Tag Archives: Spotify

Amazon Prime Is A Marketing Problem, Not A Value Problem

Much talk has been made over Amazon’s decision to raise its Amazon Prime program cost to $99 per year, up from $79 per year.  It’s the first time in the program’s nine-year history that the price was raised.  This comes shortly after Amazon raised the rates in countries throughout Europe.  Combine that with the fact that Amazon has only made a relatively marginal profit and is a publicly traded company, and it’s not that surprising that Amazon would raise the rate of Amazon Prime.

In fact, there were rumors that Amazon might raise the price to $119 per year, even up to $139 per year, so the fact that the price only went up $20 per year is actually small.

However, there are many people complaining about the price increase, enough so where they are reportedly considering dropping their Amazon Prime subscription before the next renewal.  At last check on this DealNews poll, there were 200 more votes to end their Prime subscriptions before renewal, about 58% willing to end it versus a 42% willing to keep it (essentially around 4 in 7 people willing to end it versus 3 in 7 people willing to keep it despite the rate increase).

Some are wondering if people are still getting enough value from their Amazon Prime subscription to justify the increased cost.  Well, let’s consider what you get:

– You get free 2-day shipping on nearly every items fulfill by Amazon, even if you don’t spend the minimum $35 as non-members must do.

– You get to borrow one free book each month (though you need an actual Kindle device; Kindle mobile apps or desktop applications do not quality for this benefit).

– You get access to Amazon Instant Video, including many free television episodes and series, movies, and more.

Those benefits alone give you more than what other subscription-rate video-only providers give you, such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, thanks to the countless number of items you can shop for online.

In addition, Amazon plans to release a new streaming radio service for Amazon Prime members in early April, thus entering the free online streaming industry alongside competitors such as Pandora, Spotify, Google Now, and iTunes Radio.  Thus, even more value will be provided to Amazon Prime subscribers.

Thus, I think it’s safe to say that the value of Amazon Prime is as high as ever, and soon to be even higher.  Why, then, are many people complaining and even considering ending their subscriptions to Amazon Prime?

In my opinion, it has to do with Amazon’s marketing.  How many times have you heard the magic number of “$99”?  Probably too many times – every time you think of Amazon or Amazon Prime, I’m sure that number has popped into your head, along with the soon-to-be old rate of $79.

This $99 is what people keep focusing on, and, thus, have overlooked what that number actually is.  That $99 is a yearly rate, not a monthly rate, and this is a point that Amazon has failed to remind people of.  In fact, to my knowledge, they haven’t even compared their service to Netflix’s.

Remember that Netflix offered their streaming online movie and television service for $6.95 per month, then it went up to its current $7.95 per month.  Not too many make mention of the $7.95 per month cost now. (Many subscribers and investors DID complain about the fact that Netflix raised the cost 60% to offer both DVDs and streaming to customers after they originally offered the two together for $9.99/month, plus the fact Netflix didn’t offer a discount for bundling the two together).

The $7.95/month cost, when multiplied by 12 months per year, comes out to an annual cost of $95.40/year, less than $4 cheaper than the new Amazon Prime rate.  As mentioned above, value isn’t the problem with Amazon Prime – it still offers way more than Netflix for that $99/year.  However, Amazon has failed to emphasize this in their marketing.

One of the main keys to marketing is pricing, and presenting that pricing so that it represents the most value.  This is usually shown by breaking a price down to its lowest unit cost.  You see this exhibited by many companies; one common example is life insurance companies breaking down life insurance to cost per day.  I’m sure you’ve seen Alex Trebek talking about Colonial Penn’s life insurance coverage costing “less than $.35/day; that’s less than the cost of a daily newspaper.”

When higher-cost items are broken down into smaller units, they are much more palatable to the budget-conscious consumer.  When you keep prices at higher units, especially ones pushing $100 like the new Amazon Prime rate, it’s going to be naturally oppressive to people because most people consider $100 to be sizable money.  However, if that cost was broken down by month or even day, it would be much more palatable to most and likely would quell much of the anger and dissension that has gone through the Amazon Prime subscriber base.  The yearly cost of $99 broken down by month comes out to be $8.25/month, $0.275/day (less than the cost of Colonial Penn’s life insurance daily rate, in fact).

