Switching Costs: Locking Customers Into Your Ecosystem


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 13, 2023

4 min read


Switching Costs: Locking Customers Into Your Ecosystem

In today's competitive market, having a great product alone is not enough to attract and retain customers. Companies must design a superior business model that locks customers into their ecosystem. By implementing various strategies, companies can create switching costs that make it difficult for customers to leave and choose a competitor. In this article, we will explore six different ways companies can lock customers into their ecosystem and discuss the importance of long-term thinking and customer delight.

  • 1. The 'Base Product & Consumable Trap'

Companies like Nespresso, Gillette, HP, and Kodak have successfully used the 'base product & consumable trap' to keep customers within their ecosystem. This strategy involves luring customers in with a base product and then profiting from the sale of consumables that customers are forced to buy. For example, Nespresso sells coffee machines at an affordable price but makes money from the sale of their coffee pods, which can only be used with their machines. This creates a switching cost as customers would have to invest in a new machine if they were to switch to a different brand.

  • 2. The 'Data Trap'

Apple, Google Android, and Spotify have implemented the 'data trap' strategy to retain customers. This involves encouraging customers to create or purchase content and apps that are exclusively hosted on their platform. Spotify, for instance, threatened Apple and Google's music revenues by offering a vast catalogue of songs on an app that can be downloaded from major smartphone marketplaces. However, if a customer decides to switch to another music app, they would lose their playlists and the investment they made in creating their personalized music library. This creates a significant switching cost for customers.

  • 3. The 'Learning Curve Trap'

Companies like Adobe, Salesforce, and Box have implemented the 'learning curve trap' to discourage customers from switching to a competitor. When customers have to start over and learn how to use a new product, it can be a daunting task, and many would prefer to stick with what they already know. By making their products complex and feature-rich, companies create a barrier for customers to switch to a competitor's product, as it would require them to invest time and effort in learning a new system.

  • 4. The 'Industry Standards Trap'

Microsoft and Adobe have successfully used the 'industry standards trap' to lock customers into their ecosystem. By establishing their products as industry standards, they make it difficult for customers to switch to a different software or platform. For example, Microsoft's Office suite has become the standard for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations in the business world. Switching to a different software would mean having to retrain employees and potentially facing compatibility issues with other companies using Microsoft's products.

  • 5. The 'Servitization Trap'

Companies like Rolls Royce and Hilti have implemented the 'servitization trap' to create an entire experience around their product. When a competitor uses this strategy, customers are not just choosing between products but also considering the entire experience that comes with it. Rolls Royce, for example, not only sells luxury cars but also offers personalized customer service, maintenance, and exclusive events for their customers. Switching to a different luxury car brand would mean sacrificing the entire experience that Rolls Royce provides.

  • 6. The 'Exit Trap'

Companies like Verizon and AT&T use the 'exit trap' strategy to force customers to use their product for a specified period of time. By locking customers into contracts, these companies make it financially unattractive for customers to switch to a competitor before the contract ends. This creates a significant switching cost, as customers would have to pay penalties or fees for early termination.

Now that we have explored different ways companies can lock customers into their ecosystem, let's discuss some actionable advice for businesses:

  • 1. Focus on customer delight: By delighting customers with personalized experiences, original content, and a better overall product experience, companies can create loyalty and make it difficult for customers to leave.
  • 2. Think long-term: Implement a long-term strategy that focuses on growth, engagement, and monetization. By considering these factors, companies can create a sustainable ecosystem that keeps customers locked in.
  • 3. Continuously improve: Regularly evaluate and improve your product and ecosystem to stay ahead of the competition. Listen to customer feedback, adapt to market trends, and innovate to ensure that customers have no reason to switch to a competitor.

In conclusion, creating switching costs is crucial for businesses to attract and retain customers within their ecosystem. By implementing strategies such as the 'base product & consumable trap,' 'data trap,' 'learning curve trap,' 'industry standards trap,' 'servitization trap,' and 'exit trap,' companies can make it difficult for customers to switch to a competitor. However, it is important to remember that customer delight, long-term thinking, and continuous improvement are essential for creating a successful and sustainable ecosystem.

Hatch New Ideas with Glasp AI 🐣

Glasp AI allows you to hatch new ideas based on your curated content. Let's curate and create with Glasp AI :)