Intuit, Mint, and the Power of Simplicity


This post was co-authored with Paul D’Alessandro.

Intuit just bought for $170,000,000. Mint is a web- and phone-based tool with a simple design interface that helps people manage their finances in an integrated way — across all their credit cards and asset accounts. According to the New York Times, they have tracked over $200,000,000,000 in spending and have 1.5 million users, meaning that Intuit is paying over $100 per user.

Why did the company that made its mark with a simple user interface (the very name “Intuit” is a riff on “intuitive”) have to buy Mint? Why couldn’t they have built it themselves? We’ve been pondering that question, and we think it’s because it is very hard for a complex organization to build something simple. It is the natural tendency of all firms, product lines, governments and even households to build up too much complexity — complexity that adds little value. As John’s friend Jim Rogers noted, “Organizations are like households — they tend to fill the attic and basement with too much stuff, and it takes discipline to remove it.”

From a human standpoint, it is easier for executives to say “yes” to a new product or feature than to say “no.” It takes even more work to kill an existing service or offering. Even Scott Cook, the legendary CEO of Intuit, could not pull it off; and the odd are good that your firm has this problem, too.

So what? Well, the customer suffers. We know from our work in Behavioral Economics that too much clutter and too many choices can freeze customer decision-making. Too much muchness is not enticing. Instead, it causes the customer to feel overwhelmed and walk away. We have simplified decision-making processes with a number of clients — not just the choice model but the total experience — and seen immediate, material increases in revenue because we made the choice process more facile.

Mint embodies this approach. In addition, took advantage of a couple very important trends that all firms should be watching:

Increasingly, customers expect everything — in the immortal words of Robert Wodruff, the man who made fizzy sugar water into Coke — to be “within an arm’s length of desire”. Every competitive product needs to be at people’s fingertips, on the phone, on the web, everywhere. Mint was.

Second, many people are increasingly comfortable sharing all kinds of data for the sake of convenience. The assumption is that things in the digital world are no more or less secure than those pieces of information floating around on pieces of paper or in file cabinets. While some folks would no doubt be concerned about the security of any web-based financial planning tool, clearly Mint had no trouble attracting customers who felt that the reward outweighed any potential risk.

Online, poor designs are ignored and only great design bubbles to the surface. We don’t need to speak again to the simplicity of Google, or the ease of Twitter — it goes without saying that consumers don’t have to put up with anything that is not superior. Better options are a click away.

The questions for your firm are: are you staying complicated to make your managerial life easier? Or do you have the courage to force the simplicity that the market wants?


Source link

Still have questions?
We will help to answer them