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The Measure of Success

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I’m hooked on “The Following,” Fox’s new serial-killer drama that stars Kevin Bacon; as a result I’ve become a groupie of sorts, drawn to articles about the series. Last month, a Los Angeles Times article reported that the premiere drew 10.4 million viewers — a solid showing by any measure.

What really grabbed my attention, however, was the number of people who watched the show days after it initially aired. The audience is reported to have nearly doubled: 4.7 million watched a DVR recording; 2.8 million tuned in for an encore broadcast; 2.4 million watched it online or via on-demand services.

It raised a few questions in my mind, most revolving around measuring success. While the industry can count those who DVR’d or watched online, there is no way of knowing how often the content was shared — and if you understand anything about the way Millennials consume television media, the term “binge viewing” is not new to you. Once the show wraps for the season, there will be those who consume all of the episodes in a day or two.

How does this affect marketing? I can attest to the fact that the rising popularity of the show has caught the eye of advertisers; there are so many breaks for advertising that it borders on obnoxious. Is it so unbearable that viewers would rather DVR the show and watch it later so they can fast-forward through the commercials? When viewers can consume media on their own terms and filter out what messaging is relevant to them, how can companies measure the value of advertising and its reach?

This is yet another powerful example of how, in retail today, the balance of power has shifted to the consumer. In much the same way that viewers consume their favorite TV shows on their own terms, consumers shop when they want, seek out the prices they’re willing to pay, discover brands differently than they did in the past and expect retailers to cater to their every whim.

We talk a lot about innovation in retail and the growing impact of all things digital on our industry. We live in a world that’s always open — literally and figuratively — and must engage with consumers that are connected 24/7 and crave customization. Innovation calls for new products and services, but it also demands that our industry think about new business models.

Jack Dorsey, CEO of Square, envisions a future where payments are processed without the exchange of anything more than a few words. Meanwhile Hointer, a specialty shop that opened in November, challenges industry norms using technology to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience – and it has already attracted global interest. Both are raising the bar on innovation in the quest to keep up with shoppers who want to consume all things on their own terms.