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Loved this post! It is clear that the digital age will have a massive impact on traditional brick and mortar retail stores. As your post notes, the practice of “showrooming” has become ubiquitous and is an enormous problem for retailers. Amazon was smart to develop an app that simultaneously capitalizes on this trend but also drives customers to its website. Retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue are acutely aware of showrooming and are brainstorming creative ways to adapt their business models to today’s online-focused consumer. For instance, retailers have adopted mobile point-of-sale systems that cater to consumers demanding an increasingly immersive shopping experience, and are looking at ways to connect the physical shopping experience to a consumer’s digital experience. I found this article (http://www.starmount.com/news/making-mobile-happen) interesting as it discusses potential future innovations in the retail space, including apps that enable consumers to purchase inventory directly from their smartphones.

On November 20, 2016, Tara commented on Sephora’s Digital Makeover :

I loved this post because I am also very interested in how digital technology is forcing retail stores such as Sephora to adapt their business models. As you note, consumers are increasingly demanding a more immersive and connected shopping experience. The trend of consumers shopping online versus in-store is well publicized, and I think that the investments Sephora has made in merging the online and in-store experience will help combat this shopping phenomena. Sephora recognizes that innovations in virtual reality and its smartphone apps will help drive consumers to the store versus shopping on sites such as Amazon. It seems that Sephora is also learning from its competitors by introducing Sephora Flash. However, I wonder what the economics look like for this service, and whether Sephora will need to invest in its distribution networks to make Sephora Flash viable in the future. The retailer Everlane is an interesting case study – Everlane employed the non-traditional delivery service, Postmates, to make same-day delivery possible (versus Fedex and UPS). (https://techcrunch.com/2014/09/09/postmates-everlane/)

I wonder whether a similar partnership would make sense for Sephora.

Great post! It is interesting to read about how technology is disrupting the real estate brokerage market by addressing information asymmetries between buyers and sellers. While I’m sure that websites such as Zillow will continue to pressure the commission brokers are able to charge for their services, I’m not sure if the broker role will ever be eliminated entirely. Like you point out in your post, given buying a home is such a large investment, I’m not sure buyers will be willing to forgo the services and knowledge of an experienced real estate broker. While it is nice to have reference points, I believe that you can’t replace the information gained from touring a home in person. It will be interesting to see how the online real estate market evolves going forward.

On November 20, 2016, Tara commented on Can retail stores also act as mini distribution centers? :

Awesome post! I’ve read several posts thus far on how traditional brick and mortar retail stores are adapting in the digital age. Its interesting how Macys has decided to use its physical retail stores as logistic distribution centers to combat pure play e-commerce sites such as Amazon. While Macys has invested in cash registers with software that can handle both in-store and online purchases, perhaps Macys should also consider innovating its cash register system entirely. Other retailers are investing in mobile point-of-sale technologies with handheld scanners that help to make the in-store experience more immersive as well as personalize the experience as store associates are able to ring up transactions on the spot. Further, companies are also investing in technologies that allow customers to purchase merchandise through their smartphone. (http://www.starmount.com/news/making-mobile-happen) As you note, it is clear that Macys will need to continue to innovate in order to stay relevant in the digital age.

On November 20, 2016, Tara commented on Just one more mile to go… :

Wow, cool post! Solving distribution challenges as consumers increasingly move their purchases online will certainly be one of the most important challenges of the next decade for retailers. I love how Mercedes is automating the entire delivery process. The automatic presentation of packages should reduce human error in delivery. It never occurred to me that companies would consider using drones to help deliver purchases. Given drone-use is in its infancy, I wonder what the regulatory environment for drone use will look like in the future and whether (as you point out) legislation will limit the extent to which drones can be used.

Carina – I think your post raises an excellent question regarding who should pay for climate change mitigation and conservation efforts. (If you are interested, check out this article: https://www.cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/S0030605303000413) As you point out, many tourists from around the globe flock to the Maldives to enjoy a slice of paradise. However, costs of conservation are often borne disproportionately by the local communities and residents. While the Maldives has implemented several initiatives including “Coral Reef Protection and Wetland Conservation”, perhaps the Maldives could also implement a “conversation tax” for foreign tourists. While a tax has the potential to distort incentives and discourage tourism, I think that the monetary benefits may outweigh the potential costs and may help the Maldives invest in flood mitigation efforts for the long term.

