I read a great article on TechCrunch this morning that got me thinking about finding customers. It talked about how Apple is just rocking the marketplace even in a recession and that one of their strengths is the small width of products that they produce:
Apple made $10 billion last year and their simple product line is the key. Look at it. There really aren’t that many products: One cellphone, four iPods, three notebooks, and three desktop computers. Now look at HP’s, Dell’s, or even Garmin and TomTom’s product lines. Apple does something different and hopefully others are taking notes.
Makes sense. How many GPS units does Garmin make? 82. Really. Apple makes only a handful of versions of its products, but packs the hell out of the available features in that unit. Another excerpt:
Consumers hate choices. They say they love them, but have you ever stood in front of a wall of plasmas and LCDs with a random person? I have and did for years at Circuit City. They get overwhelmed by the amount of options, but Apple has made it easy but producing top-notch products that are easily available. The iPhone at Wal-Mart makes sense as it doesn’t require a salesman to sell the hottest phone on the market.
I have to add a couple of thoughts though. First, I agree that consumers hate choices….to a point. I think America’s economy is so massive because people want choice in that they want to find products and services that help them express themselves, and express their personality. So in that sense, choice is good. But I do agree with the arguement that no one needs 82 choices of GPS.
But there also is a certain illusion of choice. When there are so many options, the space between the differentiations is so small it can be barely noticable. But it can be effective. Look at how many times Taco Bell can re-package Corn, beans, beef, and sour cream into products.
Second, Apple innovates. When they focus on a product, they build things that are different in so many ways from what already exists. They create things that are remarkable. They create products that don’t even need salespeople. The community and the identity of that community that Apple helped build is one that is a growing niche. That is, they are not afraid to build premium products that ‘are not for YOU.’ They’re not for everyone. They are, however, built for a niche that has a cool factor. A community that a lot of people want to be a part of.
My point is that granted, the simplicity factor saves resources and allows them to focus on making a handful of kick ass products. But simplicity isn’t the answer by itself. I would argue that its simplicity combined with innovation, and a good understanding of communities that allow it to shine.