This morning, it came out that the Nokia Lumia 920 Windows Phone 8 flagship would be released sometime in November across Europe (and AT&T November 2nd, via The Verge). Of course, we didn’t hear that from Nokia, the company which manufactured the device and announced it to the public just a few days ago, we heard it from an unnamed executive from an Eastern European carrier who leaked the information to Reuters.
Many media colleagues have been critical of Nokia’s decision to announce their flagship Windows Phone 8 devices with nary a mention of pricing, release date, or preorder availability, and rightly so. But Nokia’s gaffe has greater implications than pissing off a few in-the-know journalists, it also has the potential to undermine Nokia’s efforts where it matters most: consumer pocketbooks.
Nokia arguably held their press event in early September to create buzz around the product ahead of the next iPhone release, a device which everyone in the industry knows is going to move a lot of units this holiday season. With an event a full week ahead of the iPhone launch, Nokia is hoping to create a buzz about its upcoming products in the media. And to an extent they accomplished this, but the company failed to understand just what compels customers to make their purchasing decisions.
As a consumer society, we’re hardwired to fixate on details as we weigh our purchasing decisions. That means that in addition to knowing what a device can do and how a certain technology or product can make our lives better, two things Nokia did fairly well this week, we ultimately want to know when it’s going to be released, how much it’s going to cost, and what we can do to ensure we get our hands on it. And it all needs to be presented in a timely fashion. Features, pricing, and release date; those are the things that matter to consumers, and Nokia failed to deliver on two of those three basic needs. And it could result in consumers ultimately choosing a different product, say the iPhone, Samsung’s ATIV S, or one of the three HTC Windows Phone 8 devices the company is expected to launch on the 19th.
Companies who give potential customers the most information upfront tend to do better than companies that don’t. At Apple’s events, the company tells you all about the product, confirm pricing and release dates, and usually open up preorders that day to get you in the door. And Apple has sold a lot of iPhones, iPads, iPods, iMacs, and basically anything else with the letter i in front of it as a result. Amazon’s event yesterday largely followed the same strategy; we left the event knowing exactly what was being offered, the pricing, when we’d be able to preorder, and when it’d ship. And Amazon will sell a lot of Kindle’s too, just as they have with their Kindle line in the past.
With the move, Nokia and Microsoft have ensured that they’re going to have to spend significant amounts of advertising dollars over the next few months to keep the Lumia line fresh in the consumers minds. Added expenses and potentially declining consumer interest/sentiment is not the scenario Nokia wanted to play out, and it’s baffling why they chose to essentially ensure it.
It’s time for companies to follow some basic understandings for how the consumer mindset works, and only announce devices once you’ve firmed up the details around its launch, including your carrier partners. Nokia would have done well to announce the Lumia 820 and 920 smartphones in mid-October, and open up pre-orders for the devices that day so any customers who liked what Nokia had to offer could send their money Nokia’s way the same day as the event. Now, some of these customers will likely forget about the Lumia devices in the next few months before they’re released, and may move on to competitor’s offerings.