The Benefits of "Completing the Product"

Perhaps one of the lower key announcements in Apple’s keynote this week was the solution they developed for people buying a Macbook Air without a CD/DVD-ROM drive. To deal with the potential concern from customers about not having a CD/DVD drive with them when they needed it Apple created a simple piece of software to sit on a Mac or PC which allows the Macbook Air to use the CD/DVD drive on a remote computer. Brilliant! This surely isn’t a marvel of technological achievement but the result of doing it so elegantly portrays the benefits of what I would call “completing the product”. Loosely, I would define “completing the product” as solving a problem that the creators imposed on the buyer as a result of their chosen design constraints. To see how this may play-out at an Apple store near you over the coming weeks consider the following “imaginary” scenario:

  1. Customer comes into the Apple store considering buying a Macbook Air
  2. Customer speaks with sales person and expresses their apprehension about the fact it doesn’t have a built-in CD/DVD drive.
  3. Sales Person says, not to worry you can buy an external one to match the Macbook Air for $99.00.
  4. Customer expresses to Sales Person that this mildly solves their problem thinking that when (and if) they truly need it then they can buy it, however they are not that keen on the additional $99.00 price on-top of the laptop cost.
  5. Customer is still slightly hesitant.
  6. Sales Person asks the hesitant customer if they have another computer at home or at work with a CD/DVD drive.
  7. Customer says yes.
  8. Sales Person says “Perfect, well we have a great solution for you. We include software that lets your Macbook Air use another computers CD/DVD drive wirelessly over your network”
  9. Customer likely first stands amazed about being able to use a CD/DVD drive wirelessly and secondly cheers that this solves all of their concerns!
  10. Customer lays down the credit card and walks out a happy consumer!

Not only has this solution given the sales person a way to address all the customer concerns but they’ve also miraculously turned what was a negative into a positive – think: “Apple is innovative because they are able to let you use a CD/DVD drive on another computer wirelessly!” Of course, it is not rocket science to know the software is just making the act of ‘sharing’ a network drive simple and usable for all users regardless of technical ability but what an incredibly effective way of addressing customer concerns with what was quite likely a minimal amount of development effort. No doubt this small effort will pay off ten-fold in customers gleefully running out the door with a Macbook Air and no CD/DVD drive in hand.

Putting that final bit of polish onto a product is a staple of Apple products with too many examples to list, but it is this attention to ‘completing’ the product that without doubt leads to immense gains in their bottom line due to increased sales, and greatly decreased support costs. It is a key differentiator for them and other companies like them – I just wonder why more companies don’t take note!

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The Indigo Experience

I couldn’t help but notice at Indigo Books & Music the other day that they seem to have gone out of their way to make it difficult to enter the store.

I went in the main entrance of the Yonge and Bloor store and it was so jammed full of book displays, tables of books on special, and the checkout counter, that it was quite literally difficult to get in. If even one person stops to gaze at one of the stands they completely block inward traffic to the store. Albeit this probably seemed to me more frustrating than it really was since I was in a rush, but I still have to wonder if cramming all that stuff into the entrance is a great plan in terms of making it an inviting store to visit.

One other quick note from my Indigo experience – Why is it so hard to find a book?

In order to do so you need five pieces of information:

  1. Name of the book.
  2. Author of the book.
  3. Bookstore that has the book.
  4. Section in the bookstore.
  5. Knowledge of the sorting mechanism on the shelf.

If you are looking for a particular book you obviously already know 1 and/or 2, 3 is easily obtained from the Indigo website, but 4 and 5 are comparatively confusing. You can obtain 4 from a person in the store obviously, but for some reason this information is not available on the public Indigo website. Oddly enough however if you go to one of the Book Search PC’s (if you can find one!) in the store (which seem to use a slightly different version of the same web site available outside the store) you can actually obtain the section information if you look close enough on your search result page. Why isn’t this same information available outside the store? Now, once you have the section you aren’t really done yet as you still need to find the book within the section and there is seemingly no information identifying that the shelves and sections are sorted by Author name vs Title vs some other method, and further you have no idea where the alphabetical listing starts and ends. Of course these things are easy enough to deduce but everytime you go to the store you need to follow this algorithmic process to simply find a book, why??

Here are my quick recommendations to Indigo:

  1. Increase the number of ‘Book Search’ PC’s at the store.
  2. In the Book search results section make it clearer how you can find the book, don’t just hide the section away in a little corner on the screen. Information on how the books are sorted on the shelf should be included as well as the section name that will match with the section signs posted throughout the store.
  3. Provide all the information on how to find the book on the public website so that one can know where to find the book before coming into the store.
  4. Identify where the sorting mechanism on the shelf starts/ends, intermediary markers would be useful as well such as (A, B, C, etc).
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