This would especially be true if Amazon was comparing that monthly cost to a comparable service like Netflix or Hulu Plus, both of which do not do anything in regards to carrying a large inventory of items and shipping them to the consumer.  This would reemphasize the value subscribers are getting with Amazon Prime, and for most, would justify the higher rate increase.

Due to the fact that Amazon has failed to do this, everyone is fixated on the $99/year cost.  Certainly, the one-time payment of $99 can be a sizable amount for many, but when you consider that it’s a yearly cost and the fact that most households easily pay that much and more per month for their cable and Internet subscription packages, their groceries, their clothing, their utilities, their car insurance, their home insurance, and other essentials and non-essentials (cable and Internet, while important, isn’t exactly an essential package like food and shelter), you can see that the Amazon Prime rate increase isn’t that substantial for the value a subscriber gets.

Yet, Amazon is letting the public run wild with the $99/year price increase as being the “end of the world” and a good reason to end their subscriptions to Amazon Prime, even if they’ve been loyal subscribers for years.  This is another example of where the power of social media and online communication via the Internet must be monitored and responded to right away, as Amazon really hasn’t combatted this pervading viewpoint that the price increase is unreasonable.

As mentioned above, it was inevitable that the price increase would happen; after all, Amazon makes a marginal (in relative terms) profit compared to most companies, especially those that are publicly traded on a stock exchange.  Of course, investors will get antsy over rising costs and slim profits, so Amazon had to take some step to increase their revenues.  Besides the fact they raised the minimum purchase price for free shipping to $35 from $25, they’re raising the price of Amazon Prime to $99 from $79.

Again, though, it’s a relatively minor increase compared to what was originally proposed, not to mention it’s a one-time yearly fee, not a twelve-time monthly fee.  Most people pay far more per month for food, clothing, car insurance, health insurance, cable and Internet TV subscription bundles, etc.  Yet, most of those people aren’t complaining to the extent that they are about the Amazon Prime price increase, and that’s because of how those services are marketed as compared to Amazon’s marketing of Prime.

For Amazon to quell this anger and dissension amongst the Amazon Prime subscriber base, they need to do two things:

1. Break the yearly price down by month, even by day (as I did above), and emphasize that in their marketing.

2. Reemphasize all of the value subscribers will continue to receive, including the new music service that is scheduled to come online next month.

The first item has been non-existent, while the second item has been haphazardly done at best.  I really think that by emphasizing these two points, Amazon can help to quell the concerns and anger coming from much of the Amazon Prime subscriber base and keep many of them from fleeing.  If too many of them leave, this could start a bad cycle, as Amazon’s profits will suffer, scaring investors further and making Amazon consider more price increases in the near future, which will only make subscribers even angrier and giving them more impetus to unsubscribe from Amazon Prime.  It will be interesting to see the numbers of how many Amazon Prime subscribers stay and how many go as the new rate increase kicks in.

What do you think of Amazon’s rate increase of Prime? Reasonable? Unreasonable? Are you a subscriber to Amazon Prime? If so, do you plan on keeping your subscription or dropping it? Why? Feel free to answer any or all of the questions in the comments box below.

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Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry (Part 5- Apple’s Future)

This is Part 5, the Final Part of the Series “Why Apple Has Gotten Rotten In The Tech Industry.”

To read the other four parts in this series:

Part 1 (Google)

Part 2 (Samsung)

Part 3 (Amazon)

Part 4 (Other Competitors and Challenges)

Having gone through the challenges that Apple is facing from equally capable companies such as Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Pebble on several fronts, including the smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch categories, what does the future hold for Apple?

As was mentioned earlier in this series, expecting Apple to widen the gap to where they were far ahead of their competitors is unrealistic; those days are gone.  For Apple fans and investors, one must accept this fact: the rest of the industry has caught up, and in some ways, the rest of the industry is outdoing Apple in the tech industry, especially in terms of innovation.

