Equipment is Becoming a Commodity

It used to be that if you made the best products, you had a distinct competitive advantage. However, today it appears that things have changed. If you are not making the best products, you are not at a competitive disadvantage, you are out of business.

Off-shoring, and its new euphemism “Right-Shoring”, have reduced the costs of everyone’s products. Moore’s Law (the doubling of technology’s capabilities approximately every 18 months) is well understood, and in some quarters is thought to be close to having run its course. With so many open standards, products are no longer comparable, they are virtually interchangeable.

As China emerges on the technology scene as an economic super power, it is using its competitive labor advantage (most technology based companies have their products manufactured in China by various Contract Manufacturers), and its technical parity to try and make every customer’s buying decision a price based one. In trying to make every buying decision solely a priced based one, it is in effect “commoditizing” the equipment.

If there is no ability to differentiate equipment, other than price, what can be done? The obvious choice is to start focusing on the non-equipment differentiators: the level of relationship and trust between the customer and vendor, ease of equipment installation, ease of product maintenance, warranty length and breadth of coverage, etc. In short Service.

As products become more technically capable, they can have a tendency to become more complex to operate. Their installation and implementation have become more specialized. Their maintenance and the ability to trouble shoot their problems require much more training and specialized support.

Customers do not seem to buy technology for technology’s sake. They are buying a “use” or application to fulfill their specific need. The ability to simplify and reduce the customer’s perceived risk associated with the implementation and operation of their equipment in the delivery of its functional usage can be significant equipment decision differentiators.

With it becoming so difficult to differentiate commoditized equipment, it will pay to try and differentiate the ease and simplicity of product usage, the depth and breadth of support, and the comprehensive level of service that will accompany the equipment. When the competition is trying to make the customer’s buying decision a price based one, you will need to try and make it a service based one to change the decision criteria back in your favor.