Barriers can be physical, rational or emotional. Physical barriers might include:
- Long load times on a web page
- Credit disapprovals at a car dealership
- Small type size in an ad
- Long distances to a dealership
Rational barriers might include:
- Higher prices than competitors
- Feature sets mismatched to needs
- Confusing steps to buy
Emotonal barriers might include:
- Fear of the unknown
- The brand doesn't match my identity
- Distrust of the product / brand
When a marketer adds up all the barriers, you get something similar to a Markov chain. Each barrier can be thought of as "erected" or "non-erected." A non-erect barrier means the probability of a customer passing through that barrier is 1--because the barrier doesn't exist. But an erect barrier will cause some fall-out, and will effect all downstream barriers, too.
Doing a buying analysis based on barriers can be a powerful tool. One gets the sense that a company like Apple has done them in their retail stores, but maybe not for their B2B business. Looking at an Apple store, there are very few barriers.
- Everything is in stock
- The stores are close to target populations
- There are products available for demo all the time
- Prices are clear and intuitive
- Features meet consumers' needs
- Buying is simple--just talk to an associate and you walk out with your mac / ipod.
- The store is appealing and comforting
- The brand is trusted
However, when you look at B2B, there are barriers galore.
- Where does one go to get Mac for business? The store? A distributor?
- What if my battery runs out? Why are the batteries internal? (some insulting me emotion here.)
- Apple doesn't work seemlessly with Office. Or does it (some confusion mixed in here.)
- Apple doesn't make servers.
- There isn't enough business software available for Apple.
- I've never thought of the Apple brand as being built for businesses.
- Apple spends all its time marketing iPods.
Anyway, it's a simple example for illustrative purposes. But I love doing these barrier / hurdle projects. Maybe I'll do another post on the simple math... which gets to the upside business case of barrier removal.