Dear Amazon, Here’s How You Should Sell Your Tablet

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Dear Amazon,

Hi, it’s me, Doug Aamoth—Amazon Prime member, Subscribe and Save junkie, Cloud Player user, lover and friend. So this Android tablet of yours is looking more and more like a reality, which is cool. I think you have a lot of the right pieces in place to pull it off.

But as someone who’s spent thousands at your site AND watched Android tablets stumble around like members of a vertigo support group at the top of a steep driveway right after an ice storm, I have some advice for you as you embark on this mystical journey known as trying to sell tablets to people.

The Size

“A roughly nine-inch screen,” as reported by the Wall Street Journal? Nice. That’s the Goldilocks zone as far as I’m concerned: big enough to make watching movies and surfing the web on it enjoyable but not so big that you can’t hold it in one hand. And if you really want to, you’ll probably be able to play the old “lighter than the iPad” card if you find yourself in a jam.

The Ecosystem

You’re about the only retailer that can pull off an Apple-like experience with this tablet, which is a huge plus. You’ve got your own app store, music store, video store, and e-book store. Make those things front and center—and brain-dead easy to navigate—and you’ll be golden. But don’t block access to the Android Market or other services that sell the same kinds of stuff you do.

(MORE: Tablets: ‘Why Should Somebody Buy This Instead of an iPad?’)

Make the entire integration as Apple-like as possible for “regular” people and then let geeks load up their own stuff if they want. Apple gets dinged by geeks for being too closed and Android gets dinged by regular people for being too confusing. You can have one foot in each camp here.

Pricing Your Tablet Without Killing the Kindle

Your tablet has the Journal wondering how you’ll “keep from cannibalizing” your Kindle e-book readers. They referred to it as a “conundrum,” which sounds pretty serious. And the New York Times says you have multiple conundrums—more than one conundrum! Be careful!

The bottom line is that you need to price this thing low enough to blow all the other Android tablets out of the water but you can’t price it so low that nobody buys a Kindle. Fortunately, you have a few options here:

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OPTION ONE! Price it at $400 and hope that people bite.

This is dangerous, but you can do it and still turn a profit because you don’t have to deal with middlemen like other tablets do. Like Apple, you control your own retail sales channel, which cuts out a lot of superfluous fluff.

You can run this thing lean and mean. The problem—or CONUNDRUM!—with this plan is that you risk your tablet getting lost in a sea of other low-priced Android tablets. The nonundrum (new word!) is that you won’t risk cannibalizing sales of the Kindle. So there’s that.

OPTION TWO! Price it as a loss-leader and make money with content.

I like this idea and I *think* it may be the most realistic route for you.

You could price the tablet at, say, $300 and hope to sell enough apps, movies, music, books and retail products to turn a profit on the back-end. Video game consoles do this all the time. And at $300, it’d be priced lower than any other serious Android tablet but high enough that people would still buy your $140 Kindle if they just wanted an e-book reader.

I hope I don’t have to tell you that if you price this thing at $500 or more, you’re screwed. See: Android tablets that have fallen on their faces.

So there’s two realistic options for you, and this—the most radical of them all.

OPTION THREE! Subsidize it (but NOT with a wireless carrier).

How can you sell your tablet for far less than it’s worth without hamstringing it with an unnecessary two-year wireless data contact—a mind-numbingly backwards tactic that tablet makers are still trying to get away with?

Subsidize it with a content contract. Hear me out!

You sell stuff—lots of different stuff. Much of which people actually find to be valuable, unlike a wireless data connection they’ll never use. Let’s say you sell this tablet for $200 (hear me out!) if people agree to spend $10 per month for an entire year at your site?

That’s one e-book, which could draw in e-book lovers. That’s one music album, which could draw in music lovers. That’s one movie, which could draw in movie lovers. It’d ensure you some residual income while exposing people to your fancy new streaming media services. Win? Win!

But what about the conundrumation (new word!) that such a strategy would bring upon your poor Kindle? Easy. Offer the same deal for a free Kindle. You want to sell books, right? If people offer to buy one $10 e-book per month for an entire year, give ’em a free Kindle.

That’s what used to do way back when it first started. The site gave away free or deeply discounted MP3 players to people who agreed to get locked into monthly audiobook subscriptions.

Ideally, you’d use options two and three for your tablet: Sell it for $300 straight up or subsidize it with a content contract. Whatever you do, don’t price it at anything over $400 and don’t entertain the idea of getting a wireless carrier involved unless they’ll play by your rules.

MORE: How to Sell a Tablet: Apps and Price First, Tech Specs Second

Doug Aamoth is Techland Editor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @daamoth. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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