The original Xerox machine, the 914 copier, was not particularly successful until the company allowed people to have the machine and buy copies as needed. People did not feel they would use the machine enough to justify its purchase, but were willing to have it on-site to use for copies if they could pay for it per copy. This breakthrough in understanding that “how the customer wanted to buy” was critical, helped assure the success of Xerox.
Today countless solar energy companies are working to get consumers to buy solar panels for their houses. Government rebates are helping to off-set the limited ROI in most systems, but the process of buying is still complex. Some companies are looking to offer their solar panels at Lowes or Home Depot as a way to change how customers buy, but that is likely to have limited success. The real breakthrough may be coming from Sungevity.
While Sungevity offers many of the same value propositions as their competitors, the real difference is in how you can buy from them. If you visit their website and enter your address they will use satellite imaging to view your house and surrounding area and give you a firm fixed price quote within 24 hours. No home visit required.
Is this a breakthrough? I think so. Will it make a difference? We’ll see. In every event it is a process innovation that has the potential to help the company differentiate in a way that matters.