BlackBerry Success Story — Business Strategy Lessons & Crossing The Chasm
RIM, A Brief History
In 1984, Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin started a consulting company Research In Motion(RIM). The firm designed and developed several hardware/software products for the local wireless communication industry.
In 1989, a Canadian phone company called RAM Mobile Data contracted RIM to work on its newly acquired data network called Mobitex. Lazaridis developed mobile messaging(ran on Mobitex Network) and a wireless e-mail gateway service called RIMgate.
In the early 1990s, the company designed a portable, low-cost, and powerful Radio modem card that consumed less power. The hardware attracted several handheld device manufacturers. It was one of the revolutionary products at that time.
Venturing Into Telecommunication Consumer Market — By the mid-1990s, RAM Mobile Data was looking for wireless messaging devices it could sell to customers to boost data traffic on Mobitex Network. At that time, Paging was a booming market with nearly 40 million subscribers. So, RAM Mobile Data tasked RIM to develop Paging Devices.
RIM developed the first two-way pager Inter@ctive 900 for RAM mobile. In 1996, the company released RIM 900, its first keyboard-based device. Within a few months, RIM introduced another compact two-way paging device called BullFrog.
RED QUEEN EFFECT
Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place -Lewis Carroll(Looking Through The Glass).
For years, Lazaridis and his team had been working hard. Yet, they weren’t growing. They were struggling financially. Lower profit margins, sudden order cancellations, and payment delays squeezed the company. Lazaridis realized that being at the mercy of big companies was the sole reason for financial struggles. He had to find a way out of that Red Queen Effect.
The Solution — Lazaridis perceived that the solution was to design & develop their product and market directly to consumers. Become a B2C company.
As days passed, financial turmoil continued to torment Lazaridis. He decided to press ahead with his idea. He formed a team to develop their consumer product.
The company’s experience was in the wireless communication industry. What product should RIM design, develop, and launch?
How to proceed further?
1.0 BRAND POSITIONING — Category, Focus, Differentiation
When we plan to launch a new business or brand, it is essential to aim for a long-term payoff for all our efforts and investments — A sustainable ROI. One of the ways to achieve that is to strive for getting maximum value from each customer(higher Customer Lifetime Value(CLTV)). It implies that the brand should look for developing loyal customers.
The first step in building loyalty is to find a way to enter a customer’s mind, which is called Brand Positioning. And, the research shows that the easiest way to enter their mind is being first under a new category.
Coke is the first cooldrink to enter the consumer’s mind under the Cola category. Seven-up is the first cooldrink under the Un-cola category. Redbull is the first cool drink under the Energy drink category. Xerox is the first brand under the Photocopying category.
What is the need for categories? Our human brains are wired for categorization to help us remember things. Without that, we would be quickly overwhelmed by the vast amount of information.
Why should a brand be the FIRST under a new category? — Whenever we come across new things, subconsciously, we would file them under different known categories in our memories. If a consumer sees your brand, he would automatically file it under a known existing category. The problem with this filing under the existing category is — your brand would be filed several layers below the other brands and the consumer would fail to recollect your brand name at the top of the mind.
Example — Coke is the first product under the cola category. Pepsi is the second brand. Do you remember the third brand? Fourth brand? If you ask people, they may not recollect beyond two or three names in any category. How many energy drinks can you name other than Redbull?
To summarise, the first step in business is to position your brand inside a consumer’s mind. It could be done only after creating a new category in their minds.
Now, the next challenge — How to create a new category?
CREATING A NEW CATEGORY
The new category should be based on the value offerings a brand can offer to the customer. To determine the value offerings, the company has to observe customers’ needs, desires, and pains. Based on the research, the brand has to choose value propositions that will solve customer’s pains/needs and also match the business’ core strengths and core values.
Before starting user research, we need to understand what classifications exist in a consumer’s mind. We don’t want users to file our brand under the known category.
How to find the current categories in a consumer’s mind? — By studying the existing market, current customers, and the competitors’ value offerings.
