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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Garmin GPS - TOO Much of a Good Thing

The prime rule of Retailing 101 is the "Good, Better, and Best" model. This particularly applies to the consumer electronics industry where an overwhelming number of similar choices in the same price range will result in consumer confusion instead of consumer purchases.

Having more than one option in each group is acceptable so long as the choices are primarily brand name differentiated. The salesperson or especially website must make the differences between and Good, Better, and Best as clear and simple to understand as possible or the consumer will experience Selection Overload.

Selection Overload and the resulting consumer confusion will cause a potential customer to become so unsure of themselves in making the correct product selection for their needs that they're afraid to purchase anything.

Retailing 101 acknowledges the reality that people really don't trust salespeople to recommend the truly best product for them. When I sold consumer electronics years ago, one of the most frustrating things I had to deal with was the assumption that I had an agenda in suggesting a particular product.

I had forgotten more about consumer electronics than most of my customers would ever know and convincing them I was trying to help them was a frustrating yet necessary step in the sales process. People without the ability to win the trust of their prospects rarely survive in sales in general.

The flip-side to that argument is that there often is an agenda. The company would obviously prefer its salespeople move the most profitable products than the loss leaders. This still doesn't preclude a knowledgeable salesperson from serving the best needs of both the company and the customer. The customer needs to understand why and what they are purchasing is the best option for them. In the world of GPS, Garmin has thrown Retailing 101 out the window.

I've been a Garmin GPS user and proponent since the 1990's. I have absolutely no sense of direction, getting lost even in my own neighborhood.

I spent 50% of my time on business travel back then and relied on my trusty Garmin emap. It would show you where you were and where you wanted to be but couldn't give you was a dead-reckoning device. But at least I knew I was going in the right direction!

As an added bonus, if I held my emap up against an airplane window, it could usually pick up enough satellites to amuse me with the aircraft speed, position, and altitude.

My current Garmin is the Nüvi 360. When I purchased it, I had two Garmin product lines to choose from: The StreetPilot and the Nüvi. StreetPilot's were big; Nüvi's were pocket-sized. Easy decision for me: a Nüvi.

The Nüvi line came in two screen sizes; big and small, and two price-ranges: expensive and really expensive. It was easy to compare the small screen (300 series) to the large screen (600 series) because a 350 had basically the same features as a 650. Want bluetooth built in for hands-free wireless phone use? Pick either the Nüvi 360 or 660. The 600 series did add a couple of small features the 300 series didn't have as you went up in price, but they had to considering the price difference between the two.

Bottom Line, potential Garmin purchasers; GPS knowledgeable or not, really only had to make the following choices:

  • How much were we willing to spend?

  • StreetPilot or Nüvi?

  • Big Screen or Small Screen?

  • Hands-Free or no Hands-Free?

  • See #1 again.

  • Garmin was the only credible option available then as a brand. To this day, they have the best mapping algorithms available and their maps were the most accurate in the United States until they starting aging: Garmin only released map updates once a year.

    The ability to not only add Custom Points of Interest (POI), but the large number of Garmin hobbyists who created usually free downloads of every Walmart, Starbucks, hospital, restaurant of every flavor, bank locations and thousands more was a clear differentiator between Garmin and every other brand. ESPECIALLY among these thousands of POI downloads available were Red Light Camera Locations and common speed-trap locations! Those downloads alone have more than paid for my Nüvi 360 in avoided traffic tickets.

    Then came Dash, Europe's favorite GPS; TomTom, and a plethora of others. They were less expensive than Garmin and offered more features; especially real-time map updating. They didn't have Garmin's famous mapping algorithms. Garmin was clearly superior but who would know; especially a GPS Newbee? The sub-$200 car navigation units arrived. Having a GPS went mainstream in a big way.

    Garmin's reaction to this was hysterics. They began releasing new models and discontinuing them within months. They created new Nüvi series at all different price-points which seemed to have the same or very similar features. The seemed to be literally targeting individual consumers one by one. Another way of saying that is Garmin threw everything against the wall to see what would stick.

    Instead of using that curious approach to determine Good, Better and Best...and then thin out the line, Garmin just keep throwing up new models; often while an almost identical version in another series was available, even though discontinued.

    Today, the Garmin lists the Nüvi Series as having TWENTY THREE different models! There is the Nüvi 1200 series, Nüvi 1300 series, Nüvi 200 series, Nüvi 500 series, Nüvi 700 series, Nüvi 800 series, Nüvi 5000....and of course the lonely Street Pilot 7200.

    Confused yet? I sure was! I know some of those models/series are discontinued but since Garmin still has stock on them, they list them right along with the current models. A shopper looking for their first GPS would run in terror from the Garmin website! What that demographic needs is a website like one I stumbled across while doing my legendary research for this article called Sat Nav.

    Sat Nav is a UK website so some of the brands are not available in the USA. The important thing is that the site is clean, easy to understand, and focused. The home page clearly lists and provides pictures of different auto GPS units. The bottom has a very understandable "Which Sat Nav is for Me?" section.

    When you click on a particular manufacturer, the bottom section changes to a very user friendly description of that manufacturers models and what the difference is. Good, Better and Best.

    There are good GPS sites in the USA but I thought Sat Nav really stood out in making my point as a user friendly/consumer friendly site for someone wanting to buy an auto GPS without getting a degree in satellite navigation.

    Compare their site at against Garmin's corporate consumer website. Garmin could take more than a few lessons from the folks at Sat Nav.

    As for Garmin and my personal GPS refresh? The two features I wanted in one unit were FM Lifetime Traffic and MSN Direct. Seven different Nüvi Series. Twenty-Three different Nüvi models. Not ONE came standard with FM Lifetime Traffic and MSN Direct! The units with FM Lifetime Traffic standard offered MSN Direct as an option and visa versa!

    I was so angry with Garmin that I started visiting stores to look at the TomTom GPS units in person. I figured by now their maps would be much better and since Garmin may rule the US market (for now), TomTom is the largest selling GPS manufacturer in the world. I also really liked the ability to upload corrections to the maps (since Dallas is perpetually under construction) and download same which other TomTom users had uploaded.

    Unfortunately, in store after store, the TomTom display appeared very washed out against the Garmin units. I even compared them to my now venerable Nüvi 360. TomTom lost.

    So which GPS did I end up purchasing? None of them. Thanks to Garmin, I decided to wait another 6 months and see what is available then. Nice marketing, Garmin. Add to Digg DiggIt! Reddit Reddit Stumbleupon Stumble This Google Bookmarks Add to Google Bookmarks Yahoo My Web Add to Yahoo MyWeb Technorati Add to Technorati Faves Slashdot Slashdot it

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    Mrs. Unloadingzone

    Mrs. Unloadingzone
    "The Girl of my Dreams"