Customers Don’t Just Buy, They Switch

Jason Fried:

Customers don’t just buy a product — they switch from something else. And customers don’t just leave a product — they switch to something else.

Stop. Take a moment to ponder on this statement. Reflect on the meaning of it. Because when you do, the little jigsaws to the puzzle becomes apparent and slowly, they fit into place and form the bigger picture.

Look around you, think about the products you own and services you use. At any time we choose one thing, we favour it over the others. This simple but profound statement is the essence of understanding the factors relating to business and beyond. It especially strikes me at a time when customer loyalty is valued at many more corporations than ever.

We develop more sophisticated CRM systems to understand our customers. We look in-depth to study the trends, spot the pattern and ultimately, customize the products to cater to their needs.

Anything from breadcrumb to mushroom soup, from bolts to nuts, it involves decision making on the part of the consumer. Some are formed out of habits, like the ritual we do in the morning – we gingerly stumble to the washroom, reach for the toothbrush and wash up. We pour ourselves a hot cup of coffee, spread some butter over toast, and flip through the morning papers. These are the actions that are conditioned over time. There is little decision making, everything is hard wired.

Now, picture this. The toothbrush we use, the facewash we own, the coffee we brew, the bread we eat, and the papers we read, what if we can change everything? Change the brand of the toothbrush and facewash, try a new type of coffee bean, eat a baguette and for a change of pace, settle down reading a different newspaper.

I agree with what Jason said to a certain extend. I think long and deep about these words, and they provide an indication of buy consumers would what to choose B instead of A, when they are already using A.

Getting to understand the reason for the switching only provides part of the answer. Some people have an obsession with writing apps. You can only type at any one time using one app, so why go through the trouble of using so many different apps performing the same task? iA Writer, WriteRoom, ByWord are essentially the same niche, but users that purchase them might not necessarily switch to them. At the end of the day, they would be going back to their original processing app they’re most comfortable with. For affordable items like these, and everyday essentials, we rarely venture out to look for new things once we settled down on things we are comfortable with. Steve Jobs wore the same outfit everyday, because it’s one less decision he has to make. I believe it’s the same principle that guides us with our routine. Settle on a trusted system and that’s it.

There are some innovations though, that came through over the years that completely changes our lifestyle. The typewriter is seen as a loud, slow and unmerciful piece of machinery. In comes the word processing software that would be silent, reliable, fast and allows you to edit as many times as you want. With the influence of word processing on personal computer grew, the aging typewriter was eventually phrased out. We have a compelling reason to switch, because it does so many things that the typewriter couldn’t. It offers changes, changes for the better.

The iPhone I’m holding, it’s beautifully constructed. The sharp display of the retina screen and the iOS ecosystem all come together harmoniously. But, all these matters little if I’m not using an iPhone. It’s only when I made the switch from my old but trusty Blackberry that the world of Apple opened up before me.

Looking at things from a different angle, I have always been a fan of Blackberry. I still keep track of what’s going on and keep in touch with the product developments. I genuinely hope they can turn things around after their poor showing in recent years. No one has engineered a better keypad than them. I love it and can’t imagine using another phone without their keypad. I pride myself being more productive and being able to type faster and accurately than those on virtual keyboard. I relied heavily on the LED blinking light so much that I didn’t have to look at the screen to know what type of message or call is coming in. It’s like my workhorse. I used it primarily for communication purposes – making phone calls, reading emails and sending text messages. It’s unlike those other smarter phones in the market that touted themselves as more than a phone. They are like a do-it-all multimedia device rolled into one.

All these changed when one night, I traded in the Blackberry for an iPhone. It’s my first real touchscreen device. It’s my first iPhone. My world will never be the same again.

If we rewind just a little, you can see I didn’t just buy an iPhone. I switched from Blackberry. I didn’t just leave Blackberry. I switched to Apple.

Things don’t just happen. They happened for a reason. We don’t just buy, we switch. The reasons are plentiful. It could be functional or emotional, or even both. It could be the allure of the brands that’s pulling you towards them. Or it could be the the flaws of the existing products that pushes you to other alternatives.

They key here is to understand why customers switch. Through this information, we hold the information to refining our product and services. At the end of the day, it’s about creating delights in various touch points to craft a memorable user experience for our customers.