RIM was in the telecommunication market. It had to enter the market where its strengths could be relevant and helpful. The research showed the following main categories in the communication market — Mobile Phone, Paging Device, PDA, and Communicator.
RIM could create a new sub-category within the Mobile Phone, Paging Device, PDA, or Communicator category or create an entirely new one outside those categories.
How to decide? — For that, the company had to understand the market under each category.
MOBILE PHONE CATEGORY— The mobile phone era began with the launch of DynaTAC in 1983. But, until the early 1990s, only 5% of North Americans owned the cellphone. It was a tiny market comprising mostly of business people. However, by the mid-nineties, things began to change. The companies started targeting the general public — It led to a reduction of phone sizes — Smaller cellphones increased the popularity. Eventually, cost became a critical driving factor for sales. By the late 1990s, a mobile phone cost less than $200 including airtime charges(DynaTAC was priced at $3,995 in 1984). As the customers were price-sensitive, companies tried to outperform rivals by lowering their prices to grab a larger share of existing demand. As a result, profit margins dwindled, and the growth rate stagnated.
Lazaridis felt that mobile phones were fast becoming a commodity. It also meant that a brand couldn’t rely on customer loyalty to build a sustainable business. Moreover, RIM’s strengths/capabilities/technical knowledge was not suited for the mass market. Surviving the cutthroat competition would have been difficult.
So, entering a mobile phone category won’t be a wise idea for RIM.
PAGER CATEGORY — In the 1990s, Paging was a booming market with nearly 40 million subscribers. Some believed two-way Paging could attract 80 million subscribers. Motorola’s two-way Tango pager, which sent short paging messages, was a massive hit. The pagers designed by RIM for RAM Mobile Data were also successful. However, two-way Pagers were bulkier and heavier than conventional pagers because of the keyboards. Moreover, users could send only short messages.
Should RIM enter the Paging market where the company already held all aces?
Lazaridis strongly felt that Paging had no future as mobile phone penetration had been steadily increasing. Who would want to send a page when he/she could call someone on their mobile phone?. Moreover, sales of one-way pagers were in decline, and not many new users were buying the two-way pagers. It’s a dying category.
Lazaridis decided to skip this market.
PDA CATEGORY — In the early 1990s, a new product category called Personal Digital Assistant(PDA) gained traction among corporate executives. PDAs had an address book, notepad, organizer, and several other applications like spreadsheets, word processors, financial management software, clock, calculator, and games.
In the 1990s, seeing the demand, several bigger brands like Apple Computer, Motorola, HP, Microsoft, and IBM launched their PDAs but struggled to crack the market. When devices from bigger companies faltered so badly, experts began to wonder whether handheld PDAs could ever be a viable mass-market product. However, one brand came and showed how to succeed in the market. It was Palm Pilot. By 1999, within three years of its launch, Palm controlled 70% of the PDA market, with an over 5 million user base.
Why Palm PIlot Succeeded? — Brands like Apple, IBM, HP saw their devices as a miniaturized and cut-down version of computers. They positioned their PDA as an alternative to laptops. Unfortunately, the devices performed poorly compared to computers/laptops. On the other hand, the Palm Pilot team positioned their PDA as a personal PC companion — It needed a PC to function.
Most of the PDA brands crammed several features in their devices — Address book, notepad, organizer, applications like spreadsheets, word processors, financial management software, clock, calculator, games, and several other applications. But Palm Pilot focused only on Organizer application. The device did one function far better than others.
That was the crucial secret behind the Palm Pilot’s success.
Target Customers — One of the critical elements in building a successful business is to have an in-depth understanding of its customers. RIM had been designing Pagers for corporate executives(Palm Pilot also targeted the same customer segment). So, Lazaridis and his team already had sound knowledge about this customer segment. The customer base was also large enough to build a sustainable business.
Lazaridis felt that designing a communication product to target Corporate Executives would be the right opportunity. Thus, he chose his customer segment.
