Monday, 16 January 2012

Why Garmin started Opencaching

Some weeks ago I read sTeamTraens opinion piece about Opencaching. There's only one thing I agree with him. The best Geocaching website and the best GPSr manufacturer should work together. sTeamTraen blames Garmin for the bad relation between the two companies but I think it's not only Garmin that can be blamed.

Groundspeak is finding ways to make more people Geocaching already for years. More visitors on the website means more revenue from banners, premium membership and the shop. The largest hurdle for people starting Geocaching is the purchase of a relativly expensive GPSr unit for a hobby you are not sure you like. For the last 10 years, Groundspeak focussed on the outdoor enthousiasts and gadget freaks because these people already had a GPSr or were more easily persuaded to purchase one as it already relates to their current interests. This approach has a perfect fit with Garmins objective: Selling GPSr units.

In the last 2 years, Groundspeak realised the expensive GPSr purchase hurdle could be removed entirely as everybody is carrying a GPSr in their smartphones. In order to achieve their objective of 'make more people geocaching', they switched target from 'people willing to buy a GPSr', to the smartphone people, see also my blogpost about the new homepage. This is 100% opposite of Garmins objective of selling GPSr units. I think Garmin saw this change of direction coming and they decided not to wait untill they were slowly abandonded. They decided to go in hard with their own geocaching website, opencaching.

With opencaching, Garmin focussed on the people already having problems with some habits, like the review system and some other things. They created a Geocaching website without a review system and some other fundamental changes compared to At times, the group of people having problems with some habits looks big as they make a lot of noise on the forums and other media. I think Garmin overestimated the size of this group a little bit and allthough these people were having problems with, they were not easily making the change to Opencaching. I think Garmin targeted for a lot larger market share on the Geocaching market but underestimated the emotional connection Groundspeak has with their (allthough sometimes unhappy) customers, which makes them untouchable for any competitor.

I'm interested to see how long Garmin will struggle on with Opencaching as they are not offering a significant better alternative compared to what's already available. As I said, I agree with sTeamTraen that the best Geocaching website and the best GPSr manufacturer should work together. I think this is still possible as they work together on their own targets. This is possible. For example if Groundspeak finds new Geocachers in the smartphone users, they can pass them on to the GPSr manufacturers by educating them that the Geocaching experience is much better with a GPSr unit, which is true. This way the Geocaching market is split in two, where Groundspeak targets on the newbies with smartphone apps and where the GPSr manufacturers focus on the advanced Geocachers who use both a GPSr unit and the smartphone app.

A competitive market can increase value for customers. Opencaching has proved again that there is no additional value to offer in the current Geocaching market. In my opinion, working together on increasing the number of people geocaching and improving the geocaching experience will be more effective for Garmin, Groundspeak and the Geocaching community.

1 comment: