When you buy a car or a washing machine, other than Gas and laundry detergent you don’t really need anything else to run the car or the machine. You buy an iPhone and you have access to any imaginable app to download to solve any problem that you want. On the other end of the spectrum, you buy a computer and you find out that its not compatible with your printer and there are no drivers to download either. In the early days of Tesla, owners could not drive it between Los Angeles and San Francisco, because the battery didn’t last that long and there were no charging stations in between. The first two are examples of complete products. The last two are examples of what I call incomplete products. iPod would not have been as successful if there were not enough selections of content to use on that device or the ability to rip your own CDs.
A complete product, also appropriately called a “solution” is driven by use cases instead of being focused on features alone. Instead of solving one or two problems that products do normally, complete solutions ensures that target users can successfully complete all their tasks using the solution. Unfortunately the word ‘solution’ gets thrown around quite casually just like ‘innovation.’ The reality is that there are only few “real solutions” out there in every category of products. For the purpose of this article I will use the terms solution and complete product interchangeably and also in the strictest of their connotations.
In today’s commoditized market, there are only a handful of ways companies can differentiate themselves. Completeness of products is one of those ways. The biggest reason why offering a solution to your customers is of utmost importance is because solutions deliver the greatest possible value to your customers. They ensure sticky-ness or long-term relationship with your customers. Companies that strive to offer a solution to their customers are preoccupied with learning more about their customers and their pain points and are constantly looking for better and innovative ways to solve their problems. The beauty of being sympathetic towards your customers is that it make you realize that there is always room to innovate more. At the end, complete products result in happier and satisfied customers, higher revenues and profit margins, bigger market shares, and happy investors.
The Complete Product
A complete product consists of three components:
The Core Product – It satisfies the need(s) of the customers and is the true reason for buying the product.
The Tangible Product – It is the part of product that you can actually see. Features include styling, brand name, quality and packaging of the product.
The Augmented Product – It includes the unseen product extras or extensions that accompany the product, such as warranty, installation services, delivery, and add-ons.
A product is complete only when it contains all three components. If it lacks even one of them, it will compromise either quality, value or customer satisfaction. A single organization may not offer the entire solution. By creating a solid eco-system that extends a product, an organization can ensure that they maintain their competitive edge and retain majority of their customer base for years.
Complete vs. Incomplete Products
Complete products means customers spend more time actually using your products and services. It gives companies solid differentiations, compelling stories to tell, own more market share, and win more customer mindshare. It also sets high barriers to entry by competitors. Incomplete products mean customers are frustrated, user experience is sub-optimal, they don’t solve all the problems, customers spend more money, there is no seamless integration, and solutions are usually clunky. Incomplete products usually represent short-sightedness of the product developer, or short-term gratification. Such products are not customer-centric in that they lack deep understanding of the customers’ needs, behavior, and problems.
Some justify shipping an incomplete product by saying that they need to fund the future versions of the product, they want to gauge user experience, or they need to be the first in the market. These may be valid business justification for doing this, it almost always backfires and leaves customers unhappy. The first impression rule also applies here.
Examples of Incomplete Products
- Most MP3 players before iPod can be categorized as incomplete products.
- Electric cars quickly became very popular, but there weren’t enough charging stations. The maximum distance they could go back then on a single charge was less than the average commute time of most people.
- Solar panels are great energy sources, but they cause roofs to weaken and collapse over time.
- Most low-cost software applications and mobile apps don’t offer phone support or some even email support. Although this is a valid cost saving strategy most people feel that its missing those features.
- When power cord or batteries are not included in a package. Singer hand-held sewing machine does not include a power cord. It does not include four AA batteries required to run the machine.
- Social Media app (socialpilot.com) let’s you delete a whole bunch of planned posts but does not let you undo the delete.
Examples of Complete Products
- Apple Music is a great example of a complete product. It has iTunes (the music library and store) and hardware (iPOD), with the option to upload your own music, buy music, discover new music and even burn music on CDs. If you change or lose your phone, you can have your data restored.
- IKEA furniture comes with everything you need. Ready-to-assemble and sport modern designs. IKEA provides home furniture of good quality at low costs because every step of the process, from product design and development to its transportation, is designed to be cost effective.
By studying complete and incomplete products, it is clear that complete products deliver greater value, improve customer satisfaction and drive innovation. Only by designing a complete product can an innovative idea turn into reality; otherwise the product will be incomplete and short-lived.