COMMUNICATORS — In the 1990s, EO Communicator, Nokia Communicator, HP Palmtop PC LX Series were some of the communicators in the market. The brands positioned their devices as a combination of a mobile phone and a portable computer. Unfortunately, it couldn’t replace either phone or a computer. At that time, there was no suitable memory or processing, or battery power to support those applications. Appending more functions increased the bulkiness of the device, complicating the product. So, Communicators suffered from poor performance. The devices were also expensive. The price of the EO Communicator was 4000$.
Lazaridis was aware of the hardware limitations. He knew that making another communicator would be a suicidal mission for a small company like RIM. So, he ignored this category.
USER RESEARCH AND FINDING THE HIDDEN NEED
We have seen that RIM’s target segment for the new product would be Corporate Executives. The next step is to observe the users and find their hidden needs.
The RIM team spent time with customers and observed them. And, One need stood out — e-mails.
The Hidden Need -E-mails & Convenience — By the mid-1990s, e-mails had penetrated everyday professional life. It had become the medium of communication for millions of executives. Unfortunately, people needed to travel. And, that posed a problem. They hated the necessity of being moored to company desktops.
Jacquie McNish in his book ‘Losing The Signal’ writes, “A more helpful insight came from a research participant who spent much of his professional life on the road — He approached with dread his evening hotel ritual of downloading the day’s flood of e-mails on his laptop. It was a chore that inevitably involved hours of reading and replying. He said — If I’d a tool to help me with my volume of e-mail on the road, I’d pay anything.”
Lazaridis had been using e-mail since his university days. He already had a hunch that a device for reading/sending e-mails would soon replace pagers. He felt that that was the next logical step. And the user research approved his instinct.
What did customers need? — A device that could help executives read/send e-mails on their terms — A portable device that could help a person to improve his/her productivity by utilizing the lost time between meetings or in airport lounges in processing e-mails. The executives need not be tethered to their computers. They wanted freedom.
POSITIONING — Lazaridis decided to move forward and make a device that did only one thing well — Send/Receive instant, efficient mobile e-mails. That would be the differentiating factor. If a customer wanted a connected organizer, he/she could choose Palm Pilot. If he/she wanted a product with e-mail, he/she could opt for RIM’s new device.
E-mail was the new category and E-mail at your convenience was the positioning statement.
2.0 DESIGN FOR PERSUADING CUSTOMERS
RIM’s new product would be a disruptive one like Palm Pilot. It’s always tough to sell disruptive products.
TECHNOLOGY(Disruptive Product) ADOPTION LIFECYCLE — The research shows that a new technology product(or a disruptive product) can penetrate the population by dividing the available market into five customer segments and design the product according to each segment’s needs.
The five customer segments are — Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, and Laggards. The product has to evolve to meet the needs of every target segment as they all differ from each other. In that scenario, the research shows that the product adoption rate will follow a “Bell” distribution curve.
The Early Majority — Among the customer segments, the Early Majority is the critical customer base. Late Majority and Laggards follow and copy their behavior. So, if a brand could meet the needs of the Early Majority and convince them to buy the product, then the company could break through the mainstream market.
Geoffrey Moore says that most technological products fail because they fail to make the transition from an early market dominated by Innovators, Early Adopters to the Early Majority. He says there is a big gap between Early Adopters and the Early Majority in the Technology Adoption Curve. He adds that only when a brand crosses this chasm(gap), they become successful. And, it is not easy to cross that gap.
Apple’s Newton, HP Palmtop PC, IBM’s Simon, Nokia Communicator, Pocket PC, and other PDA devices attracted Innovators/Early Adopters but failed to reach the mainstream market. They couldn’t convince the people from the Early Majority to purchase the devices. They could not cross the chasm between Early Adopters and the Early Majority. Only Palm Pilot could Cross the Chasm.
So, to succeed, Lazaridis and his team had to find a way to Cross the Chasm.
How to Cross the Chasm?
For Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore says that a brand has to transform from a “Sales-Driven” to a “User-Driven” company. They have to think about everything from a customer’s perspective.
Let’s see how RIM crossed the chasm?
3.0 BLACKBERRY AND CROSSING THE CHASM
Do not promise a better product, but promise a better life. Create a new meaning for user’s life.
