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Dell versus Apple Case Essay

Dell and Apple both manufacture and sell personal computers and small electronics, direct to customers.  Each has a significant online presence.

Internet Strategy

Dell is an e-commerce company, selling its products primarily as an online retailer.  The company built its entire business model on just-in-time manufacturing for individual orders placed through its website.  For Dell, internet strategy is synonymous with business strategy.

Apple relies heavily on a distribution network in physical retail stores, as well as selling its products through etailers such as Amazon.com.  Its website is primarily an advertising and customer education vehicle.  Apple’s broader marketing strategy is based on customization to customer preference – including whether to purchase products online or in a store.

Website Objectives

Dell uses its website as its primary sales platform.  Customer interaction, education, and after-sales support all takes place online.  The website is Dell’s storefront and is the entire face of the company to the outside world.

Apple’s website is designed to educate and excite its customers.  Through slick graphics and attention to aesthetics, it directs customers to learn more about each of its new offerings.  It also offers free software downloads, and drives traffic to iTunes and to physical stores.

 Maximizing Online Presence

Dell’s website is enormous.  It also issues

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press releases and works to get its products reviewed by major sites such as Cnet. Because it caters heavily to business customers, it also has developed an online supplier network that corporations can integrate into their intranets.

Apple focuses on online commercials using the latest web technologies.  It attempts viral marketing through YouTube, especially through it’s “I’m a Mac” series of ads.  And its iTunes and iPhone applications hold customers’ attention through delivering entertainment.

Marketing Capabilities

Critical Success Factors

Dell must be responsive to its corporate customers and easy to contact for ongoing support.  Without a brick-and-mortar presence, the company must work hard to be accessible.

Apple needs to anticipate the latest trends and stay ahead of the curve.  It must predict rapid changes in technology and fashion, so it needs to deeply understand its customers.


Dell, traditionally a desktop PC manufacturer, faces threats from mobile devices such as Apple’s iPhone and from increasingly demanding, sophisticated consumers.  Apple is always the operating system underdog, and faces continuous threats from Microsoft and growing threats from Linux, as well as from other small electronics manufacturers.


Dell has developed an extensive supplier network and has a strong reputation with its corporate customers.  It can more easily branch into new technologies that large customers can order in bulk, with much lower risk than its competitors.  Apple has a marketplace coup with the iPhone, and has developed a “network effect” with its interchangeable accessories and applications.  It can leverage this to reach more customers with the latest gadgets.

Trust/Push Models

Dell has a built a significant base of trust.   It knows its customers very well, and has established itself as an expert in the industry through extensive product review articles and the tremendous amount of information available on its websites.

Apple uses a Selective Trust model, first presenting its consumers with the “latest” gadget, and then offering extensive video and photographic detail about that gadget.

Trust Based Marketing Strategies

Dell is particularly collaborative with its business customers.  It makes significant revenue from service contracts and from deep partnerships.  Customers can see tremendous amounts of information from its supply network, and customize the information they need.

Apple excels at customer focus.  The sheer volume of customizable accessories available for its products allows customers to have a unique experience.  Additionally, customers “buy in” to the Apple network of interchangeable accessories and software, creating a longer partnership than other small electronics manufacturers have managed.

Customer Satisfaction

Dell features customer ratings and reviews on each of its products.  Additionally, it’s possible to chat with a customer service agent online or to call a support hotline.

Apple uses video extensively for product demonstrations, training manuals, tips, and hints.  Customers can also go to an Apple store for help, or call or email the company.

Pricing and Strategy

Price is the first thing Dell tells its customers about its product.  Its search functions are powerful and often price-oriented; it clearly believes that its customers are value-conscious.

Apple appeals to its customers on the basis of aesthetics and the “cool” factor, whereas price is a secondary concern.  Apple highlights whatever is newest, slickest, and most popular, and shows high-quality video of the product.  It takes several clicks to find the price.


Each company is in the top tier of global business, and each has a sophisticated and effective online presence.  However, they use these sites for different purposes.  Dell’s website excels at fulfilling the function of online ordering and customer support, while Apple’s excels at educating and engaging customers.  As an online storefront, Dell’s website is best in class; as strictly a marketing tool, Apple’s website is more targeted and efficient.

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