Wednesday, January 16, 2008

High Tech Selling of a Low Tech Product

With the last of the Christmas trees having come down by now, I wanted to look at how technology might help to reshape what has traditionally been a fairly low tech industry, the natural Christmas tree.

The Germans first popularized cutting a pine tree, decorating it and placing it in the house during the Christmas season. The tradition came to this country with the German immigrants but was slow to take off here. The first White House Christmas tree was set in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony started.

Today there are an estimated 30 million Christmas trees sold in the USA, compared to about 9 million artificial ones. Since the artificial ones can be used over and over, probably half of the trees are artificial and half are natural ones.

To buy a natural tree, the typical way is either to buy one that had been pre-cut at a lot or store in town or drive out to a Christmas tree farm and tromp through the woods to find the ideal tree. We’ve traditionally opted for the “tromp through the woods.”

A Norwegian company has simplified the tromp through the woods. Jule Tre Fra Skogen (Norwegian for “Christmas trees from the forest”) goes out and takes pictures of individual trees, putting them on its website. You then choose the tree you want, Jule Tre cuts it and ships it directly to you. Cost is US$54 plus US$18 for shipment directly to your door in Norway.

The internet is allowing companies everywhere, even in very rural areas, to connect with customers they would have never dreamed of reaching. Hopefully, we’ll see more rural companies utilize the internet to connect to a completely new customer base, even if they are selling something as old as Christmas trees.

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