We have seen earlier that several brands failed in the PDA market because they had crammed several applications into their devices. At that time, there was no suitable memory or processing, or battery power to support those applications. On the other hand, Palm Pilot focused on only one application — The Organizer.
There’s a common myth about new product development — The more features we add, the more customers will like it. However, the research shows that a brand can maximize new product adoption only by minimizing complexity.
The paradox of success, Lazaridis wrote, was that handheld devices did not need more functions — they need fewer.
However, the desire to grow puts enormous pressure on business owners. And they make some compromises. They add a series of incremental changes that ultimately would lead them to lose their way. RIM also came across such a situation.
While developing the new wireless product, RIM’s team wanted to add features such as a synchronized calendar, appointment organizer, and internet browser to ape the attributes of Palm Pilot. However, Lazaridis firmly told them, “We’re going to focus on mail only.”
Unlike other PDA brands, RIM focused only on one use case — E-mail.
By delivering one kind of value, the company projected an image of consistency. They began to be known for only one thing.
One crucial point to remember — Your brand should mean only one thing to customers — Colgate means toothpaste, Maggi means noodles, BMW means driving experience, Volvo means safety, BlackBerry means e-mail.
The unwavering focus became a critical factor in RIM’s success.
3.2 DESIGN FOR “EASE OF USE”
The next critical factor that will help a product to Cross the Chasm is its Ease of Use. I feel that this is the most important factor than anything else.
Promotion — Ease Of Use makes people love the product. They become loyal to the brand and happily share the product’s benefits with their friends and acquaintances. It results in positive word of mouth.
The difference between iPod and other mp3 players was Ease Of Use. Its Click wheel made life easier for customers. When Steve Jobs conceived the iPod, he wanted to be not more than three clicks away from accomplishing any task.
Definition — The ISO defines Ease Of Use as — “The extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.”
REMOVE THINKPOINTS — Lazaridis continuously stressed one critical design principle to his team — Remove User Thinkpoints.
People would be buying the new product to save time, not to spend it. Moreover, our brains always look for ways to conserve energy. Any cognitive load would be a barrier to product adoption. So, make the product easy to use so that users need not think. On seeing, a user should readily comprehend how to use the product/interface to accomplish a task. Make everything self-evident. The product design should work around users’ existing behaviors, skills, and habits. It should simulate real-world processes wherever possible and have more familiar things.
Lazaridis believed that the more the product makes people think, the more likely they would go elsewhere to get the job done. That’s what happened with several PDAs(Except Palm Pilot). Several customers had reported that they took one or two days to learn the interface and basic functions of PDAs. They also added that they struggled for hours to load the contact list and upcoming appointments. There were reports that people made errors even after months of steady use. Sometimes, those errors cost time, money, and reputation. It frustrated the users.
When a company makes the product easy to use, it shows that the brand cares for people. And, caring is crucial in building loyal customers.
BLACKBERRY and EASE OF USE
Data Input — Data Input played a pivotal role in improving the Ease Of Use. Because of their size, entering data into a handheld device required a tiny keyboard or some handwriting recognition system. Most PDA brands opted for handwriting software with stylus input. Unfortunately, the software failed to recognize the user’s letters/words. People got frustrated. It became the critical reason for product failure.
Data input through Keyboard — Most brands believed that the pocket-size requirement of the PDA restricted the possibility of having a physical QWERTY keyboard. So, they avoided it. But RIM found a way to overcome that limitation.
Lazaridis believed that tapping out messages with a stylus would be unreliable and time-consuming. He felt that a QWERTY keyboard would be a viable option. As for the usability problems with the keyboard, Lazaridis realized that the solution was not ten fingers but two thumbs. And, that idea sparked a revolution — Typing with two thumbs minimized typo errors and freed up the palm to hold the device. Jacquie McNish writes, “Even the clumsiest typist would be comfortable with the device because the small screen above the keyboard allowed users to monitor accuracy.”
Lazaridis and his team experimented with several key shapes and layouts to meet the ergonomic requirements of thumb-typing.
