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Is Your Favorite Product Homeless?

What happens when one of your favorite products sees sales dwindle and it, in effect, becomes homeless?

My favorite coffeemaker, the Senseo®, uses coffee pods that are becoming increasingly difficult to find at retail and when I do, it’s usually for a flavor I don’t drink (like the Dark Roast pictured above). Any smart techie and ‘net user like me would just go online and order them in bulk, right?

The answer is “yes” but in a strange twist on the “I can buy that cheaper online” phrase many of us use when trying to negotiate while shopping in a bricks-n-mortar store, the online purchase of coffee pods are much higher ($.50 – $1.60 more per pack) than I could buy them at Target, Cub Foods or other outlets.

What’s driving this lack of inventory at retail? I’ll boil it down to one development over the last several years: choices in coffeemakers. From traditional percolators to drop-in little ‘cups’ to several different types and sizes of coffee pods, for retailers it would be like trying to stock DVDs in half a dozen formats so they just don’t and they’re bound to be out of one of them at frequent intervals.

But it’s not just specialized coffeemaker coffee that is homeless.

I’ve begun to see this occur with technology more frequently, especially with Web 2.0 sites or even community add-on technology for open source software (Note: at another of my sites, Minnov8, we relied on Podpress, a podcasting plugin but had to change since the developer wasn’t keeping up with changes to the core of WordPress, our site tool). Here’s a logo explosion image of Web 2.0 sites now in the deadpool and gone, a few of them (like Pownce, edgeio, and divshare were ones I once used):

From c_'s photostream on Flickr

So what to do? Stop using products or wait until they’re mainstream in order to be assured they’ll stick around? Good question but I’ve stopped, for example, buying highly narrow products (er, like the Senseo) or signing up for cloud-based sites that don’t have background info on who started it, what their vision and commitment to it is, and other criteria I use to make my purchasing decisions.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

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