On November 7, 2016, Tara commented on Imagine a World Without Coffee… :

Brad – Your post first caught my eye by your descriptive title. As an avid and perhaps addicted coffee drinker, is it hard for me to fathom a world without Starbucks coffee. While your post focused on gourmet coffee, I think it also raises the interesting question regarding the role of global conglomerates in the climate change discussion. Due to Starbucks large position in the supply chain, it appears that Starbucks has the influence to initiative powerful efforts such as the “Sustainable Coffee Challenge” and the partnership with “Earthwatch.” I think that corporations that occupy a dominant position within the global supply chain will have to play an increasingly active role going forward. While you suggest that Starbucks should invest in a team of structured derivative specialists, I think that the market would also benefit if Starbucks continued to expand its partnerships with local producers. Using its influence, Starbucks could encourage suppliers to adopt more sustainable practices that would benefit its supply chain in the long term.

I was pleasantly surprised after reading this post that Boston Logan Airport is taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to climate change mitigation. Given Boston Logan’s low-lying position near the ocean, it is prudent that airport management is thinking about flood prevention and mitigation techniques. I wrote my post on Miami Beach’s efforts to mitigate flooding, so perhaps Boston Logan could invest in additional preventative efforts such as improved seawalls and natural water barriers (sand dunes/natural flora). (See http://floodready.vermont.gov/flood_protection) Furthermore, I also wonder whether Boston Logan can do more to facilitate public transportation to the airport in order to lessen the carbon footprint of passengers traveling to and from the airport. Boston Logan could sponsor an hourly, flat fee shuttle system that picks up passengers in centralized, convenient locations.

Jeremy – Thank you for such a thoughtful post on the extent that Harvard, as a leading educational institutional, should be an active leader in climate change mitigation efforts. I would like to focus on two points you raised in your post: the University’s electric car initiative and the endowment’s divestiture of investments in the fossil fuel industry. With respect to electric cars, while the University’s effort to make electric power sources more widely available is admirable, the extent to which electric cars are actually less carbon intensive is under debate. If you consider the lifetime carbon footprint (manufacturing, driving and disposal) of both electric and gasoline-powered cars, the carbon footprint may actually be higher for electric cars. (See https://www.prageru.com/courses/environmental-science/are-electric-cars-really-green) Electric cars are more carbon-intensive to produce and often times the electricity used to fuel these cars is coal-generated. With respect to the University’s divestiture of fossil fuel investments, I previously worked with various pension funds/endowments to help them diligence our private equity funds. Often times endowments/pension funds would have various restrictions related to social enterprise/diversity, and while these restrictions were well meaning, it often meant that the incentives of these pension funds were distorted and they were no longer investing in the most profitable investments. Therefore, the beneficiaries of these fund’s investments sometimes suffered. I worry that the result will be similar with Harvard’s endowment, and perhaps the investment criteria of the endowment is not the right place for climate change advocacy.

On November 7, 2016, Tara commented on The Death of the Ski Industry? :


This was a great read! I think that mainstream media often only covers the impact of climate change from the perspective of ‘traditional’ industries such as manufacturing, energy and resource-intensive industries. However, as your post aptly points out, climate change is an all-encompassing issue that will not only affect traditional business sectors, but also sports and recreational activities. I believe that showing how climate change can impact the ‘everyday individual’ is incredibly powerful as it makes the topic relatable to more people. To that end, there are a number of initiatives aimed at promoting awareness about climate change through winter sports and professional athletes. I encourage you to check out the “Protect our Winters” (http://protectourwinters.org/our-work/) and “Sport4Climate” (https://vimeo.com/99650447) initiatives. These initiatives attempt to mobilize professional athletes and outdoor enthusiasts as ‘influencers’ to promote climate change awareness and action. These initiatives believe that promoting climate change awareness through these ‘influencers’ is highly effective as these “influencers” are able to tap into a distinct/wider network – a network that governments and social impact groups are unable to access.