11 January 2008

The utility of iTunes

I have often written about measuring utility. In fact I still stand by my claim that the perfect product is one that provide utility while not requiring a change in behavior. Being able to measure the behavioral change hurdle and utility are vital towards increasing the rate of diffusion. Increasing the success of new product innovation will be a powerful tool towards reduction of waste and insuring a more robust economy.

The announcement of DRM free songs from becoming available on Amazon is an opportunity to measure the utility of the iTunes comprehensive music delivery system. Many industry experts point to iTunes as the key to the iPods domination of portable music players. While the system is proprietary, it is open to the extent that most users need. Amazon does on have the same sort of convenient, comprehensive delivery system, and this will be a great opportunity to measure it’s worth.

Similarly, any manufacturer that currently distributes through Wallmart and Target can gauge the utility of design. Utilizing online sale numbers we can extrapolate just how much it is worth to the average consumer to go across the street to Target and buy a much better looking toilet bowl brush (possibly even designed by Phillip Stark) for a measly dollar more. Sure, some folks don’t know they can do that, but that’s easy enough to isolate with a simple survey.

The road to accurately measuring utility and translating that measure to customer value is becoming pretty simple. Measuring the resistance to change (of behavior) is a more complex problem. Behaviorist… where are you?