Does this mean that Apple is finished in terms of being a profitable company in the tech sector?  No; Apple just needs to raise its game when it comes to innovation, both in the tech industry and beyond.  The good news is that there are rumors of them doing just that.

There are more rumors by the day that Apple is looking to connect its impending iWatch to the health industry.  As this 9to5Mac article points out, specifically, it’s the mobile healthcare industry that Apple is targeting.  That would certainly explain why Apple has taken a long time to release its iWatch, and it is an industry that the other main tech companies have not targeted.  That, alone, should appease Apple fans and investors, as this could be the impetus Apple needs to get some of its value back closer to its all-time high of $700+ (currently under $550 as of the time of this blog post).

Reportedly, the new iOS 8 operating system will include an application called “Healthbook” that will enable the iWatch to monitor one’s fitness (weight lost, calories burned, steps taken, etc.) and one’s health (heart rate, blood pressure, hydration levels, etc.).

While that is exciting, there are still some hurdles to take care of.  As this CiteWorld article points out, Apple is entering a different playing field that is more tightly regulated in virtually every country than either the music or entertainment industry.  Thus, Apple will not be able to easily and quickly differentiate themselves from other competitors in the field as they did for a long time in the tech field.

In addition, Apple likely would have to gain the proper clearance from such regulatory organizations as the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services in order to be able to market the iWatch as a medical device.  Note that this is just at the U.S. Federal level; many states and some cities have their own regulatory rules when it comes to health devices.  This doesn’t even take into account the European Union and other regulatory bodies in the countries of Europe and Asia.

Thus, the iWatch’s ability to penetrate the health industry is far from a done deal, and any roadblock could seriously hinder or even derail the full plans for the iWatch to disrupt the health industry and give Apple some much needed momentum for the company.

Apple introduced iRadio in June 2013 after years of rumors that Apple was going to get into the online radio market.  Many were predicting that Pandora, whom many considered to be the online radio leader, would suffer irreparable damage as a result, possibly leading to its collapse.

However, despite iRadio being in existence for over six months now, Pandora, as well as Spotify, are still kicking out the tunes.  In fact, Google also got into the act with its All Access Streaming Music service.  While iRadio added a nice feature to iOS7, it really didn’t distinguish itself from the other services, and in fact lacked features that Google All Access and Spotify provide – the ability to stream virtually any song any time the user wishes.  Surprisingly, iRadio is cheaper than Pandora (the most similar service to iRadio) – $24.99/year versus $36/year.  Of course, there are free versions in both, supported by ads.

This is another example of where Apple took a long time to develop a product, finally deliver it, but not distinguish itself from its competitors.  When it comes to Internet radio, it’s likely that most still think of Pandora or Spotify before Apple or Google (I know I do – and I use my iPad every day, but have only had iRadio on two times total in the last few months), showing the importance of being a first or early mover in the market.

At one time, most stock analysts and fans thought that Apple was the model company when it comes to tech, but that is no longer the case.

Ben Reitzes, analyst at Barclays, just downgraded Apple to “equal weight” from “overweight.”  That’s significant because, he has had Apple as “overweight” for 10 YEARS. Yes, 10 YEARS! As he states in this Benzinga article, he believes that iPhones will become more costly to make due to such new features as Sapphire glass, curved glass, and new batteries.  This will lessen Apple’s margins on its flagship smartphone product, thus leading to less profitability.  Reitzes doesn’t believe that AppleTVs or smartwatches will help to raise Apple’s valuation either.

This type of judgment on Apple is something that has not been seen in quite some time.  Even when Apple’s stock was dropping like a rock in 2013, most analysts brushed it off and thought that Apple would immediately come back in terms of value.  I know some analysts were even predicting that Apple would rise to $800, even $1000+ during 2014.

