Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

The Death of Commoditization. The Birth of the Small Business

October 20, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

Image Source: Wired.com

Image Source: Wired.com

In today’s society, there is the belief that “free is good.” I have this belief as well, but I do think there are times when the saying isn’t always true. A situation that stands out for me is new products in the marketplace. When you see or hear about a product from a friend, in the news, or by any other means, what you’re hearing a someone’s invention. It is something they (the company) created by trying to understand their customer (often themselves) and making a product that serves their customer. That is the essence of new product development. You find a need in the market, and then you try to fill it with a product that you think the consumer would enjoy and purchase. And you, as the creator would be rewarded. In today’s society, that reward is financial, social, or some other high value asset.

Source: stock.xchang

Source: stock.xchng

So back to the inventor. This inventor has created something that they think you will like. And by buying their product, you say, “I like your product and I will support you.” What makes you decide to buy it? Maybe you tried it. Maybe a trusted friend recommended it to you. By some marketing initiative, you became aware of the product and decided that you wanted it enough to be willing to pay for it.

Source: Stock.xchng

Source: Stock.xchng

The problem with commoditization is that it drives down the quality of the product as the price drives towards zero. One example of this direct relationship between quality and price can be seen in toilet paper. Toilet paper is, in essence, free. If you wanted to, you could get toilet paper free for the rest of your life and never have to pay for it. Now I don’t know where to get reliably source of free toilet paper from, but a quick search would answer that question. The bigger point is that even in a market with free products, people pay. And people will pay a fair amount for high quality toilet paper. The point is that a commoditized product is often of poor quality, so the majority of consumers will pay for a higher quality product. You can pay with money, as in toilet paper, or with information, as in Google.

Source: stock.xchng

Source: stock.xchng

My proposal to you, the consumer, is to consider, “Why would somebody create something in a commoditized market?” Are they trying to make a quick buck? Or are they making something they believe in and think will improve your life. If you believe the reason they made the product is to make your life better, then I ask you to buy it. By buying that product, you are supporting the inventor’s dream. You are an early adopter. You buy into their dream product. The current iteration of the product may not be your dream product, but by supporting them, you give them another chance to make something better. You keep their company in the race. By selecting a commoditized version of the product, you don’t give them the chance to even try again. Aren’t we supposed to support smart risk taking? Without such, society wouldn’t grown and flourish.

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An iPhone without Contracts

September 25, 2009

By joseph.young.2009

apple-iphone-3gs-1

The best smartphone on the market today is the iPhone 3GS. This isn’t news. They’ve sold over 30 million iDevices (iPhone + iPod Touch). The app store has had over 1.8 billion downloads and hosts 75,000 apps. Compare these stats against the Palm Pre, Google G1 or myTouch, Blackberry Storm, or Nokia N-Series. Apple is killing it. That’s not to say that the other players aren’t working hard and may some day catch up. Just not today. But that’s another discussion.

What were here to talk about is how to get the best smartphone on the best network, today. We’ve already determined the best smartphone is the iPhone. But even if you don’t think it is, this method works for your smartphone of choice. The best carrier for coverage and download speed in San Diego is Sprint. Yes, Sprint. I thought it was Verizon too, but recent studies show that Sprint has spent a lot of money on the network and it’s starting to pay off.

sprint

How do you get iPhone on Sprint? Beyond the technical issues of CDMA vs. GSM radio frequencies, the iPhone is tied to AT&T by an exclusivity contract. We’d have to wait a year to hear if there’s the possibility of Apple’s iPhone on Sprint. And the truth is, Verizon would probably snatch up Apple before Sprint, as recent rumors have pointed to. So the solution is to get one of Sprint’s snazzy new personal Wi-Fi devices. Marketed as “MiFi 2200,” it’s a personal hotspot that goes wherever you go and gives you 831K (about 1/2 DSL or 1/3 cable internet speeds) of bandwidth in San Diego. Now get your iPhone, or better yet, iPod Touch, and connect to your MiFi and have high speed internet with you at all times. With any iDevice, you can use the Skype app and have people call you directly. Eventually, the Google Voice app will be released and you’ll be able to use your Google Voice number to call, text, and everything else you need a phone to do. But instead of paying $199 down and $75 a month for 450 minutes and 200 text messages, you pay $199 down and $60 a month for (nearly) unlimited calls, texts, emails, and webpages. Plus you’re on a faster and more reliable network. I could go on about how the MiFi would allow you to surf at the airport, in long car rides, and at any coffee shop, but Steven Levy already talks about it in this month’s issue of Wired (Oct. 2009).

