Evolution and Innovation of Sales

How many ways can you sell the SAME item over and over again? More importantly, how can you sell them over and over with more and more people wanting to buy them over and over still?

Let us zoom in to a specific example and we can have a sliver of insight into this amazing transformation of innovation in sales.

How many of you remember this golden era of baseball trading/ collection cards? White border, your favorite players, player statistics at the back of the card?

How much did you pay for such a product? While I was not a fan of baseball cards, I certainly remember my days of putting in 10 – 20 cent coins and turning out cards from such machines and hoping that it would be a shiny one.

How many 10 – 20 cent coins have you dropped into these machines in your lifetime? Are these machines still there? Are people still buying such stuff? Are these business still surviving?

Lets take a look and try to trace one such product: Pokemon Cards

And yes! People are still buying “cards” (which are essentially just paper/card board with a printed image on it)

And it has actually gotten more expensive!

How are these companies managing to sell the same old product (cardboard with printed image) year after year and at the same time increasing the product prices?

By increasing the number of actions consumers can do and in turn create more value or perceived value to the consumer.

Making collectible cards alone: 5cents each

Making the cards into something that you can play with your friends: 40 cents each (about $4 per 10 card pack)

Digitize the cards so that your consumers can also play them online when they bought the physical cards.

= more actions that consumer can do with the product = more value for the consumer

Host tournaments and build community to encourage competitive play. Set even more challenging actions for consumers to accomplish with the product and in turn get limited product that could only be obtained by paying more. (tournament entry fees)

Limited edition card from winning a tournament

Change the cards into squarish plastic tokens.

Make it so that the consumers HAVE TO pay to play a game before these “cards” could be obtained.

And in turn, these new plastics tokens can help them win more games at the machine!

Lets Recap

  1. Basic collectible cards
  2. Cards that can be played as a game
  3. Card game that are played competitively in tournaments
  4. Ability to convert purchased cards into digitized version to be played online
  5. You can’t even purchase cards directly, you must first pay to play a game at the arcade machine before having a chance of getting a random card token

In the mean time, the effective retail price of a SINGLE card went from 5 cents, 20 cents, 40 cents and now the $2 – $3 charged at the Pokemon Tretta machines.

How do these companies manage to keep their business of “selling cardboard with image printed” alive for so many years?

How have they adapted to the consumers needs? How have they adopted technology or new innovations into their seemingly old and outdated products?

Are you or your companies doing the same thing or just giving up on “outdated” products?

Keeping in mind that the above companies are essentially just selling “cardboard/plastics printed with an image”.

How have they transform their business of selling cardboard into selling consumer experience? And therefore able to command and sell at a much higher price?

What kind of value are you or your companies bringing to the consumers? Are there opportunities to do better?

Two kinds of responses on the above businesses:

  1. How money sucking these companies are to sell a piece of cardboard (that’s probably only worth less than 1cent) at such high retail price! People who buy them are just sheeps.
  2. How much effort have these companies done to continuously adapt their product such that consumers are still willing to pay for them?


Thank you for reading

~ The only constant is change

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