Seemingly, some products sell better than do others even though there is no obvious difference between the products in terms of features or price. This suggests that more sales are not necessarily attributable to the product itself.
Charles Eicher, who was a sales clerk in an electronics store when the competition between Apple and IBM was fierce (1984), said that demo software had quite an impact on the sales figures. Apple created demo software for showcasing its products. IBM, on the other hand, used actual word processing software as their demo software. Now, IBM’s software came on a ROM cassette that cost around $100. To prevent shoplifting, sales clerks would actually carry the ROM cassettes around with themselves. As a result, although IBM’s PCjr would be powered on, customers could not do anything with it until a sales clerk came by for a demonstration. Meanwhile, Apple’s demo software could be easily copied on floppy disks that cost only a few bucks each. So that, customers could freely play around with Apple’s Apple//c. What we had were two computers with not much difference between them in terms of performance. But, one could be played with while the other one did nothing. And this made a huge difference to their sales.
Moreover, Apple made boxes with gorgeous pictures of the Apple//c printed on them, and they would send empty boxes to retailers. Apple would ask retailers to pile up these empty boxes high in their stores. Apple went as far as saying that once customers had the boxes in their hands, Apple//c would sell itself. Now, this sounds crazy, but if you think about the situation even today, the iPod comes in a ridiculously large box. So it is clear that the boxes did make a difference.
It is hard to believe that demo software or empty boxes affect sales, but the fact remains that this was how Apple beat IBM. Many people think that a product's rich features or high performance are the main selling points. But very few people actually have enough knowledge to objectively evaluate various products and then decide which one to buy. Most people make buying decisions simply based on their emotions. So, if you can turn a customer's emotional switch on by using a beautiful box or cool TV commercials, you can sell more products.
© August, 2012