The Back Up Phone

June 22, 2009

by joseph.young.2009

virginmobilephones

Unsubsidized prices of Virgin Mobile phones

I recently went to Cincinnati to visit my family for vacation. While I was out there, I drove over to Paramount’s Kings Island to enjoy the roller coasters. What I didn’t expect at the park was to loose my phone on the very first ride. My iPhone. My personal assistant, phone book, calendar, and primary channel for communication.

Let’s face it, we don’t use the home phone anymore. We consider it a back-up, and only use it when we’re low on batteries, or have bad reception. The cellphone is a personal communication device that has changed society forever. And to be without yours, is a strange feeling.

But I digress. I returned from my vacation without a phone and needed a solution quickly. I had been trying to decide between the new iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre. Both phones look interesting, and could be a worthy replacement for my iPhone. But my phone would not be defeated. In checking my voicemail tonight, I received a message that my iPhone was still alive and most likely, working. They gave me a phone number to call, and I realized that I didn’t have a phone to call with.

At the end of my second quarter as a Teaching Assistant for our core marketing course, I came across a very interesting case. Virgin Mobile‘s pricing strategy was the students’ final case. Reading through the situation and the decision facing the management, it was interesting to see how carriers and customers have a combative relationship. Consumers want to leave carriers for bad service. Carriers lure consumers in with phones and hidden fees. We’ve spent so long in these contracts, that we don’t blink an eye at 2-year contracts. And here was a new player that identified the pain points for the consumer and created a plan that reduced customer acquisition costs, and protected themselves from high customer churn. This strategy ultimately proved successful for them.

Faced with a need to buy a “loner” phone tonight, I went to Target to go shopping. I was surprised to see so many players in the pay-as-you-go section of the mobile phone aisle. But I can understand why. I see this phone as a one time purchase that provides me with freedom to make calls and text messages. I’m paying $45 for a disposable phone booth that I can carry around with me. The funny part of this situation is that my 200 minutes doesn’t even exceed the 210 minute talk time of a full charge. As the price of products is driven down with innovation (technical, operational, etc.), products become commodotized and I now see this mobile phone as a thow-away product; something I would have ever considered 10 years ago.

Innovating in Established Markets: Candy Buckets

October 23, 2008

by joseph.young.2009

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d treat our readers to a new segment. I get really excited about innovation. I guess that’s why I work in the technology sector. But innovation is more than Web 2.0 and Software-as-a-Service. It’s about finding a solution to a problem, new or old. It’s always amazing to see products stand out in established markets where people believe there’s no more room for growth because one company has significant market share. It’s partially an underdog mentality, but also the belief that you can do better than what’s out there. I think that’s one of the biggest takeaways from the New Product Development course at Rady.

While shopping for halloween costumes, I came across the candy buckets that kids usually tote around to each house, holding their treasures. Growing up, these things were pretty basic. An orange plastic bowl with a black strap. I was pleasantly surprised to see that someone improved upon the old design. The pain with the old products were their lack of sturdiness, as well as the difficulty in emptying out the candy at the end of the night. The solution? A more durable bucket with an upsidedown hing to pour the candy out the bottom. Brilliant! The photos below show a new Elmo candy bucket that conveniently opens at the bottom.

Happy Halloween!

SuperSaiYoung@flickrSource: SuperSaiYoung@flickr

SuperSaiYoung@flickr

Source: SuperSaiYoung@flickr