James – This was a very enlightening and thought-provoking post, so thank you! My family members are loyal Sears customers, so I grew up loving Sears and will do my best to separate out that consumer bias. Your post largely reminds me of the concepts we discussed in the Google Car case. When is it helpful for a business to innovate or otherwise diversify beyond its core competencies? In the Google Car case, one of the major takeaways was that answering this question requires somewhat of a balancing act between innovating or reviving the company at critical points and knowing the boundaries for the company. In the case of Sears, it seems that there innovation or diversification was not only inappropriately timed or executed, but also came at the expense of their focus on core competencies, which is a new angle to this balancing act that we did not deeply discuss in the Google Car case.
Kevin – This was incredibly helpful to read, so thank you for the post! Similarly to Carolyn and Aaron, I first heard about WeChat through our FIELD2 global partner in Shanghai. WeChat has continued to amaze me since, largely due to the vast array of functionality it offers. One concept that I have struggled to understand is O2O (or online-to-offline), particularly how apps can be used to drive customers who typically shop online towards shopping offline. You gave examples of how WeChat collaborates with third parties for O2O (e.g., “order taxi, book flight tickets, shop on JD.com, pay utilities fee and reserve for hospital visits, etc”). Aside from hospital visits and taxis, I view the other examples as things that can be done more easily online, and I am particularly interested in understanding how the WeChat collaboration with third parties is more conducive to consumers switching to engaging in these activities offline.