Curation, retail style
Do you need any further convincing that serving as the curator of knowledge for an industry is a valid and vital role for an association?
Would it help to know that one of the most successful retailers in the United States plays that role for its customers?
The point that caught my attention:
"Despite the idea that customers like more, Costco stocks surprisingly few items, only around 4,000. The lack of selection is deliberate. 'There's only one variety of ketchup,' [marketing consultant Pam] Danziger explains. 'You don't have to choose from a variety. They've edited it down for you. You've paid them to do it.'"
A big-box store that hasn't been performing so well lately is Best Buy. Slate tech writer Farhad Manjoo suggests that Best Buy's overwhelming selection is dragging it down, and he suggests an opposite approach to save the company:
"If Best Buy wants to survive, it's got to replace its hulking, teeming stores with smaller, less crowded, more intimate spaces. When you walk in to buy a 32-inch TV, the guy in the blue shirt shouldn't make you choose between a dozen nearly identical models. Instead, he should show you a single set, a TV that Best Buy's experts have determined offers the best features at the best price. The firm could do the same across its inventory, culling the tech universe down to a few essential, can't-beat products. In this way, Best Buy would transform itself from a supermarket into a boutique—a place with fewer things for sale and lots of friendly, sophisticated, helpful experts who'll save you the hassle of researching your next TV or PC purchase. They'll do all the work for you."
There it is again: curation. Note the similar language: "They've edited it down for you," and "They'll do all the work for you." Capturing, analyzing, evaluating, and organizing the overwhelming volume of choices in the world and presenting it to customers in a useful, manageable way. Making sense of the madness. Finding order from chaos. However you want to put it—in any context, both physical and online, both object and information—consumers derive value from and prove loyal to great curators.
[Also, on a separate but still association-related note: Costco has 64 million members. At the end of the segment above, reporter Carl Quintanilla notes that "most of their profit is from the [membership] fees themselves" and that 90 percent of Costco members renew every year. Chalk one up for the membership model.]