The Coming 'Experetail' Boom

[ Nespresso Boutique in San Francisco - photo via Yelp ]

Retail is fracked.

It's so obvious to those of us with Amazon Prime accounts, Zappos on our iPhones and bookmarked.

Marc Andreessen said all retail will be gone, and that's not as earth-shattering a prediction as it seems.

If you can save time or money you're probably going to do it -- if you can do both? Game over.

I haven't had to pick up coffee, razors, deodorant, shoes or shirts in a couple of years.

The only time we go shopping any more is for perishables or an 'emergency run' as we call it. I'm guessing if you're on this list, you're like us.

However, I took my daughter to the Disney Store last month, and we had a blast looking at everything. Her favorites were the mirrors from Snow White and the video jukebox. She didn't want to buy anything, even after I gave her multiple choices of her favorite characters. I bought a Peter Pan playset out of guilt for the mouse company. Sympathy buy since we were there for an hour playing with stuff.

She had enough of an experience that she didn't need to purchase anything.

I find myself doing that as well at shoe stores, the Apple store or Saks. In fact, I looked for a new wallet at Saks, and they were so overpriced ($100?!), that I pulled up the top wallets on Amazon while in the store and ranked them by popularity. They were all $10-$25. I bought three of the top 10 for < $50. I have two backup wallets now in my valet. I'm done for the next 10 years -- at least.

Everything will come crashing down and Amazon will win it all -- it's certain -- what then?

In other words, working backwards from Sequoia's 'Why now?', what founder with what product would answer 'because retail is dead and everyone orders online!'

The answer?

The founder of a startup that creates experiences in old retail spaces.

Note: this is not a real company. I just made it up. Experetail is short for 'experience-based retail.'

Note #2: Experetail is pronounced like 'fairy tale.'

I'm writing this from the Nespresso Boutique in Union Square on my iPhone. There are machines everywhere, not to mention those unconscionable little pods that are unnecessarily filling landfills by the millions every week -- perhaps day.

This is 'showrooming' at its best: order perfectly prepared treats in a gorgeously lit room by perfectly fit and happy staffers.

It feels like 'Gattaca' meets Disneyland. That halo is you being indoctrinated into the 'cult of the pod' -- and if this place is any indication, it's working.

Showrooming is 'monetized marketing' as you get this huge living billboard for free if you can move enough macaroons and pods.

If you're Tesla or Apple, you're wildly profitable from selling just a small amount of product. Apple can probably pay rent on any of its stores after selling a dozen iPhones and iPads in a day. Tesla can pay its rent with 1 or 2 Model Ss every quarter, I bet.

However, the next level we'll see is about the experience. It's about me coming to your store and paying you for a moment.

Every hour or half-hour, the Disney Store should have Ariel or Belle come out to take photos and tell a story for $15 a child. Or have face painting. Or a live telecast of a show like 'Aladdin' from Disneyland -- free for members of course.

Nespresso or Starbucks should have folk artists perform and poetry slams at night for $10. Just like indie coffee shops do.

With the time that boring shopping once took (what five to 10 hours a week), our brains can move from low level joy (consumption) to the next level of joy: experiences (or flow for you happiness wonks -- yeah you).

Tesla should have driving simulators, and Apple should have classes -- wait, Apple already does.

Lululemon should showcase the pants and give the new found free space over to actual yoga classes.

This is another awesome moment for humanity, all this free time added to our lives thanks to the robots boxing the things we need, as the poor UPS drivers do all our heavy lifting for us.

Consumables and emergency runs are even going to replaced by TaskRabbit, grocery delivery and the Uber-ification of everything that sucks. Why on earth should anyone go to a pharmacy? We already order online, but for same-day Z-packs there is no reason a kid on a Vespa shouldn't track you down with the TWIST app in real time. They'll be chasing you down the 405 and tapping on your window before throwing your meds through the sunroof.

When that happens, and as Marc points out retail *actually* dies, Coursera, Udacity and Treehouse should buy up old retail spaces so folks can take an MIT or Stanford course for $5 or $10. Heck, why isn't someone renting up an old mall and having smart college kids run 'enhanced' MITx and Udacity classes right now?

What other uses can we come up with for experetail?

We should celebrate the end of retail, as we're all going to move up the stack and have better jobs thanks to taking so many MOOCs!

Or we'll add 10 percent long-term unemployment, see the rising minimum wage push jobs offshore and riots in the streets -- like Europe.

Could go either way, but if you're reading this newsletter you're almost guaranteed to be on the right side of things. I'm hedging and putting in a panic room, escape plan, motorcycle, shed full of food and -- yes -- even more guns and ammo. In my mind it's a 1% chance society goes 'Mad Max' before our time here is done, which is significant considering the downside of such an event. Or maybe I'm watching too many episodes of 'Doomsday Preppers.'

Note: This is the US-centric view of retail. Some parts of the world have decades of low-caste workers yet to join modern society (India and China), so the Uber-fication in those countries is going to occur, but probably for a very small percentage of folks compared to the USA. Or maybe we'll get ecommerce so right here that they'll skip the Amazon step and go right to the Uber step.  

Our future is about more free time, fewer jobs, unlimited free education, democratized fundraising and extreme outcomes -- plus a lot of confusion because of those things.

If you thought the last 20 years were interesting, your mind is about to be blown in 20-30 years when your 3D printer magically creates a new hand for you.

Oh wait, that happened last month:


1. What's your favorite experetail idea?
2. What signals from the future (anecdotes) have you seen that back up what I'm talking about?

best @jason
PS - on March 4th we're having the 4th Annual Yammer Founder's Party at the LAUNCH Festival, and we're 'leaning in' to diversity by trying to have a 50-50 male/female ratio. If you know any female founders, please introduce them to me ( We'll get them a complimentary ticket to the LAUNCH Festival and an exclusive invite to the party!

PPS - We're at 4,500 registered for the LAUNCH Festival. We're trying to hit our stretch goal of 5,000. I will pick 100 folks at random from this form to come as my guest. With the support of so many awesome firms, the event is in the black.

PPPS - The LAUNCH Festival Hackathon is now at $75k in investment prizes.... crazy. 350+ hackers coming.