Roku's new rumored designations risk confusing customers going forward.
Which Roku Do I Need? Sellers, journalists and all of those in between get ready to deal with a very confused public. If the reporting of Dave Zats is to be believed and I see no reason not to at least take the info he published seriously, Roku has plans to launch five new models in the future. The multiple units model has served Roku well since the company first began to expand its offerings. But it may be time for Roku to rethink the way it rolls out its products in order to simplify the way it is marketed to the public.
As of right now, it appears that Roku will be rolling out replacements for its entire line of products and changing its designation from the easy-to-follow number designation (1,2,3,4) to a product line that includes the designations Premier, Premier Plus, Ultra, Express and Express Plus. Is this the best way forward for the company? Maybe not.
How does competition stack up?
Roku has three major competitors in the streaming set-top box and dongle space. Apple, Amazon and Google. Between those three companies are a combined five products. At the moment Roku, on its own, has five current offerings. Those offerings are the Roku 1, Roku 2, Roku 3, Roku 4 and the Roku quad-core Streaming Stick. And at the moment a consumer can logically discern the difference between the various products. The intro product is the 1 and the top one is the Roku 4. When the new models roll out, if they are in fact going to, the simple 1-4 understanding will be out the window and from there confusion will likely set in.
Why? Because poorly trained retail employees and uninformed consumers will not be able to tell what product to purchase without carefully reading the packaging of the products, assuming they can get their hands on them in the first place.
My Market Research
Employees at major big box stores are regularly unwitting participants in my own research of consumer and seller understanding of streaming products. How so? I simply approach employees at stores and ask simple direct questions about products. The serious lack of understanding of the streaming product market that I can gauge from the responses should honestly disturb all of the major parties. At a Best Buy for instance I was told that the Roku streaming stick could support Kodi (it can not). In another instance the lead in the TV department at another Best Buy store (who was training a new employee at the time) explained that Roku was unique in the marketplace because it allowed users to access ESPN without a cable subscription through the Watch ESPN App (it does not do this).
There are numerous instances from employees recommending products based on their ability to be side loaded to promising free cable channels to the point of becoming a totally different collomn.
Why don’t employees at stores understand the products they sell?
Most can’t explain the difference between an Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV and Roku platform. They don’t understand the differences because in many cases the people selling the products do not use them. This isn’t their fault but it causes a lot of confusion. On the other hand, it is definitely the fault of the upper management for not providing more training or even a simple checklist for emplyee use. But one thing that they can not get confused about is that the Roku 1 is less powerful and has fewer features than a Roku 4. Now you tell me what sounds better the Ultra or the Premier? If I was comparing two products and described one as the greatest and described the other as the best I’ve seen up to this point what would that mean to you a consumer? How would you know what I thought was better?
Apple Amazon and Google keep it simple
Anyone who has ever entertained an interest in sales knows the acronym KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). The phrase was developed by Zig Ziggler, author of How To Win Friends and Influence People. The idea is that the more confused a potential customer gets about a product the harder it is to close a sale and make money. Roku’s competitors seem to hold strong to this principle. Amazon has introduced three products in the streaming market. The first Fire TV, The second 4K supported Fire TV (which did not go on sale until stocks of the first version were sold out) and the Fire Stick
with or without the voice remote. At the moment the Fire TV set-top box and Fire TV stick are available at major retailers and of course Amazon’s site. For $100.00 users can get the box for $40.00-$50.00 users can get a stick. Apple offers two TV box offerings. The 4th-gen box with a full app store, Siri and a controller with smart touch and a speaker is $149.00 and the third-gen box with a limited offering of apps, no app store and a more basic remote for $69.00. The differences between the two products are clear from both a feature and price point difference.
What should Roku do?
Roku should seriously consider simplifying its product line. Here is how. Let’s say that the company sticks with the name change from numbers to adjectives. The company should sell 3 products. The Roku Stick, an intro product and a top grade product. If it wants to use the new designations stick with Express and Premier and discard the others in between. The Express should be a Wi-Fi only model and feature RCA jacks, a max resolution of 1080, a basic remote without voice commands or a pager and a quad-core processor in the unit. This would provide solid value for customers who are looking for a product that will work with older TV’s, be upgradeable to full HD and provide users with all of Roku’s signature features. The top product “Premier” should feature all the bells and whistles. It should be capable of 4K with full HDR (High Dynamic Range AKA true colors), optical audio outs, maximum memory, SD card support, Wi-Fi and Ethernet (wired) connections, a remote with headphone jacks a pager/finder feature and gaming support. The model should also feature a more powerful processor than the lower model. This would provide two clear set-top box choices for
consumers. Are you a customer with the newest most advanced 4k TV then you should clearly get a Roku “Premier” that takes full advantage of its cabability. If you are a customer who has yet to make a transition to HD TV or you are years from getting a 4K TV, then the intro or “Express” model is for you.
Nobody wants returns
From Roku’s direct sales website to its retail partners nobody wants to deal with customers who feel confused or even worse, duped. Simplyfying the product line will help customers quickly chose a product that fits their needs. While some might complain that only the advanced model offers Ethernet access this is a staple of Roku’s marketing all the way back to the days of the “XS”. Want the most options pay for the best product. Its like the difference between a Toyota Camry and a Corrola. If the company really puts out 5 new boxes and keeps the stick in place it will have 6 new products to support along with all of the 1s, 2s,3s and 4s still out there. 10 products not counting the previous version of the streaming stick or (god help me) the Roku 3 that did not include a voice remote. With too many options Roku very much risks customers simply choosing a competitor like Amazon or Apple just because they are more familiar with the brand and because retailors will not fumble their way throug explaining them. The more confused buyers get the less likely they will be to purchase a Roku and the more likely they will be to get something else.