The biggest obstacle for Windows Phone is mind share. Since its inception, Windows Phone has had significat problems breaking away from the generally negative consumer sentiment left behind from Windows Mobile. Many people do not know there is a clean break from Windows Mobile to Windows Phone, and assume it’s simply a rebranded upgrade from Windows Mobile. I believe this is partly why sales reps at US carriers dislike Windows Phone so much. In addition, some big name companies continue to confuse consumers by lumping legacy Windows Mobile devices into the new Windows Phone category. Just look at Spotify, they claim support for Windows Phone devices and then proceed to list only Windows Mobile devices.
While companies like Spotify don’t care about the confusion, Microsoft should. At this stage of the game, Microsoft should be less worried about short term profitability and more about overall revenue generation. Windows Phone has already garnered generally good reception from critics, however the general populous do not read tech blogs and the like before they go out and buy a phone. I’m not saying reviewers don’t have an impact, of course they do, but it indirectly affects sales. There are two main ways to directly impact sales, other than traditional marketing. The first is word of mouth. People first and foremost look at what everyone else is using and their general opinion on it. People traditionally ask themselves, “what are my friends/family using?” generally followed by something akin to “are they happy with it?". This is the basis of how most (not all) people go about choosing their next phone. However, this requires phones in the hands of actual people, which Microsoft is, admittedly, not doing very well at. So, what’s the second way?
The other main way to affect consumer mind share is with the main point of contact the consumer has when purchasing their device, the sales rep! Sales rep have more power in the decision making process that anything else (at least here in the US). A good rep can easily steer a customer away from a phone that’s gotten glowing recommendations from friends and a successful ad campaign (eg. various iPhones). I know, I’ve done it. With Windows Phone clearly not getting love from sales reps, this is where Microsoft needs to focus it’s attention. Now it would be hard for Microsoft to directly affect sales reps, but there are things Microsoft can do to encourage carriers to push their reps.
Perhaps Microsoft could offer carrier rebates for their Windows Phone devices. That way, it encourages carriers to empty their shelves of Windows Phones instead of leaving them to gather dust in the corner the way Sprint does. Another way would be to sponsor employee sales contest/reward programs to be done internally at carrier stores. The rep with the highest sales of Windows Phones at each store could be entered into a drawing, and every week, say 5 winners are drawn. This would cost Microsoft a measly 260 phones per year per carrier. Microsoft has given away hundreds of phones at a time via various giveaways and contests already, why not give the sales rep some love too? All of these ideas are costly, but lets be serious here. Windows Phone isn’t exactly Microsoft’ workhorse at this moment. This is clearly evident when royalties from Android manufacturers outweigh revenue from Windows Phone. So why not put some of that money to good use and combat negative mind share? With Nokia getting ready to bring their A game in in the marketing department, Microsoft needs to secure the other major factor in selling devices.