The consumer technology market seems to be entering into a phase. Mass market personal electronics are currently being replaced by limited-edition gadgets. Various companies, including Apple, Microsoft and Amazon, have joined this trend in the past one year. But are they using this strategy to test unknown waters or to attract more consumer attention.
The Club of the Exclusives
In November 2014, Amazon surprisingly introduced a new device called Amazon Echo. The gadget was referred to as a smart speaker and it offers useful weather news, music playback, voice commands, shopping lists, web searches and etc. In order to order it, however, consumers had to send request for an invitation that will give them the right to buy it. Nearly half a year later, not much has changed. The gadget continues to be hard to get. Even people who have an invite to order it need to wait for it to ship for 2 or 3 months.
A month after the smart speaker was released, Microsoft launched a smart band that with time also proved to be as limited in quantity as Amazon Echo. Microsoft Band went out of stock in just a matter of hours after it was launched. Most probably tech geeks around the world rushed to taste the new gadget. Even though the company restocked it a few time (yet in limited quantities) and offered to other online retailers to add it to their catalogues, the wearable continues to be on the wish lists of many consumers. Currently, the gadget is available for purchase from the Microsoft Store. However, some of its models take over a month to ship.
The Apple Watch is the most recent example of an exclusive technology product. The golden edition of the timepiece will be available upon request and only at select retail store. While that is not so strange given the gadget’s high price (starting at $10,000), even basic Apple Watch models will come in limited availability. Apple will release the device in less than 10 countries. Although the company promises to launch it across more markets in the near future.
One of the reasons why technology companies are competing in releasing exclusive gadgets is that they are simply afraid of the risks such devices hide. After all, there are not many smart speakers or golden smart watches out there. Predicting consumer demand for products like Amazon Echo and the golden Apple Watch is almost impossible. For instance, demand forecasts for Apple’s first wearable are anything but conclusive. While some reports state that only 7% of currently iPhone owners plan to buy an Apple Watch, others claim that their percentage is almost 40%. Therefore, with all that uncertainty, it makes sense for technology giants to take things slow and test waters before they dive in.
On the other hand, making a product limited-edition is one of the quickest and cheapest way to make it more interesting to the consumer. Exclusive items have always enjoyed the love of the consumer simply because having a limited-edition product make you feel and look special. This so-called “scarcity strategy” is particularly popular among fashion and luxury brands. By releasing items in limited quantities, such companies successfully create excitement on the market. Also, this marketing strategy can increase short-term demand, as well as the perceived value of both the product and the brand. Now, however, it seems that technology companies have saw potential in the scarcity strategy and are more than willing to try it out. Luckily for them, the global consumer technology market has matured enough to respond well to such experiments.