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Price Discounts Still Drive PC Sales Results

According to Forrester Research, when shopping for a PC consumers will put one consideration ahead of nearly everything else -- no surprise, it's the price. The purchase price of the product influences decisions about what, why, when, and where they purchase a computer.

While price is not the only issue -- consumers also consider technology specifications, past experience, and recommendations from peers and reviewers as well -- the commoditization of the PC has reduced the number of factors the average consumer considers during the purchase process. However, I wonder, is that because PC marketers haven't given consumers a valid reason to distinguish their products?

Consumers have integrated personal computers into their everyday lives. The average consumer spends 10.7 hours per week in front of the PC screen, and PC-owning consumers average 13 hours per week at the keyboard. This much exposure to the myriad PC features and capabilities means that consumers know what they value in a computer and which features and functions are important to them in their next PC purchase.

Most consumers began considering the purchase of their newest PC because their old machine became obsolete or stopped working. Price decreases can also set the PC purchase process in motion -- close to 30 percent of consumers say they started thinking about a new PC when the price dropped. Marketing efforts, including typical advertisements, catalogs, and reviews, did little to prompt consumers to think about buying a new PC.

Forrester concludes that commoditization is the future for PC manufacturers and retailers alike. As in any maturing market, once the basics are established then marketing must make a difference. Industries as broadly arrayed as automotive and apparel, fragrance and food, have stepped out of "basic black" into a world of myriad choice, value-added capabilities, and style.

There is no reason that the PC industry can't accomplish the same thing. But to get from here to there, the entire industry -- manufacturers like Dell, HP, and Apple, that are supported by component suppliers like Microsoft and Intel, and must work with retailers like Best Buy and Circuit City -- should start to think differently about PCs and target consumers.

Improved segmentation will ensure that feature/function capabilities are better mapped to consumer lifestyles and application interests. Gamers, business users and the mass-market segments are the common targets for most PC marketers. However, other segments in the PC marketplace are rarely targeted by the major vendors or their distribution channel.

As an example, we know that more and more people are starting to use their computer to edit and arrange digital video files. However, when I performed a search for a common term, such as "multimedia PC" only an eBay paid text ad used those keywords in the ad title. Furthermore, when I searched for the more specific term "videographer PC" there were no paid text ads at all mentioning those words, or anything that was even close.

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