- The final keyboard layout had oval-shaped keys to allow larger touch areas for the user.
- They got rid of every key that wasn’t needed so that they could maximize the key sizes.
- They combined functions wherever possible. Eg — They added punctuation marks onto letter keys. If a user typed two spaces, a period would appear at the end of the previous word and the next word would be automatically capitalized. If a user pressed B while reading an e-mail, the e-mail would scroll to the bottom — T brought the cursor to the top — U to the next unread message. The goal was to save time for users at every customer touchpoint.
- The keys on the right half tilted right toward the right thumb, and the keys on the left side pointed the other way.
- Keys sat on a piece of metal known as ‘dome’(The conventional practice at that time was to use plastic switches). Metal switches provided better physical and audio feedback than the other switches. Jacquie McNish writes, “Users would feel a crisp “click” every time they pressed a key, just like as they did on a regular keyboard, rather than a mushy, rubbery feel, like a TV remote control.”
Trackwheel — One keyboard invention that improved user experience was the trackwheel. The team borrowed the concept from VCR remote control. The trackwheel handled the function of four directions and eight function keys. It made it easy to navigate and scroll through the messages. The wheel also helped in simplifying the menus. When a user was typing a message and clicked the trackwheel, the menu would only bring up items that were relevant to drafting and sending an e-mail. It would also automatically highlight the send function. The trackwheel drastically improved the device’s Ease Of Use.
3.3 NAMING OF THE BRAND
Brand Name selection is one of the critical decisions an organization has to make.
People don’t prefer cognitive load. So, the name should be easy to remember.
The name is the hook that hangs the brand in the prospect’s mind.
The best way to quickly promote a disruptive product is through word of mouth. People trust peer review. Imagine a scenario where one of the customers wants to explain the product to his friend over the phone. Is the brand name simple enough to communicate so that the person at the other end can comprehend? It implies that the brand name should be easy to say.
User Research and Naming — Remember the critical principle for Crossing The Chasm —Think every decision from a user perspective. So, user research should guide the team in naming the brand.
RIM assigned Lexicon Branding Studio to come out with a new name for the proposed product.
The design team did detailed research. They came across a valuable insight — For most corporate executives, e-mail wasn’t a convenience but a stress point. Their anxiety levels went up whenever they received a work e-mail. For some, it continuously reminded them about their perceived inadequacies. Initially, the RIM team thought of calling the new product as EasyMail or MegaMail. But the research showed that Mail word in the product brand name would trigger anxiety in a user.
The solution was to come out with a name that wouldn’t trigger any uneasiness. A soothing name that could calm the nerves — that could bring joy, slow their life, make them relax, and enjoy. The team brainstormed for appropriate words — Camping, Movies, Cycling, Summer Vacation, Melons — the names went on. And, someone added ‘Picking Strawberries’ as a relaxing and pleasant exercise.
Lexicon founder David Placek didn’t like Strawberry. He felt that it unfurled too slowly when he said it. He believed that the word would not work for a device that boasted on speeding up communications. Designers started to search for names of similar vowels ‘Strawberry’. One person scrabbled ‘Blackberry’ as he felt that the device’s miniature elliptical keys resembled blackberry seeds.
Placek immediately liked the ‘Blackberry’ word for several reasons —
- He knew people’s reactions to letters and sounds. He found out that the letter b repeated twice in “blackberry” was a positive sound evoking speed and efficiency. People’s subconscious minds love phonetically beautiful words. It is easy to enter a customer’s mind.
- It is also an unexpected name for a technology product. It would stand out with both Bs capitalized.
- From Coca-Cola to Nike to Kool-Aid to Crafts to Kinley to KitKat to Reebok to Nokia — The K letter ruled the brand world. The K sound grabs the attention. Marketers believe that the letter helped the brands to stand out. The K sound improves memory retention, recall, and brand name recognition.
- The word is easy to say and easy to remember.
Thus, Lazaridis and his team chose BlackBerry as the name of the new product brand.
