From Innovation to Imitation
So things are produced cheaper and faster, so what?
The problem with that is the side-effect ‘benchmarking’. Companies just takes the best form its competitors offerings and incorporates into its own. It’s not a new concept, but this time around it can be done fast and at an affordable price. These processes are eroding most unique selling points (USP’s), leveling the playing field. A product is hardly unique when everyone has one, even it you invented it.
USP Without The U - From To Much Choice
We can see a proliferation of choices in just about every category. An average American supermarket has 40.000 SKUs (standard stocking units), an average family gets 80 to 85 percent of its needs from 150 SKUs. That means that there is a good chance we’ll ignore 39,850 items in that store. (Trout, 2001). There has been an explosion of choice from the 1970s to today. There used to be only one brand of aspirin at the drugstore, but at the turn of the century in America there where; Advil, Aleve, Alka-Selzer Morning Relief, Anacin, Ascriptin, Aspergum, Bayer, Bayer Children’s, Bayer Regimen, Bayer Woman’s, BC, Cope, Ecotrin, Excedrin Extra Strength, Goody’s, Motrin, Nuprin, St. Joseph, Tylenol, and Vanquish. (Godin, 2002). Have you ever been standing in the supermarket staring at 200+ tubes of toothpaste, not able to make your mind up, wondering why you are wasting your time?
The ease of communication, distribution and technology has led to a market where you can get any product from any supplier at any time at a low price. Carly Fiorina, former Chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Company claimed that ‘these days, building the best server isn’t enough. That’s the price of entry.’ (Peters, 2003).
So even if you leave ‘Basic Goods & Services’ to the less developed regions of the world and move into ‘Solutions & Experiences’ you might get a competitive advantage over the ‘slow-movers’ in your category, but don’t expect to have time to put your feet up. Starbucks may have reinvented the way we ‘experience” coffee but it didn’t take long before a multitude of variations using the same formula sprung up all over town.