We previously saw how the web is changing the notion of a premium product, but what if our strategy implies not being a premium provider? For instance premium might have negative connotations for our customers if we serve a segment within a specific income bracket, being synonymous with “expensive”, “a luxury we can’t afford”, and might make our customers avoid our stores or our products.
In the same vein Apple might have found that growth prospects in the smartphone market are better for sub $300 USD products or phones with bigger screens, none of which it was offering at the time.
The change in expectations still applies and we still need to use the web to respond to our customers, as their experience with our products begins online before they visit our physical store. Our customers may not be thinking “premium” but will appreciate answers to their queries, help in finding the right product, finding it more quickly, understanding the product attributes more important to their needs, the options required to achieve their objective – all of which works to our advantage to stop competing mainly on price. As a mass medium the web may provide us with the opportunity to compete on the experience surrounding our product at an affordable cost for a low or medium market segment.
The other side of the coin is that what might have seemed like premium before may not be premium in our customer’s mind anymore, and the difference between what they expect and what they are (or aren’t offered) will be perceived as a hassle, as inefficient.
The change in expectations might even have implications in the way our customers use our physical stores, for instance if during their online experience they grows accustomed to finding products quickly and following a certain logic (sports apparel>men’s>training>shorts) without having to ask for assistance, and our store’s organization doesn’t make sense to them (new>diving equipment>last season’s>women’s.
The perception of being a premium provider may work against us and it’s a great sign if we can adapt to our customer’s expectations by changing our positioning; but we need to go further and not fall for the trap that would take us from a particular disposable income to generic lower priced products, particularly when our customer’s expectations are changing through their use of the web, and when we have the opportunity to differentiate ourselves in a cost effective way by making our customer’s experience more productive, fun and less risky.