Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Marketing Strategy : Is Time on Your Side ?

Renowned marketing guru Dr Philip Kotler calls this era as the era of experience economy. Consumers live in an experiential world where,rather than products, the quest is for experience. The level of experience factor in consumption varies from urban to rural markets but marketers has to accept the fact that consumer's penchant for experience will only increase as years goes by.

Time is the most critical component in an experiential world. Experience is about time spent with a physical product/service. So for marketers, Time has become a part of the product. The importance of TIME as a part of the product package is practiced in services marketing for long. But although we learn that in theory , seldom Time is treated with importance it deserves.

The beauty of experience economy is that it treats physical products ( goods) in the same league as services. Even while purchasing a physical product, consumers will look for experience. The experience while purchasing physical products happens while the product is purchased ( at the store) and also when it is consumed.

The TIME component of a physical product varies across categories.The importance of TIME in the marketing of a soap will be less compared to marketing an automobile.

Although large established service firms take the TIME factor seriously, it is the small business owners that are left clueless about TIME. Sometimes businesses views TIME in their perspective rather than customer's perspective.

A tailor that misses the date of delivery of a suit, a taxi that arrives late, a courier that delivers late , a soap variant that is not available at the store when advertisements are running , are all examples where marketers fail to understand TIME as a component of the product.Historically , time is viewed as an input for business. For consumers , Time forms a part of the cost.

Does it make sense for marketers to view time as a part of the product so that they could use the time to create positive experience ?

When time is considered as a part of the product, the whole marketing mix elements come into play. There will be conscious thoughts about adding value to the time spent with the consumer.

For a marketer of physical product, TIME is about reaching the consumer. This is a period when speed matters most . How fast a product reaches the channel and to consumer's home is an important determinant of a product's success. Domino's used TIME as the key differentiator with its " 30 minutes home delivery " proposition. It is a classic example where TIME added value to the physical product.

For a business, treating TIME as a part of the product opens new opportunities to create an experience.

  • Sometimes consumers have to wait inorder to avail a service/product. In such cases, marketers should be able to add value to the waiting time of the consumers. The waiting time is the time spent with the marketer. Hence it is the responsibility of marketer to make an impression on consumer during that waiting period. If the consumer is waiting at the company premises ( like showrooms, clinics) then he should be treated in a manner where he enjoys the time spent with the firm. In cases where he is waiting for the product at his home, such time should be adequately rewards. For example, during the launch of Nano,Tata Motors announced that it will pay an interest on the booking amount for Tata Nano since the actual delivery of the car will be made only after a few months.
  • Another strategy is to reduce the waiting time so that the perceived value of the product/service goes up.
  • In cases where such value cannot be provided, marketers should be able to set only reasonable expectations with regard to the time factor.
  • For a marketer of physical product, the time is about speed . TIME translates to - How fast the new products are launched, the stocks are replenished, product improvements made, information passed to the consumers and after -sales services are performed.