3.4 DESIGN FOR ANXIETY RELIEF
Every disruptive product will have some degree of unfamiliar items. When a user seeks information about the new product, he will be mentally applying the new product to his/her anticipated future situations. In that scenario, it’s natural for him/her to have a fear of uncertainty —How would the product work? How would it affect his/her life? What would people think about him/her while using the product? How much would it be beneficial?.
The user’s anxiety is an emotional feeling residing in a subconscious mind. And, it’s a well-known fact that our subconscious mind plays a pivotal role in making decisions. It implies that a company needs to address those customer’s hidden anxieties as they can hinder the positive experience. It can impede product adoption.
RIM’s user research showed that the corporate executives would have the following anxieties about the new product — Privacy & Security, Bandwidth, Instant & Seamless Synchronization.
PRIVACY & SECURITY — RIM’s target customers were corporates. In the 1990s, the proliferation of technology startups gave rise to Chief Information Officers in several companies. They controlled the purchase of technology products. Their primary concern was security and privacy. To ease their anxieties, RIM had developed a military standard encryption methodology. An e-mail would be encrypted at the point of transmission and only decrypted when it reached its destination. The e-mails would pass through a transfer point, a server called RELAY, installed at RIM. The Relay would act as a clearinghouse for all messages sent to and from the wireless devices. So, in-house servers and advanced encryption standards would ensure RIM’s device more secure than others in the market.
BANDWIDTH — One of the reasons why corporate executives avoided PDAs was data consumption.
At that time, some of the PDA devices had e-mail applications. Unfortunately, they were data hoggers. The carriers also lacked network capacity for the same. It affected the device performance and frustrated the users. Moreover, the cellular operators charged too much for the data consumption.
Lazaridis knew that he had to solve the bandwidth problems to accelerate product adoption. RIM designed a desktop software that could compress every e-mail and repackage it into a new message. The system transferred them as tiny packets. It drastically reduced the file size. The message would only be decompressed(after downloading) at the destination. The reduced file size hardly burdened the carrier’s network. Users did not face slow speeds and huge bills.
Jacquie McNish writes, “E-mails were dispatched so efficiently. An average month of messages consumed less network spectrum than one local telephone call.”
Motorola’s PageWriter 2000, launched in 1998, was a potential competitor for RIM’s new device. Motorola relayed messages through the ReFLEX network that had limited capacity. So, users faced restrictions in sending/receiving messages — Often, messages were dropped/delayed — e-mails were restricted to 6000 characters — Only twelve full-length e-mails per month were allowed. Beyond that, the carrier charged additional fees. Eventually, customers ended up paying huge bills for poor service. RIM’s packet-sending method solved all those problems — No text limits, no restriction on monthly e-mail volume.
SEAMLESS SYNCHRONISATION —Anything that improved productivity attracted corporate executives. Time is a critical element for them. So, to improve product adoption, RIM’s new device had to save time at every user touchpoint.
RIM’s Push e-mail became a revolutionary idea and accelerated product adoption. People loved when e-mails arrived automatically without the need for logging in, refreshing, or waiting for messages to download. Palm VII, launched in 1999, had an e-mail application and became an instant hit. However, customers hated the e-mail service — Jacquie McNish writes, “Using e-mail on Palm VII was a two-step process — Flip open an external antenna and wait for messages to download. It took time.” On the other hand, RIM’s users automatically received notifications whenever they received e-mails.
Palm VII users struggled to sync their messages with corporate e-mail inboxes. RIM’s desktop software ensured seamless synchronization of both device and corporate inboxes.
3.5 DESIGN FOR A NICHE MARKET
Most of the disruptive products/services became successful by starting small. In other words, they targeted a small niche market at the beginning — a specific customer segment.
APPLE — When Apple launched Macintosh, it did not target every customer.
- Mcintosh initially targeted Graphic Artists/Designers in Fortune 500 companies.
- These designers used Macintoshes to give presentations to marketing professionals/executives.
- The marketing and sales professionals were mesmerized by GUI and the responsiveness of the computer. They began to use the Macintoshes for their work and gave presentations to Outside Vendors, Publishers, Clients — and the idea spread.
