Rita Skeeter

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On November 20, 2016, Rita Skeeter commented on Rent the Runway Digitizes High-Fashion :

Neets, love this post, and serves as a nice shoutout to some young HBS alumni! Like @kdegs, I’ve used RTR as a customer but never considered the sophisticated backend logistics used to make the operation so successful. Your recommendation for RTR to expand to brick and mortar is spot on — I just read on Fortune a few days ago that Neiman Marcus is partnering with the company to build an in-department RTR kiosk [1], which may be beneficial to both parties. RTR won’t have to absorb the full independent cost of opening up a standalone, and Neiman benefits from RTR’s young customer base (versus Neiman’s 51-year-old shopper average).

I also love the way RTR leverages technology as part of the customer experience. It’s review platform in particular encourages past renters to post photos for future customers. I love this because not only does it add a human-touch element to an activity that occurs behind a screen, but also it heavily influences a renter’s likelihood of a product purchase. Because the customer is more informed, she’s likely to make a favorable selection at the outset, which reduces returns and increases overall satisfaction. Would love if more retailers instituted this type of photo sharing feature.

[1] http://fortune.com/2016/11/16/neiman-marcus-rent-the-runway/

On November 20, 2016, Rita Skeeter commented on Digital Change at Terminix :

This post highlights that even the most manual physically-based industries (pest control and extermination) require full consideration of how to play in the digital space to retain a competitive advantage. As you say, even the simplest of acts, like providing technicians cell phones, can add such an increased level of productivity and customer service. If we consider the psychology of a typical customer, s/he is likely already quite frustrated and anxious about needing these services in the first place. That, coupled with the fact that these companies likely drive business via positive word-of-mouth reviews, gives Terminix all the incentive in the world to actively consider ways to make the process as seamless, transparent and communicative as possible.

Perhaps an additional consideration not mentioned is incorporating an educational aspect into Terminix’s mobile application. For example, Terminix could publish content on how to identify household pests, what to do about it and when, and how Terminix’s services could help accelerate removal of the pests. By adding an informational component to its digital presence, Terminix could widen the audience of its user base, ultimately generating greater brand awareness.

On November 20, 2016, Rita Skeeter commented on The Solution to Police Brutality: Digitization? :

MAW — critical topic that’s only been gaining traction in the past few years. I’m wondering if you’ve read “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, which features a prominent internet company that ultimately works with the government to institute massive surveillance measures in an attempt to maintain the safety, security and transparency of global citizens. Though the book is fiction, what it highlights is that there is a massive grey area in this space, which you’ve highlighted: 1. How far is too far? 2. Does this really measure the right accountability? 3. How else can/will this be applied? 4. For what period and future use is data stored? 5. What else would be captured that could be considered threatening to others? 6. Most importantly, what are the pitfalls of using this technology exclusively versus what you identified can never be replaced — positive relationships and trust?

This discussion is at the forefront of many political and social justice arenas — thanks for shedding greater light on its inception and current use. I am eager — and a bit anxious — to see what happens next.

On November 20, 2016, Rita Skeeter commented on The Washington Post: An Innovative Force in the Digital News Industry :

Thank you for applauding the admirable efforts of the WP and Bezos to revive this struggling but entirely necessary news media industry. Exhibit 1, in particular, is a depressing demonstration of its decline, but there is hope. As you note, the WP and papers around the globe have pivoted their models to meet crucial objectives: (1) be profitable; (2) inform the public; (3) sustain and/or increase readership/clicks/viewers/shares; (4) serve as a check and balance for the industries and entities on which they report. Coupled with the constant tension between the advertising and editorial sides of media companies, maximizing each of these is hard to do without acknowledging some trade offs. When Bezos took over, for example, a number of critics were (and remain) extremely concerned about the paper’s ability to maintain objectivity. A prime example came last August when the NYT published a scathing exposé on Amazon’s culture [1], along with follow-up analysis and a response from the company. The story itself generated lots of follow-up conversation, but the Washington Post remained suspiciously quiet. This is relevant because as much as it matters to be digital-first/forward, maximizing online readers is fully dependent on readers’ belief in a publication’s objectivity. If people feel a media outlet is introducing bias, they are more likely to disengage from that outlet (Facebook serves as another recent example, as it has been doing damage control on this topic following the US election [2]).

Overall, thrilled to see there is momentum for WaPo’s digital efforts at large and that it now rivals the Times, which is widely-regarded as another best practice in the digital journalism effort. Most recently, the Times deleted its paywall for three days during the election, from Nov. 5-7, offering readers an unlimited three-day glimpse into its reporting and analysis — brilliant marketing ploy. Early reports show that online subscriptions surged after the combination of this feature (and the election result itself) [3]. Continued focus on UX, interactive design and infographics, sophisticated data analytics and of course, simply great reporting, will not just keep the Post alive, but allow it to thrive.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?_r=0
[2] http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/11/17/495827410/from-hate-speech-to-fake-news-the-content-crisis-facing-mark-zuckerberg
[3] http://adage.com/article/media/york-times-wsj-subscriptions-surge-election/306778/

On November 20, 2016, Rita Skeeter commented on Domino’s Pizza: A Quick Service Restaurant Chain or a Tech Company? :

Ha! @CaptainKoloth I happen to be a huge fan of the so-called crackers topped with ketchup by which you have characterized Dominos’ pizza … so I’ve been an active user of the ordering app and find it incredible engaging. In particular, Domino’s includes a minute-by-minute ordering timeline called the Pizza Tracker. From time-of-order to delivery, users on the app can view exactly what part of the pizza production process their food is in, which infuses both transparency fun into the customer experience. The transparency means customers are less impatient and annoyed about waiting for pizza, because their expectations are 100% aligned with what they see. The fun of it stems from being able to know exactly how and when the pizza is being produced (and by whom!). Although there are moderate arguments that the Tracker may lack full accuracy [1], it has certainly added entertainment value to an otherwise mundane process (from the customer’s POV).

