What Apple Can Learn From Tires

I am happy to see more and more companies providing product information in a form that is actually meaningful to people. I’m not sure why so many companies delight in listing the technical specs of their products, as if they relate to anything remotely useful to human beings trying to make a decision in the real world.

Take, for example, Apple. Nearly all of the information they provide requires at least one step to translate into something meaningful. And by meaningful, I’m referring to a useful and actionable answer to the question of “so what?” In still other words, I want to know why a certain spec matters to me. 

AppleSpec

“3.3GHz or 3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 or 4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz” is absolute gobbledy-gook…geek speak meant to mean, I guess, “fast, faster, fastest.” I have no idea what 1 GHz looks like, feels like, performs like…none. I have absolutely no base of comparison, nothing to relate the numbers to. Bigger numbers imply speed, but that’s a translation step, because the word “speed,” which does have meaning, is never even used.

I happen to think this is real problem. And maybe it’s my own perception, but it seems like the more complex the product —automobiles, electronic gadgetry, etc — the more indecipherable the specs are.

But there’s hope on the horizon, and from an unlikely suspect.

Right now I’m in the market for a very low-tech item: mountain bike tires. Tire manufacturers are as guilty as anyone of providing meaningless numbers…and so often the meaningful numbers they do provide, like weight, are just plain wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve purchased a tire with a claimed weight of say, 500 grams, only to receive something that actually weighs 560 grams on my very accurate scale. Trust me, 60 grams of rotating weight is something I definitely feel trying to climb a 4-mile long hill with 15% incline in the dirt.

I was pleasantly surprised to find some meaningful information on Italian bike tire maker Vittoria’s site. I was looking at a tire called the Mescal, which had gotten some good user reviews in the mountain bike forums. I loved how they visually depicted all the information that I find meaningful on a spider graph with a simple and intuitive 1-10 rating scale: speed, weight, puncture resistance, price, and grip in various trail conditions.

Tireshot1

 

Now where it gets interesting is in the comparison of different version of the tire…Vittoria makes it super easy by using color-coded overlays.

 

Tireshot2

 

Tireshot3

 

And when I mouse over axis points, I get another neat color-coded graphic with intuitive numbers.

 

Tireshot4

 

No need for my eyes to go back and forth, everything’s right there in one place, and my brain easily distinguishes differences that matter, resulting in effective purchase guidance.

I love this way of presenting product information. It makes decision-making much easier, and saves me time.

And on another low-tech front, a little outfit called Shoefitr really gets it, and takes it to another level…so much so that Amazon recently purchased them. Amazon, which of course owns Zappos, obviously see the value. I don’t know about you, but while Zappos makes buying shoes easy, I bet I’ve returned dozens of shoes that didn’t fit right, despite what the site says.

 

Shoefitr

 

Shoefitr solves that problem with their unique database on the fit of thousands of shoes. It lets you know whether the shoe you’re considering fits as well as the other shoes in your closet.

THAT is value-added consumer information at its current best..not to mention the invaluable data being collected by Shoefitr (and now Amazon).

So, note to Apple: you may build great high tech gadgets, but you can learn a thing or two from tires and shoes on how to help people buy them, without needing a Genius.