About Discount Directionals
The History and Story of the First Online Crowd Control Supplier
DiscountDirectionals is a rather long name for a website that entered the web world in the 90’s. But that is precisely the product group that DD began with 25 years ago. Our business model, even then, was distinct and different from competitors, just as it still is now. Take a few minutes are read through this short article and you can better appreciate why and how DD continues to be a major supplier of these products after all these years.
Our approach has been to position ourselves as a boutique supplier. Now we need to realize that on the web DD has gone through three separate waves of competitors. All but a few of our online competitors did not exist 10 years ago. And many of those 10 years ago no longer exist.
Our position is and has been to provide one-on-one personalized service to our customer base. We exist solely due to a well-defined and loyal group of repeat customers. We have not, and do not, pay for advertising to drive traffic. Customers come almost exclusively from word of mouth and referrals.
If you search for a key term on Google today, the ads at the top, and the bottom, will force organic sites like DD to page 2 or 3. So the only practical way to find us on the web is to go deep. So how have we survived this long without paying for extensive advertising? We shall explain below.
DD is a boutique resource with personalized customer service. We respond to the customer’s shopping list with the right products, at the right price, delivered at the right time, all within their specific constraints. And everyone has constraints.
Since we do not depend on the website to draw traffic, it has never contained all the product we supply. In fact, the website selection itself is essentially the same as we started with 25 years ago. That will soon be changing, but that discussion is at the end of this document.
What’s the DD advantage? The purchasing agent opening a new casino or 5-star hotel only has to worry about putting together a shopping list of this mostly last-minute thought of products. One source, one PO, and just one invoice to pay. Days of shopping around time is saved. For some, this is not important, but for our customer base, it is the primary reason they keep coming back: saving time, which is money and saving on unit cost, which is even more money.
This personalized service clearly is not needed by the one-time buyer. There are plenty of resources searchable on the web. So, we do not cater to this group. We still fulfill orders quickly at the best pricing, but we expect them to simply disappear after fulfillment as that is probably the only time they will ever order those products.
Another subject to be discussed later in this article will be expansion of the DD website for 2023 showing more of the products we have been supplying our core customer base. The website features less than 20% of all the products available.
To give you an insight into the DD business structure, we’ll describe a historical business found in SF, and in fact all major cities.
Those who can afford it, want the best grocery products they can find. If you just go into a grocery store, those products cannot, logistically, be all that fresh. So for the neighborhoods with well-off residents, you will find a small grocery store, like an old A&P, usually smaller than a Giant Eagle produce section today.
One can shop in this small neighborhood grocery, but it is mostly canned and bottle goods. What is taking place in the back is a totally different structure. Customers remotely place orders. Vegetables are collected daily from the wholesale market and meats from the restaurant suppliers. So, when Mrs. Jones sends in her order, it is delivered same day with the very best product. If it requires special cheese from France, or a unique fish sauce from Hanoi, they get it directly from the importer for Mrs. Jones.
Of course, they arrange home delivery. More importantly, they source everything for the customer who only has to submit a single shopping list. DD offers the same kind of service, a one-stop shopping, to its well-defined customer base. They get the best products at the best price from a single source. That is the primary reason DD has continued to exist for 25 years.
A rarely acknowledged benefit, the top 2% of DD customers have their own personal shopper, similar to how top-tier hotels and airlines give their true elites a dedicated contact within their organization. That will not change as these customers represent a disproportionate share of the DD revenue.
However, with the changing way folks shop today, DD has had to modify its structure. Not stopping the personalized customer service to existing customers, but expanding its offering to the general public.
Our plans call for systematically posting additional products on the website so that more one-time buyers can benefit from the extensive resources we have developed over the decades.
Because having a top position for key search terms still does not assure page one position on google, we expect to do more advertising in the year 2023. Those who, today, just look at the website do not realize that it has had just minor changes since the first website. There have been graphic refreshes, but all the core products are still the same as in 1998.
What is missing, is the fact that of all the products DD supplies, the website currently reflects less than 5%. We still operate mostly from the customer shopping list. Most people can appreciate the need to change that.
We want to keep the boutique personalized service but understand the need to compete with the smaller kitchen table e-commerce websites and their fancy web graphics and exaggerated claims.
So how does DD fit within the larger Okono family of businesses? DD was conceived as the retail face of the company. Okono was primarily organized for import and export, both wholesaling imports and exporting to the far east. DD operates semi-independently with its own CS and accounting support.
When Okono began, it was in a house in Palm Springs. Why Palm Springs? The owner of the company had a weekend house, and more importantly, Palm Springs was still within direct delivery from the port of Long Beach/Los Angeles. As an importer, that saved time and expense that could be useful in keeping prices low and competitive.
The original house in 1998, had used Herman Miller modules to support a 6 person CS and sales team in the living room, plus a bedroom as the manager’s office. So, although Okono did not start in the basement or in the attic, it did start in the small living room with printers and huge servers surrounding the people. It was a little bit noisy.
Even though the house no longer serves a practical use for Okono, it was and still is, the official corporate address for taxes and government notices. Every so often, a semi-truck shows up assuming that is the company’s address, to the neighbors’ chagrin.
With current sales volume DD does extensive drop shipping from the premium suppliers of our products from 14 regular locations across the country. We still have the primary warehouse in North Palm Springs. That is where most imports are received, and where we also drop ship for other vendors or resellers. As a secure location, entry for delivery or pick up is restricted with appointments required.