The business world revolves around products, services and, oftentimes, a combination of both. Services are always intangible, and although you might assume that products are always tangible, in some cases they're not. Also, products and services can both be perishable. How so? Check out a few examples to understand waste, tangibility and a couple of other ways that products and services differ.
Examples of Tangible vs. Intangible
It's relatively easy to gauge the durability or quality of a tangible product – one that's measurable, touchable, visible or comes in packaging – simply by examining it. Before buying a house, for example, you're going to poke around in the attic, check out the foundation and explore each room to look for signs of damage, wear or poor maintenance.
A service, on the other hand, isn't something you can try out before you pay for it. Say you need to hire a home inspector to find possible hidden issues before you hand over thousands of dollars for an old abode. Just how knowledgeable is the inspector in regard to roofing, structural matters and water damage, for starters? Basically, clients don't know how capable "experts" are until the work is in progress, unless they read online reviews, confirm credentials or ask for a sample report to get a better overall picture of the satisfaction level to be expected from a particular service provider.
Production vs. Interaction Examples
When you shop for a new car, you can see the body lines, touch the leather and test drive the vehicle to gauge how it handles the road and how comfortable you feel behind the wheel. Because it's a product, you know the vehicle came off a production line and there are many more like it – virtually identical to it, in fact.
But what about the service you receive from a car salesperson? The interaction process with salespeople varies by the individual because, well, they don't come off a production line. If you're lucky, she'll be helpful, courteous and eager to negotiate. Then again, you might get someone who lacks knowledge or who behaves in a pushy or nonchalant manner.
A Look at Perishable vs. Imperishable
It's no secret that restaurant owners risk going broke if they don't understand spoilage or waste reduction when it comes to their main product: food. Many fresh foods perish within days. What about technology? Even intangible products, such as uploaded software, can become outmoded or even defunct in short order. On the flip-side, examples of imperishable goods or products include dried beans, canned corn, jewelry, quality furniture and automobile parts.
But how can a service be considered perishable? To say that services perish essentially means they're short lived. They're produced and consumed concurrently, not stored and used later, or returned and sold again, for instance. Examples of perishable services include airline flights, manicures, automobile repair and theater entertainment. If you buy a ticket to a particular play, and then catch the flu and can't attend, the ticket expires or perishes. The perceived risk is the same when you buy an airline ticket (unless it's insured). The perishable nature of services makes supply and demand difficult to balance, yet demand is increasing.
Growing Demand for Services vs. Products
You don't have to look farther than history websites or e-books (which are replacing paper books) to see examples of how producers adapt or replace products when they become dated. Think of how cassette tapes replaced vinyl records, compact discs replaced cassettes and DVDs replaced the video home system (VHS). But in some cases, services are beginning to take the place of products. An example is streaming services offered by entertainment companies, such as Netflix, which are reducing demand for DVDs and even cable- or satellite-television packages. And, what about camera film? The digital-camera era has turned film sales and darkroom developing into niche businesses.
Lorna Hordos is a home-flipping business owner and freelance writer. She writes friendly, conversational business, home and lifestyle articles for Bizfluent, azcentral, Daltile, Marazzi, Lowes, Philips Lighting, WordPress.com and numerous other publications.