Last week, Naomi Simson, Founder of RedBalloon, compared and contrasted her experience with cabs and Uber, the mobile booking engine for hired cars, during her family trip to Paris and London. The point of her article, “Consumers Rule and Innovation Is Inevitable”, is this: when a product or service delivers a customer experience that is “overwhelmingly great”, that product or service will eventually prevail in the marketplace.
The article brought to mind P & G’s Swiffer. The Swiffer was not a particularly innovative product; several stick goods companies had dry mops that used disposable electrostatic cloths instead of washable mop heads. In fact, when the Swiffer was introduced, I remember hearing several stick goods manufacturers forecast that the Swiffer would fail in the marketplace. Their reasoning was “we tried that and it didn’t work”.
They were wrong. The Swiffer was an instant success, chalking up $100 million in sales during the final 4 months of 1999. In the year after its July 1999 introduction, more than 11.1 million Swiffer starter kits were sold. To this day, Swiffer is one of Procter & Gamble’s most popular consumer products with annual sales of $500 million. Swiffer was so successful because it delivered a customer experience that was “overwhelmingly great”. The Swiffer was one of those products that consumers would say they couldn’t live without.
I agree with Naomi: Consumers do rule. When it all comes down to it, the consumer is the only one who gets a vote when it comes to which products will succeed and which will fail. She votes with her wallet. And now, with the power of social media-driven word of mouth, she not only votes with her wallet but she influences what many others purchase as well. Imagine how many people will be motivated to try Uber after they read Naomi Simson’s story. Do your products offer an “overwhelmingly great” customer experience from start to finish? If not, your business is at great risk. Because sooner or later, a competitor will come along who does offer a great customer experience and your product will be left in the dust.