So, Macintosh began its business by targeting a Niche customer base(Graphic Artists/Designers) and went on to dominate the market.
BLACKBERRY’S NICHE —Initially, RIM targeted senior legal and banking advisers who needed to be first with information.
Jacquie McNish writes, “The CEOs saw their bankers and lawyers cradling Blackberrys at meetings. So, they wanted their own. The constancy of BlackBerry e-mails gave new urgency to business communications. Bosses chastised subordinates for slow responses to e-mails that many still took a day or two to read. It forced others to change. Senior BlackBerry-using executives ordered BlackBerrys for their direct reports so they could stay in constant touch.” Thus the product adoption accelerated.
In the 1990s, Chief Information Officers(CIOs) had control over purchasing technology products. They were conservative. But once a CEO tried BlackBerry and ordered for others, they had little chance to stop it.
Jacquie adds, “The idea was to get a critical mass of top executives in a company to use BlackBerrys before their CIO realized a new technology had infiltrated the business. BlackBerry was the first IT product ever sold from the top down.”
3.6 DESIGN FOR COMPATIBILITY/INTEGRATION
New product adoption rate increases based on how it fits into a user’s existing systems, habits, experiences, and values. A more compatible product will reduce uncertainty in the minds of customers.
Initially, RIM designed the BlackBerry e-mail application for Microsoft and Lotus programs. Unfortunately, most of the small businesses didn’t use those programs as they deemed it expensive. They used free web-based e-mail services such as Hotmail and AOL. RIM modified its software and allowed customers to access several web-based e-mails & its calendar/contacts.
Several corporate executives hesitated to buy PDAs with e-mail applications as it was tough to integrate with corporate e-mail servers. The CIO refused permission stating privacy and security concerns. However, RIM made it easy for executives to link their BlackBerry system into their corporate e-mail without involving the IT department.
BlackBerry’s compatibility with a variety of e-mail systems increased its adoption rate.
3.7 DESIGN FOR TRIALIBILITY
We’ve seen that every disruptive product will have some degree of unfamiliar items that could trigger anxieties in a user.
One way to address those inherent uncertainty/anxieties is to allow user(s) to try out the new product on a partial basis. Everett Rogers says, “Most individuals do not adopt a product without first trying it on a probationary basis to determine its usefulness in their situation.”
So, encourage the user to try out the product on a partial basis.
Car dealers offer us test drives. Netflix gives us a longer trial period through various partners. Several software products offer an essential part of the software for users to try.
Research shows that products available for the trial are generally adopted more rapidly. Trialability provides an instant experience. Experience targets the emotional mind(the center of decision-making). If people see the advantage, then they can quickly move to the decision of buying the product.
BlackBerry & Trialability — The focus group research showed that when session moderators uttered the word e-mail, it triggered anxiety in the user’s mind. It made the customers develop an unfavorable attitude towards the product. However, when the research team handed the BlackBerry device to the participants and allowed them to use the product for some time, the results surprised them. People loved the tactile feel of the product, its interface, and the ease of use. They understood how the product would improve their productivity. They weren’t ready to let it go. The RIM team realized that it would take BlackBerry a few days to impress customers. The solution was to allow prospective customers to take the device for a free one-month trial. Lazaridis called this Puppy Dog Pitch — Take the puppy home. If you don’t like it, bring it back. Rarely people returned the puppy. The one-month trial helped a consumer to understand the value of the device in their work contexts. It completely changed their perspective. BlackBerry attracted noncustomers and turned them into loyal patrons.
Handheld wireless e-mail was a breakthrough product nobody knew they wanted. BlackBerry succeeded because the brand was customer-centric. RIM thought about every decision from the user’s perspective.
References:: Most of the above content is from the book — Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, Diffusion of Innovations by Everett Rogers, Playing to Win by AG Lafley, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, What great brands do by Denise Lee, Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, NCBI Article on Personal Digital Assistants by Richard H. Wiggins III, MD, InfoWorld article on 18 April 1994, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Creating Breakthrough Products by Jonathan Cagan, The untold story of Aeron-article from the fast company.