability to relate this to my experience in college exposes a confirmation basis.

Perhaps there is a counter-argument: if Blizzard of 1978 folks had Netflix and other streaming services, the blizzard baby phenomenon wouldn’t have happened.

More data is needed, but it’s on my radar.

2. Corona 2021

Some people are saying that, based on our experience with the Spanish Flu in the early 1900s, that we can expect this to subside by summer.

But like the Spanish Flu returned the following flu season after its initial outbreak, there is plenty of media speculation that the Coronavirus will return in 2021, possibly with the same vengeance.

This has been widely speculated in the media. Now, I’m definitely not saying that will, or won’t, happen. I clearly have no idea.

But what I can almost guarantee is that the issue of whether it will return will be the topic of conversation in the media and at dinner parties, from the time this virus subsides this year, and next year when we know for sure.

So, the data point here isn’t that the virus is definitely going to return but knowing that we are going to be inundated with this fear for the next year in media reporting and social media gossip.

That hyped-up fear, whether justified or not (again we don’t know now), is going to impact human behavior. Therefore, I view it as a reliable data point.

In fact, even if a vaccine is developed before next flu season, people won’t know it’s going to work until it’s tested, so I have no doubt the media will continue to touch on that “what-if” scenario, and many people will still be planning for a 2021 repeat of 2020.

So, here is the exercise:

News Spin CycleImagine it is the Summer of 2020, and everything is somewhat back to normal; we no longer have to social distance…

But, as summer ends and fall begins, and as we head into flu season, the media starts reminding us about what we went through last year (which is actually right now).

Suddenly, we are being barraged with reports re-emphasizing, the possibility that we’ll all have to self-quarantine again next year and constantly reminding us of what it was like last year, as if we’d forget.

So, what do people do in that instance:

Maybe they want to improve their homes, to make it more pleasant for long term stays, stock up on novel board games?

They may be looking for Innovative home-schooling products for their kids, in case we have to go back to homeschooling, like many of us are dealing with now.

Perhaps, they take online cooking classes, so they can better prepare meals, buy a freezer or second refrigerator.

Or, it could be that they are looking for more innovative storage, or home security options (I mean have you seen that movie Contagion – if you haven’t yet, DON’T!!, now is not the time).

3. Reduced Business Travel

Empty Seats in PlaneHaving spent 15 years in large corporate America, I have no doubt that companies are extremely concerned about the economy of the future.

Like clockwork, all the big companies will start to implement major cost-cutting measures that almost always start with limiting travel, as conserving cash will be the top priority for many of these companies.

With the pandemic companies may redefine essential travel altogether, grounding more people than ever before. They will encourage more and more meetings to occur over platforms like Zoom.

One thing I thought of is the demand for green-screen or white-background screens for those of us who are quarantined at home.

Imagine someone working for a big company and having to participate in a Zoom meeting with an important client in their personal man-cave/home office.

Do they really want their clients seeing their most prized “beers from around the world” poster?  Are they going to want to rearrange their office every time they have a meeting?

Perhaps they’ll be in the market for a green or white screen to block out their man-cave, so they can maintain a professional setting.

As the stuffier-corporate culture of corporate America adopts the Zoom lifestyle, that we in the eCommerce world have been accustom to for years, is it possible the portable screen will become the must-have business accessory for 2020?

Put Your Puzzle Together

Over time, more and more data points will be coming in, leading us down different paths and causing us to constantly revise our puzzle pieces.

We must also learn to filter out the noise and extract only the data. Be sure to share your findings with friends or colleagues, especially those with opposing viewpoints, as a way of checking for confirmation bias.

Remember, what you are searching for is really just a matter of cause and effect.

The data we extract now is the cause, and the effects are what we’re trying to solve; that’s the puzzle.

Suggested Reading “Keywords” to help you

  • Outliers
  • Tipping Point
  • Freakonomics

READ MORE: Amazon Suspends Many Inbound Shipments for FBA Sellers Through April 5

Paul Rafelson
Paul Rafelson is one of the founding partners of eCommattorneys legal practice and the Sellerbasics.com legal plan for eCommerce companies. Through his practice Paul represents eCommerce business owners in a variety of legal matters including tax, intellectual property and Amazon related issues. In addition to his legal practice, Paul volunteers his time to lead a seller advocacy effort through the organization Online Merchants Guild. Prior to helping eCommerce companies, Paul was in-house corporate & tax counsel for some of the largest companies in the world, including Microsoft, Walmart and GE. Paul is an adjunct law professor at Pace Law School in New York. Paul holds a bachelor’s in business (Accounting) from the University of Massachusetts, JD & MBA from Villanova University and a Masters of Law in Taxation from NYU.

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