Kristina, also am intrigued by the “Internet of Me” concept and how Domino’s has embraced that. Along with the drone deliveries mentioned by the Captain above, Domino’s has also released a widget on Facebook in which users can order via the Messenger app [2]. Domino’s is leveraging “Internet of Me” by continuing to bring its products to the fingertips of its customers.

Finally, I wonder about how Domino’s digital efforts are influencing its brick-and-mortar operations. If ordering online for delivery is an entirely seamless and easy process, have franchise sales revenues seen any decline? It seems like a greater number of large pizza chains are reducing their storefront footprint from restaurant style to more a carry out model. Perhaps continued downsizing is sustainable and would help reduce overhead operational costs while allowing Domino’s to prevail in the e-commerce space.

[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-joel-montgomery/dominos-pizza-tracker_b_5947734.html
[2] https://www.slashgear.com/dominos-brings-pizza-ordering-facebook-messenger-bot-to-us-15456336/

I’m glad you’ve covered this topic to highlight the overarching scope and scale of governance required to even scratch the surface of the climate change issue. It’s somewhat reassuring that a majority of businesses (86%) see a strategic opportunity in tackling climate change, which is helpful when defining incentives that would drive true action. That said it seems we’ve been globally slow to institute standards that could make meaningful progress. As you’ve highlighted, the SASB took nearly five years to develop its first set guidelines, and now we’re facing into a long lead time of corporate adoption. I think infusing a sense of urgency, whether it comes from the government or from SASB itself, could be helpful in curbing the detrimental impacts of climate change sooner rather than later. I also see Michael’s point in ensuring SASB’s acknowledgement of the financial components at play. In the end, some of the largest publicly-traded companies have a first and foremost fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, so finding a mutually beneficial way to maintain performance while boosting sustainability will be a critical key to success.

On November 6, 2016, Amrita commented on Going Green? Eat a Snickers. :

Who knew there could one day be a guiltless way to consume chocolate? Thanks Ryan for a fascinating – and entertaining! – take on Mars Inc.’s sustainability practices and their corresponding impacts on climate change. I’m amazed by the danger global warming poses on cacao production in West Africa, whose exports undoubtedly also serve the local economies there. To see an 800% increase in land classified as low sustainability for this critical raw material is quite alarming. So it’s comforting to see that Mars has taken a proactive role in combating the detrimental effects of climate change, including its 2020 and 2040 goals to aggressively champion sustainability and reduce emissions. I also liked your recommendations to further their eco-forward practices. Your third bullet in particular resonated, as it focused on water reduction at large, which could help tackle the overarching H2O shortage we’re globally facing (in tandem with the environmental concerns you mentioned).

The 1948 Pennsylvania high school incident you mention is a harrowing example of how coal has detrimentally impacted our environment. I’m pleased that BWC realized early on its need to diversify (following “dirty” coal’s reputational trend, versus stubbornly sticking with it for decades), including its entry into the government partnership for submarine components. I also appreciate BWC’s innovation on its own products to create eco-friendlier boilers for its core business. That said I do wonder if the company can play a greater role influencing other like-companies globally to pursue coal-curbing methods as well. In emerging markets, for example, use of coal continues to grow (in particular, China and India exceed the USA’s consumption https://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/coal.cfm). Perhaps BWC can position itself as a thought leader and best practice among the industry in the way it has both evolved its model while balancing its profitability and operating objectives.

On November 6, 2016, Amrita commented on Quicksilver and The Fight for the Great Barrier Reef :

I’m surprised (and admittedly disappointed) by the Australian government’s lack of active commitment to Quicksilver’s conservation “charter.” The continent is home to some of the world’s most unique and beautiful ocean species, so I would think any opportunity to preserve the sanctity of that would be championed. When I visited the GBR in 2010, I took a trip through Quicksilver, which as Anita notes, easily owns the largest piece of the tourism market in Cairns and the surrounding area. Therefore Quicksilver has a social responsibility to set the model for other travel groups and tourists to keep conservation top of mind while exploring the Reef. I agree that there’s been progress but so much more can be done. As Anita notes there is a lot of low hanging fruit for Quicksilver, from maintaining a stronger digital presence via its blog to promoting greater availability of data. I also loved Phoebe’s expansion of an idea from the post around virtual reality. Great way to really bring climate change to the forefront of people’s minds (literally!).

Jessie, found this post particularly informative given that I am a lifelong vegetarian and hadn’t previously put much thought into the beef production industry at large. It’s fascinating that beef cattle emit so much CO2, greater than all the levels of pigs, buffalo, chickens and other poultry combined. That, along with the domino effect applied to its customers like McDonalds’s, makes it obvious that JBS and other large beef producers face a number of hurdles ahead. I just wonder if sustainability practices or alternative solutions to curb cattle emissions as a whole are in conflict with JBS’ underlying business model – as in, if people turn away from beef toward a substitute, that acts directly against JBS’s business interests. For that reason I find your R&D investment solution to be very credible – why not innovate beyond beef production to get ahead of the inevitable beef crisis? Doing so would also position JBS as a thought leader and role model in the space, which you highlighted in your post. Thanks for sharing!