The New Ecommerce: How To Sell Experiences With Your Usual Products
Ecommerce is always developing and trends are always changing. Modern customers with money, especially millennials living in bigger cities, are looking for more than "just" products. This doesn't mean you need to change your whole business strategy - just adapt it and try some new ideas, which I'll suggest in this article.
No customer or sale exists in a vacuum. Every sale is a long and winding journey, with a full, vivid experience.
Customers see your marketing, search efforts, social media posts, or get recommendations from friends and family about what you offer. Then, they visit your site, find your products on Amazon, or buy directly through some new ad units. After that, you process the order, ship it, provide updates on delivery, and then the customer finally gets your product and can use it.
That process plus how they like your product after it arrives are all part of their experience with your brand. You are selling throughout the entire process, and what lands that sale is creating an enjoyable experience.
Don’t just take our word for it. Software giant Adobe had its EVP and GM of digital experience Brad Rencher tell marketers to “make experience your business” at the company’s 2018 summit. During his presentation, Rencher noted that businesses who have this focus see:
1.9x higher average order value
1.9x higher return on their spending
1.6x higher customer satisfaction levels
1.6x higher brand awareness
1.5x higher employee satisfaction
It’s also the driving force behind Apple’s retail locations. These locations showcase products and give you a chance to see the latest and discover why you would want to own them. They host more than 16,000 learning sessions each week under the “Today At Apple” program to show people how to take and edit photos, play around in a music lab, teach kids to code, sketch, and much more. The thousands of hours and many more thousands of dollars the company spends on these activities are designed to show how it feels to use the technology, not just to tout spec sheets.
Let’s talk about how you create a compelling experience, whether you sell products in an online store or even provide a service like order fulfillment.
Define your benefit clearly
Many marketers have heard this before, but it is worth repeating and re-reading: you are selling how your product/service/offering make people feel. That perception is the crux of your business. It’s why Coca-Cola ads show friends hanging out or meeting an exciting new crush, not how sugar is refined into corn syrup. And even when a Coke ad gets the drink itself, we hear that unmistakable “ahhh” as words like “Refreshing” flash across the screen.
This is universal. It ranges from some of the company’s early ads in the 1950s:
The famous Hilltop 1971 ad:
To the first time its “Share A Coke” campaign arrived in India in 2018:
Your mission is to define this clearly. Focus on what you want your customers to feel after they use what you’re selling and include the best possible location for them to use it. For Coke, this is a social boost that encourages spending time with friends and family or meeting that special someone. They create connection, and there just happens to be soda at the party.
You similarly want to discuss the benefit of the feeling, even if you’re removing something instead of supporting it. Making it easier for parents to pay the bills or get chores done can give them more time to spend with their kids. Maybe you make shopping easier, reduce the cleaning they have to do, or eliminate some worries altogether. Put this help in the context of parents getting to do what they love and feeling like a superhero for thriving in a stressed-out world where most have to tell their kids to hold on for yet another minute.
Make a clear promise to your customer
After you’ve described the benefit, it’s time to put it in a direct statement. Provide context about what exactly you do or offer and give your customer a way to easily judge what you say. A clear promise with simple information can create a deeper connection.
We’re an order fulfillment company, so we tell our customers that we can allow them to reach 99.9% of Americans with a shipment within three days. That’s the mission/product/service promise. The promise is how customers can evaluate the benefit, such as having happier customers, being able to offer products of all quantities, or keeping up with buyer demands and the Amazon-Joneses.
Here is where you want to be as direct as possible. If we go back to the parents-focused example above, the promises are the specific ways that would cause the superhero feeling. These could look something like this:
Vacuuming takes 50% less time, and you clean out the bag less often.
95% of children watch our 8-minute lessons all the way through each time.
Automatically track your bank account and get instant alerts to keep you on budget.
We pick up and return dry cleaning in 2 days, all you have to do is put it in the bag.
Keep these straightforward and measurable for both you and the customer. Not only do you have to meet these promises, but you’ve got to ensure that the customer knows it. Let’s take a quick look at what that means.
Deliver on that promise with this customer
If you’re like most Americans, you probably have a love-hate or hate-hate relationship with your pay-TV or Internet service provider. Why? Because many people feel that these companies don’t live up to their promises around quality video, Internet speeds, service support, and more.
The important note is that feeling. Maya Angelou put it well: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Your business has spent time creating a customer journey and experience. You’ve defined personas, crafted messaging that show how customers will feel better with your products, and you’ve sold them on this idea. Now, you need to do everything you can to live up to that promise.
Here are a few things to review:
Check and test the products you sell, even if you don’t make them. Review them so that your promises are honest.
Make it easy to buy from your store. Pay for testers to make a purchase and look for annoyances. And, only collect the data you actually need.
Invest in security to protect customer information. Data breaches can land you the top spot on America’s most hated companies.
Go through the entire order process, from creating and filling through final delivery. Remove the barriers and problems.
Check your packaging to make sure it is enjoyable to open the package when it arrives. Remember: no one likes packing peanuts — no one.
Service is a vital piece of the promise, so don’t skimp. Up to 78% of online consumers will abandon purchases because the service stinks. Keep your game going long and strong.
Support the community around customer experiences
The final reason to be honest and promote a genuine experience around your products is that it helps customers share their stories and come together. They will create a community around the experience they have — good or bad —and this will end up being a big piece of your brand.
This is clear with the growing research obsession customers have around everything they do. Research entices and excites customers, whether they’re reading reviews, performing searches, or diving into your Facebook page.
If you have set up clear expectations and delivered on them, your customers are more likely to be positive about your company. It’s a powerful weapon when you want to turn a potential customer into a new sale. Embrace their curiosity and help them achieve the feeling of comfort that one person told Google: “I wanted to research so I wouldn’t have regrets.”
Your mission is to make this community discoverable. That should focus on your marketing, especially social connections. Post across all channels, share user content, add reviews on your website, and provide support on the channels your customers use. Try to be where today’s customers are because that’s where tomorrow’s will do their research.
This is the new age of sales, and it is going to be a long era. The experience ends when your efforts end, so don’t stop yet.