Buy it early, get it late: the CRM mistake built into Google’s Nexus 7 launch

By Chris Bucholtz

How many CRM users claim they use their systems to identify important customers? A lot. Who are your important customers? I’d say subscribers, fanboys, people who pre-order things; in the social media age, they’re the ones who don’t just spend money with you, but they want to talk about the experience of spending money with you and using your products.

And yet, still, stuff happens like this, as reported by James Kendrick on ZDNet:

The $200 Nexus 7 tablet excited quite a few folks when unveiled at Google I/O recently. Many pulled out their credit cards and preordered a Nexus 7 from Google, expecting to get it as soon as it was available. Some are getting notifications from Google that their precious has shipped to arrive soon. Others are just going to the Gamestop retail stores and buying one today. No preorder necessary.

Catch that? The people who were really excited and paid early get to wait; those who just stumbled into the store get theirs immediately. The customers who committed to buying the product are forced to wait longer than those who waited longer to commit to the product. Does anyone detect a problem here?

This is no aberration; you see it all the time in the world of magazines (subscribers usually get copies of consumer magazines after they show up on newsstands), for one example. But the signal it sends is an absolutely terrible one.

What this says is: “we as a company need to capitalize on the buzz for this product by getting the first batch in front of customers who aren’t yet convinced or aren’t yet willing to buy. Because we are cynical, we believe those early-order people would buy anyway – so getting them their pre-orders isn’t really a priority.” In other words, “we take our most enthusiastic customers for granted.” There’s a banner for the front page of your web site!

And, in the social era, it has two repercussions. First, getting these devices in the mitts of the early buyers creates an opportunity to use them as a force multiplier for buzz in advance of their availability in stores. Shipping to stores first misses this opportunity. Second, those early buyers were poised to talk about the devices; instead, they’re talking about how they’ve been slighted.

The Google folks knew what was right, or what would be perceived as right: send the shipments for pre-ordered devices out, then time delivery to stores so that they arrive just after the pre-ordered devices reach customers. Granted, that takes some planning and coordination between different parts of the organization – but in the social era, when your business depends on word of mouth via social – you can’t afford to skip planning.

How are you treating your best customers? Are you taking them for granted, or are you cultivating their advocacy by paying attention to details like this?