Going from commodity to being the only option

There are certain things that I think of as a complete commodity.  I don’t care about the "brand."  I don’t really care where I buy it. 

Milk.  Gas.  And pizza.

I’m not talking about pizza that you go out to get (in that case…Ray’s in NYC is the must)…I’m talking the "bring it to our door, we have a house full of teenagers" pizza that I seem to be buying on a very regular basis.

Dominos, Pizza Hut, Godfather’s, Papa John’s — whatever.  Basically the same.  A complete commodity at the McLellan house.

But not any more.  Now, I have a very strong preference. I would go out of my way to order from one over the other.   You’re probably wondering what in the world a pizza place could do to go from commodity to only option.

A new crust?  Some wild new ingredient combination?  Free food?

No, no and no.  Dominos knows that their pizza is pretty much like all the others.  So to differentiate themselves, they didn’t focus on the pizza.  They focused on my experience.

Most pizza places let you order online now.  But Dominos has taken it to a whole new level.  They have this new pizza tracker.  I can literally watch as my pizza is prepped, baked and boxed for delivery.

Here, you can see (feed readers…click to see the visuals) that my order has been placed and Charles is beginning to prep my pizza.  Right next to the the YOU GOT IT MADE line…it outlines who is doing what when.



Then, Charles puts the pizza in the oven.



I’m skipping a couple steps here…but after the pizza was boxed, Matt, their delivery expert, left the store with the food at 7:39 pm.



Now, you may be thinking…"wow…Drew needs to get a little more excitement in his life" and that may be true.  But…every time the McLellan household (and many hungry teen-aged guests) need pizza — instead of poking around for a coupon or just randomly picking one — I now always call Dominos.  That did not happen before the tracker.

Figure the average bill is around $50 when I am feeding a gang.  Figure that it’s dinner at chez McLellan, on average, twice or three times a month.  $150/month.  That’s almost $2,000 a year. 

Dominos figured out that their category (pizza delivery) had been so commoditized that they could compete on price (the "I don’t have a brand or anything that makes me different" choice) or they could somehow make themselves stand out from the crowd.  They knew consumers wouldn’t buy/believe the "we taste better."   So they thought about how they could alter the buying experience.  How could they make that different for me?

Smart.  Very smart.

So how about you?  Are you in a business where what you sell (the pizza of your industry) is pretty much the same?  Or…different but not in a way that the consumer could discern it? 

Is there some other aspect of your service, delivery, packaging, pricing etc. that you could make notably different?  If they won’t/don’t choose you because of your product — why else might they make you an "only option?"

Update:  Looks like I am not the only one writing on this topic.  Discovered Cale’s piece when I was doing the feedreader thing!