Apple’s scarcity strategy a two-edged sword

Marketing 101 teaches that one way to drive up demand for a product is to create a perception that the product is scarce. I’m not on a first name (or last name) basis with Steve Jobs to ask him. But it seems obvious that Apple had a scarcity strategy for the iPad 2. No pre-orders online that would be delivered on the first day of availability. Limited stock to stores. Having customers wait outside so long lines would be shown on TV.

Apple is a very successful company. Its scarcity strategy for the iPad 2 has been equally successful. Not just the blogosphere, but the mainstream press is replete with stories of high demand, scant supply, long lines, weeks long online wait times, strategies to get an iPad 2 without the wait, etc.

However, this strategy is a two-edged sword. I wrote in Handling devices before you buy: iPad 2 and Xoom how impressed I was when I handled the iPad 2 at a local Best Buy. Had the device then been available, I may have bought it as an impulse purchase. But the iPad 2 wasn’t then available of course. So I didn’t purchase it. When I got home and calmed down, I reconsidered, and decided to wait and see on competitive devices that will be coming out very soon, such as BlackBerry’s PlayBook.

I’m not second-guessing Apple’s strategy. Apple is far more successful than I could ever hope to be. However, for a device whose form factor and user interface is as beautiful and pleasing as the iPad 2, I could see the potential for a lot of impulse purchases, if the device were available. Just saying.

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