Using the Routes-to-Market methodology, the management of technology start-up Baracoda changed the go-to-market strategy to take their innovative wireless barcode scanners across the chasm and became the leader of a new product category. Here’s a video interview and case study explaining how they did it.
In 2002 Baracoda, a French start-up manufacturer of wireless data capture devices, introduced an innovative line of barcode scanners that used Bluetooth instead of physical wires to connect to data networks. Bluetooth is a standard for wireless communications between devices, widely used today to connect headsets wirelessly to mobile phones. Barcode scanners read barcodes printed on packages and manufactured goods, for applications such as managing inventory in a warehouse. Baracoda’s innovation was embedding Bluetooth technology in barcode scanners before the established barcode scanner manufacturers did that.
Hitting the Chasm
A few early customers bought Baracoda’s Bluetooth scanners, but Baracoda’s management was surprised that sales did not pick up as expected after they signed distribution agreements with barcode scanner distributors throughout Europe. Management thought that customers would buy Bluetooth scanners for their existing barcode projects because they were easier to use than scanners requiring wired connections. But the distributors were returning Baracoda’s scanners one after the other because they could not sell them.
RTM to the Rescue
In 2003, interviews with Baracoda’s early customers found that, instead of using Bluetooth scanners in traditional barcode applications, they were rolling out new applications which required data entry via barcode for mobile workers, such as field engineers recording part numbers when doing repairs, and delivery teams doing product replenishment. Baracoda’s early customers were enthusiasts and visionaries in phase 1 who invested in developing their own software to make Baracoda’s Bluetooth scanners work in their mobile environments. The reason that sales had stalled was that pragmatic customers in phase 2 could not buy scanners without software for their specific needs. The customer interviews also revealed that customers who had bought wired barcode scanners did not see the business benefit for replacing their existing scanners with wireless units.
Crossing the Chasm
With those insights, Baracoda’s approach changed radically. They started contacting independent software vendors who were developing solutions on mobile platforms, and gave them free scanners, technical training, support, and co-marketing help. Sales picked up as each software vendor completed development and their customers started buying Baracoda’s scanners.
Success in the Mainstream Market
In 2004 Baracoda’s US sales team closed a significant contract with Nextel (which later merged with Sprint) to distribute and support Baracoda’s Bluetooth barcode scanners to Nextel’s application partners, so that they could deploy mobile applications for Motorola and Blackberry handheld devices on the Nextel network. Nextel’s application partners did not want to deal with multiple vendors of Bluetooth scanners because that would greatly complicate their deployments. Nextel chose Baracoda and acted as a “value-added” distributor by providing an immediate physical point of presence across the US and access to all Nextel partners and customers. The result was a rapid increase in Baracoda’s sales as Nextel partners sold Baracoda scanners combined with mobile applications software in several industries including construction, field services, professional services and real estate.
Baracoda succeeded in navigating the transitions from phase 1 to phase 2, and from phase 2 to phrase 3. When management understood how phase 1 customers were actually using Baracoda’s product, they realized that it met different customer needs than they had originally thought, and they changed their approach to exploit that opportunity, bringing Baracoda’s product across the chasm. By showing Nextel management that they could accelerate the success of their applications partners by giving them a single, common product to deploy (instead of a variety of incompatible products), Baracoda drove the transition from phase 2 to phase 3 by triggering a tornado of orders.