Too many choices can be bad

Oct 13, 2005 03:22 · 375 words · 2 minute read

Every time a prospective customer needs to make a choice, you open up the possibility that the choice will be to head somewhere else.

A couple months ago, Apple offered: the iPod Shuffle, iPod mini, iPod and iPod Photo. I’m not going to count the U2 iPod, because that’s more of a niche gimmick sort of thing. Since then, Apple has introduced two new models, but reduced the number of choices: iPod Shuffle, iPod nano and iPod. These models come in at nicely spaced price points, and it should be pretty clear to a potential customer which one they should buy.

Contrast that with Creative’s lineup. Desparate to win some market share, these guys seem to want to throw a ton of products at the wall to see which stick. At first I thought they had 9 models, but then I noticed the little arrows. They 9 Zen models, 11 Muvo models and something called the “FX200”.

From some reviews I’ve read, some of these models are actually quite good. Of course, it’s impossible for me to remember which of the 21 models those are. Do stores really have shelf space for 21 models, some of which come in 10 colors? How can they profitably produce so many models?

Apple appears to understand market segmentation. They offer an entry level device, an ultra portable skip-proof device and a full-size model with good storage capacity. It’s crystal clear how Apple has segmented their market, which means the choice of product will be crystal clear to the people who are prospective Apple customers. Apple’s 75% share of the market proves that their segmentation isn’t leaving many users out.

I challenge someone to explain Creative’s market segmentation. From the photos, it would appear that the Zen is for businessmen who thought it was a cell phone. The Zen Micro is for stylish women who bought the player to show off that they’re in the 21st century. The Zen Neeon is for women who can’t make up their mind and will buy all 10 colors. The Zen Nano Plus is for the trendy (but not rugged) outdoors types.

With a product lineup like that, it’s no wonder that Creative will need to resort to lawyers to make a buck.