Social Commerce

Chief Dodo Ballmer: What Social Commerce Can Learn from Windows 8


Business books are already being updated, with the Coca-Cola ‘New Coke’ catastrophe being replaced with the newer story of Microsoft Windows 8.  The lesson is the same – too much innovation can backfire.

Back in 1985, with Pepsi winning the hearts and mouth’s of the youth generation and a market share slipping from a post-War US high of 60% to 26%, Coke reformulated Coca-Cola with a new taste that won hands-down over the old flavour in blind taste tests.  Following the April 23 launch, a marketing disaster and consumer and media backlash ensued, including a much publicised complaint letter to CEO Roberto Goizueta, addressed Chief Dodo, The Coca-Cola Company.  Less than three months after launch, Coke pulled New Coke and reverted to the old flavour.

Fast forward to 2012, with iOS and Android devices winning the hearts and fingers of the new digital generation and a market share slipping from  97% in 2000 to 20%, Microsoft reformulated its Windows OS with a new interface  that won hands-down over the old version as the “People’s Choice Design” .  Following an October 26 launch, a marketing disaster and consumer and media backlash ensued, although there was no much publicised complaint letter to CEO Steve Ballmer, addressed Chief Dodo, Microsoft Corporation.  But less than six months after launch, in May 2013, Microsoft announced it would pull key elements of Windows 8 and “reverse course” with a back to old-style Windows – codenamed Blue.

So what can social commerce learn from Chief Dodo Ballmer’s experience?

  • Compatibility: Windows 8 is struggling because it is not compatible with people’s existing habits; it forces people to unlearn what they already know and do: LESSON – Don’t try and change entrenched shopping habits, focus instead areas where there is no set way of doing things (mobile/tablet shopping)
  • Complexity: Windows 8 fails by being too complex, with no simple architecture of design that makes for intuitive adoption: LESSON – Keep it simple – the social commerce of the future will have simplicity at its heart
  • Relative Advantage: It’s not immediate how Windows 8 is an improvement over what’s already available (Android, OS, iOS – Windows Vista ?!): LESSON – Be better, not just different. Sure social commerce is a new way of selling, and for consumers a new way of shopping.  But unless it is blatantly clear why it is better, it won’t be adopted
  • Observability: With slow take-up by PC manufacturers and little in the way of product placement, you don’t see much social proof of Windows 8 out there, especially of the opinion leading kind: LESSON – Product seeding and product placement are key – you may not get your product into the latest Psy hit like Candy Crush, but do whatever it takes to get your product or service into TV, movies or clips – as a character not an ad
  • Trialability: Windows 8 creates prisoners not passionistas by forcing a big risky jump into a new start-button-less world of charms, sliding panels and hiding functionality: LESSON – Offer bite-sized trials for people to try risk free, and then allow them to move frictionlessly away if they want.


Chartered psychologist specialising in consumer behaviour, wellbeing and technology. Certified CX professional experienced in Design Thinking. A researcher, writer and speaker, Paul is head of Digital Insight at SYZYGY.

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