Paul’s Blog “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Mark Twain

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Paul’s Blog  

“Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Mark Twain


 NACS (The U.S. National Association of Convenience Stores) publishes an annual “State of the Industry Report” which includes performance data from its members.  That data is aggregated to “help its members to better understand their own business metrics and help them to benchmark against the industry.”   NACS is sending out an All-Points-Bulletin to get its members to send in the data. 

 This effort by NACS to ensure its membership is properly informed with the facts brings to mind NACS’ extraordinary efforts to deny, for reasons that remain unclear, certain facts that do not comport with its pre-conceived world-view about iLottery.  NACS continues to deny the fact that making lottery products available on the internet and Mobile does not detract from land-based retail sales.  And this unfortunate position is impeding progress not just for U.S. lotteries.  It is stifling the ability of NACS’ own members to modernize and get positioned for a new dawn of retail growth.  

It is understandable that the gut feeling and initial reaction to the idea of iLottery would be that it might cannibalize land-based retail sales.  Expectations are based on pre-conceived notions and presumptions and bias our interpretation of the data.   The facts may be “objective” but our interpretation of the meaning and implications is subjective as they are subject to the myriad of different life-experiences that each individual brings to the situation.   With that in mind, it would be quite reasonable to expect that making lottery products available for purchase online might cannibalize the sales of lottery products at land-based retail stores.  Similarly, it would not have been unreasonable for the person living in the middle ages to think the world is flat and the sun revolves around the earth.  What is not reasonable is to hold onto these presumptions long after the real-world facts have completely dispelled them as being wrong. 

 What NACS is doing is worse than that.  Unlike the person living in the middle ages, everyone knows full well that iLottery does not negatively impact land-based retail sales.  The evidence is in, it is rock solid and conclusive, and it emphatically proves that making lottery products available online does not have a negative impact on land-based retail sales.  In fact, the opposite is true.  Lotteries across the world (including Canada, Australia, almost all of Europe, and many other markets) have been selling lottery products online for decades and so the data available is quite extensive and conclusive.  In the U.S., the Michigan Lottery has an ambitious iLottery agenda with an equally ambitious land-based retail sales program and is demonstrating how the two go hand-in-hand.  Michigan land-based retail sales are increasing at a rate that is actually faster than the average U.S. lottery.  Making lottery products available online brings in new consumer groups, it drives these new groups back to the store to take advantage of promotions, and there are countless other reasons why increasing access to Lottery by adding the internet to its distribution mix benefits everyone, including or even especially retailers.  These facts are well-known to everyone, including NACS. 

 So what gives?  Why is NACS promoting a story-line that is so at odds with the facts, and so contrary to the best interests of its own membership?  I invite all of us to think about how we, the Lottery industry, can engage NACS and all of our retail partners in a productive discussion for how to move forward in ways that are beneficial for everyone.  

Perhaps iLottery can be integrated into the discussion of “modernization”.  Lotteries and their retail partners are working so well together on the mission to reinvent the in-store shopping experience for the next generation of consumer.  Maybe we could make iLottery a part of these efforts, showing retailers not just the data about how iLottery actually helps land-based retail sales, but showing them how and why that is true, how and why the omni-channel customer is more engaged in every way and this results in increased sales at retail, and how iLottery is just another component part to the digitization of retail.