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Is Product Commoditization An Issue For You? And What Can You Do About It

January 6, 2016

Commodity Graphic - 123rf
Your company sells unique and differentiated products – or at least that’s what you think. However, your competitors have been trying to match you or maybe offering similar products at a lower price. You also think your consumers/customers are loyal and won’t switch if given an opportunity. Yet, they are much smarter – and are rationalizing purchases more – than ever before.

Marketplace competitors – either direct or substitutes – can easily make your products or services a commodity where everything comes down to price.

How do you know if you’re being commoditized? And how can you avoid that undesirable fate?

Let’s examine what defines various states of product commoditization.

a) Your product is offered by many:
Examples include things like some food and non-food items, restaurants, law, financial services, even personal services like fitness and hair cutting, etc. Meaningful differentiation is essential to deflect lower prices. What do you do?

  • Be the #1 or #2 share leader. Being so gives you critical mass since it implies customer satisfaction and allows you to build entry barriers due to your size.
  • Have third parties talk good things about you – either in social media, product ratings or customer awards. However, don’t just rely on Facebook pages. Not everyone looks at Facebook all the time.
  • Don’t focus just on price. Remind customers/consumers of your products relevant features/benefits.
  • Be the marketplace expert and offer free advice/counsel. Doing so might not result in an instant sale, but people remember who’ve helped them in the past.
  • Be easy to do business with. Customer service/convenience can make or break a sale. Time, too, has value to your users.

b) Your product is offered by some:
You have a somewhat unique product. Also, your product category has substantial barriers to entry limiting competitive entrants. Examples may include utilities, cars, travel, telecommunications, capital equipment, etc. What now?

  • Offer aftermarket service. Buying a car, computer, or telecom services is more than a one-time transaction relationship, offering you a continuing opportunity to build future purchases or upgrades.
  • Off a full-line product/service. Depth can offer consumers/customers a “one-stop” shopping experience, “locking-out” competition. Wal-Mart is ALWAYS looking for “one-stop” suppliers/vendors.
  • Product availability is important. Nothing frustrates people more than being ready to buy but finding out what they want is unavailable – or they have to wait a long time for it. Be sure the logistics side of the business is in sync with the sales/marketing side.
  • Be sure your pricing is still competitive. Even though competition is limited, you can easily price yourself out of the market. Know what your competitors’ prices are, and respond appropriately.

c) Your product is very new, unique & different:
Congratulations! what you offer is new, solves real consumer problems, and is not easily copied (i.e. hopefully patented). You have a great advantage, but you still need to sell.
Ÿ Highlight your differentiation in a meaningful way to consumers/customers. Be sure product or service claims are accurate and relevant to them – not you.

  • Focus on core benefit(s) – not features per se. It might have a different feature, but does it REALLY matter to your customers/consumers?
  • Be sure you proudly communicate your differentiation. Do some type of advertising and/or event marketing to “tell your story” and build awareness.
  • Keep it simple. Differentiation can be very technical. Don’t assume your consumers/customers understand what you’re saying. Avoid jargon. If they don’t understand what you’re saying you can’t expect them to buy your stuff

The bottom line is that you and your sales force need to remember three basic rules when managing your offering in the marketplace.

1) Stay Relevant.  Can your customers/consumers see the value in your product benefits? Remember, they tend to look more at benefits than product features. Are your products still relevant and provide value?

2) Be Sure You Can Measure Your Differentiation.  If you can’t measure how you’re different, how can you expect consumers/customers to see it? Are your product claims accurate? Are you getting third party recommendations and/or awards? Visible differentiation is always better than conceptual.

3) Continuously maintain/upgrade your product line.  Competition is always out there, hard at work trying to gain a competitive advantage over you. Don’t assume your competition is standing still and doing nothing.

If can keep these basic rules in mind, you can avoid competitive lower pricing – and commoditization – you will maintain a profitable and sustainable business.

Rick Steinbrenner
Global Marketing Officer
Brand Marketing Advsiors
www.globalbrandguy.com
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Brand Marketing Advisors are specialists in global brand marketing and new product development.  We help consumer product companies to more effectively compete in product categories in/around the home.  We strive to uncover unmet consumer “need gaps” while partnering up with R&D/engineering to come up with true innovative product and marketing solutions.  We accomplish this through a combination of marketing research, consumer insights and creative thinking.  In most cases, this leads to a strategic and sustainable competitive advantage for our clients.

Rick Steinbrenner Head Shot - Cropped w/red borders

Our team is led by Rick Steinbrenner – Chief Marketing Officer / Principal.  He’s led and managed leading global brands like General Mills, Kraft, Remington Products and Black & Decker – just to name a few.  He’s worked as a brand leader and general manager in both small & large companies up to $12 billion in sales.  His track record speaks for itself – developing and launching over 20 new products that are generating over $200mm+ in sales – both in the B2C and B2B sectors.