Vostro!? Are you kidding me? This is the plan that Dell thinks is going to solve their decline? This is the product that deserved an unveiling? All they’ve done is add a new name to their existing mess of products, and not even a good name either. (Even dumber than “Inspiron”.) According to Dell’s own comparison charts, the new Vostro line is not quite as good as their real business computers.
To cite just one of the things that Dell says is different between the Latitude and the Vostro laptops: with the Latitude you get dedicated “North American” support and with Vostro – well, there’s no checkmark there, so let’s assume the support isn’t based in North America. With the off-shore support backlash that the technology industry is currently experiencing, introducing a new product line that is supposed to make things easier for small businesses without US-based tech support is just plain stupid. (I’m all for off-shore support, as long as it is done well – see my post on Symantec.)
Okay, Dell, here’s what you do. Throw away the “home”, “small business”, and “business” categories that are the gatekeeper to your web store. The store should start off with 2 paths – “know what you want” brings you right to the product selection and “help me choose” brings the user to a screen with some simple questions – 5 max – that then drives to the product selection. For desktops, offer 3 product lines – one for web surfing, e-mail, and word processing; a second for mid-level use; and a third for power users. You can even reuse the brands that customers are already familiar with: Dimension, OptiPlex, and Precision (respectively). For laptops, offer 2 product lines – one for mid-level use; and a second for power users. Reuse the Latitude name for the mid-level and come up with a new name for the power users – one that you haven’t already used. Then, everything that is named an OptiPlex shares parts with everthing else named OptiPlex so that when somebody is shopping, they know what they are going to get. (Instead of the current practice of slapping the brand on whatever the hell you source, regardless of it’s similarity to the rest of the product line.)
What does this get you? Well, you’ll be able to improve brand recognition within the Dell brand, you’ll have a smaller set of inventory and choices you need to manage, and a customer isn’t going to end up at your web site overhwelmed with the complexity of it all. Your product people have run amok and it’s time to rein things back in for your sake and for your customers’. While you’re at it, increase your funding to your post-sales endeavor by 100%. You want to keep customers? Let recent purchasers feel your love.
One more thing, Dell: Customers like me already feel like we have a famliarity with your product line. We go to a Toshiba product or a Lenovo product and feel a little disoriented. You need to capitalize on that before we start feeling as uncomfortable with Dell as we do with everything else and end up buying a Mac.