While that may still be possible, current evidence would suggest otherwise, as Apple is currently trading above $520, down about $1 (2.2%) on the day as of the time this post is written (about 12:15 PM ET on Monday, February 24, 2014).  While it has gained from the $385.10, the low it hit on April 19, 2013, it’s also a good margin away from the recent high of $575.14 on December 5, 2013, never mind the fact that Apple hasn’t been above $600 for over a year now.

Thus, more people are starting to realize that Apple is facing a much tougher tech environment, and Apple has been slow to adapt.  Every time Apple has more negative news about it or a positive development about a competitor surfaces, it does more damage to Apple than in the past.

Add in the fact that Apple has admitted that it has a “bug” that fails to encrypt sensitive data on iOS and Macs, and this just further intensifies the black cloud hanging over Apple.  This type of bug sounds more typical of Microsoft and Windows, yet the former tech leader is experiencing such a “bug” and is still working to resolve it on Macs (they have issued an iOS patch for iPhones and iPads).  Worse than that, as this Reuters article reveals, this bug has been present for months, but has only been identified very recently.  Thus, many Mac users may have inadvertently exposed their sensitive data on public WiFi without even knowing it until now.

This is another reason why Apple is being looked down upon, especially amongst the younger generation; Apple is not the most transparent company in terms of its operation, a quality that younger generations look more for than older generations do.  That is one problem Apple is facing.

Another problem Apple is facing is one that I mentioned earlier in this series: More and more people are looking at paying less for their technology.  This is likely to hold true in China, which is why most don’t think Apple will ever lead in market share there (they were up 1% in Q4 2013, a total of 7% market share, good for fifth place, 12% behind market leader Samsung – source).

Whereas at one time people thought that Apple was THE only choice in getting quality tech, even at higher prices, the competition has shown that that is no longer the case.  Add in the fact that the competition’s tech is cheaper, and it’s not surprising that other companies have more market share in places such as China, Android dominates the world (and leads in the U.S.), and times don’t look that bright for Apple right now.

So, what can Apple do about this downtrend?

Two things:

1. They need to be more adaptive to the competition – they can’t take as long in coming out with new products.  I pointed out both the delays in producing the iRadio and in the smartwatch.  Just as the iRadio didn’t do a whole lot for Apple or that much against its competition, I don’t expect the smartwatch to do much either, even if it is targeted more toward the health sector.  As mentioned earlier in this post, Apple has many governmental hurdles and restrictions to deal with before the smartwatch can even become a medical device reality, and that’s across many government levels.

2. Apple also must be more innovative in its product line.  While the health industry is one that its competitors aren’t in (yet), the delays aren’t helping Apple’s cause to be more innovative in the health industry.  As for its other products, the iRadio wasn’t that innovative, as noted above, and new models of the iPhone and iPad aren’t innovative enough anymore to outdo or even match its competitors.

Further proof that Apple has to pick up its “tech” game to make a comeback: I just seen in the latest Best Buy weekly flyer that Samsung has released its new, larger tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Note PRO 12.2.  Apple has plans to release a 13″ iPad, but that won’t be until later this year or 2015, again leading to them being behind the ball when it comes to innovation.  Apple does plan to target more of the enterprise industry than the main consumer industry, but the innovation behind such an idea has again been taken away from Apple thanks to Samsung coming out with such a product first.

In essence, Apple must improve the innovation in its product lines and its ability to get them to the market quickly (preferably first).  It is no longer good enough for them to just release a product and have everyone look upon Apple positively; it must now react to competition that wasn’t really present even a few years ago, and certainly not five years ago.  This is the only way, in my opinion, that Apple will start to gain value in the eyes of its fans and investors again.  Apple isn’t going away in the tech industry, but it’s no longer the tech leader, and it won’t be again either without it being more innovative and being more efficient in getting its technology out to the market before its competitors do.

I hope you enjoyed this series.  Feel free to post your comments below.  I will keep an eye on Apple and the tech industry in the coming months, delivering a few posts here and there.  If you have questions or would like to see an expansion of this series, looking at another specific aspect of Apple and/or the tech industry, feel free to leave a comment below.  Thanks!