I found this story in today’s New York Times to be fascinating. In a world in which customization, direct service, and online shopping seem to be the order of the day, Dell seems poised to break from its past and consider selling through retail channels. That’s a dramatic departure and one seemingly at odds with current trends.
Or is it? One of the things that the modern Internet teaches us it that people want immediate gratification more than ever. People expect to be able to download software on demand and start using it immediately. None of this ordering it and getting it shipped. They want to be able to sign up for a web-based service and use it now, not later.
Of course, it’s harder to get immediate gratification with computer hardware without the retail experience. Go ahead and try to download your next computer and see how far you get.
The challenge for Dell is that unlike Apple or Lenovo (maker of Thinkpads), the Austin, TX company focused on delivering customized computers to consumers. Others who sell through retail outlets offer a streamlined selection of cookie-cutter solutions.
So the question that must be answered is: can Dell balance the need for immediate gratification with customization?