A couple of months back, Google announced discontinuation of online sales for Nexus1.
A couple of years ago, DELL did something similar for its laptop, though Dell did not stop online sales of its Laptops, it moved into a kiosk model in which customers could visit a kiosk, have a look and feel of the laptop they are interested in buying and then make the final choice.
Dell with its unique selling and distribution channels, was enjoying the second position in the market for a very long time (first being HP with 18% market share), but after the economic meltdown of 2009, as people started looking for cheaper products, Acer- a company based out of Taiwan had a 30% increase in sales making it the number two player in market with a 13% Market share.
Dell lost its USP (Unique Selling Preposition) of low price for high quality products. As more big players emerged, Dell found it difficult to maintain the unique bargaining power with the suppliers.
A zero inventory for Dell adds pressure to the suppliers as they are not certain of the sales volume. As a supplier, you would have less bargaining power if you have a fixed order than to have serve a customer with a JIT (Just In Time) Inventory system. As a result, Dell lost its competitive advantage.
Very soon, Acer with similar quality as that of Dell (most of the internal components are made by other manufacturer’s, example: Intel for processors, Nvidia for graphics etc) gave stiff price war to Dell.
Secondly, as the buyer is exploited by choice, he does not see sense in waiting for about a week for the product to be shipped. Acer is available at retail outlets and a buyer can always negotiate a deal with the local seller and also ask for ad-on gifts such as back-pack, pen-drive etc.
Let us have a look at Nexus One
Google's decision to discontinue direct sales, which comes less than six months after launching the online store, is fairly striking.
There is nothing wrong with the product (it has received a higher rating than the IPhone and the Motorola Droid by all tech forum and I have myself used the IPhone, Droid and the Nexus1) , there is enough publicity done, the price is very competitive, it has HTC and Google brand associated with it, but still the product isn’t selling.
Now, if we combine (have a nexus) of the issue faced by Dell and Google, we can see that there seems to be a change in which internet markets are going to operate in the future.
It seems, the shift would very soon be from B2C (Business to Consumer) to a more B2B (Business to Business) model.
Today, the consumer wants to have a touch and feel of the product before making a purchase decision. Internet and online sites are mostly used for doing a product research and comparing between different products, but the final purchase decision is made only after the “demo” is done.
As in the Dell case, the kiosks do not sell the laptop (they accept payment, but the order is still placed online), still, the consumer can have a look and feel of what he is buying, this avoids an uncertainty, thus removing the psychic price that the consumer might have to pay.
In the case of Nexus1, the consumer is not sure how the product is going to look and feel, even the most interactive website cannot replicate the look and feel of the product completely.
Internet market for B2C is promising if the companies are ready to re-innovate the business model and provide additional flexibility to the consumer.
For example, www.bigshoebazaar.com is a portal which enables consumers to order two shoes at a time in case the customer is not sure about the size, pay cash on delivery and when the shoe is returned, they reimburse the full amount of the shoe along with the shipping charges incurred by the customer.
Another example could be of companies into online gifting solutions, customers do not require the feel element while purchase from FernsNpetals (www.fnp.com), they would look for prompt delivery and payment security.
In case of B2B markets, since the goods sold are either raw-materials or have an option of being customized as per the buyers requirements, the need for touch and feel for the product is not strong, moreover, in such markets, it is feasible for the seller to send a sample to the buyer as the magnitude of order is generally big enough to cost the free-sample cost to each buyer.
So, we see that B2C channels are not very promising as the customer’s buying decision is based on the look and feel of the product.B2B and C2C (consumer to consumer) seem to be more sustainable business models over the internet.
Companies must remember that no matter how good your product is, you can’t see it unless the consumer wants to buy it.
“The consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife.” -David Ogilvy.