Yes, the internet offers you the opportunity to get in everywhere. The problem is that it isn’t just you that has that advantage. Everybody can reach everyone and ship to them too. That means that you’re no longer just competing with the shops and manufacturers in your area, you’re competing with the world.
Now that wouldn’t be that much of a problem if we would all divide ourselves over the options available. But we don’t. Though we could easily find alternative products, we are groupish and most of us want to have what other (particularly high status) people have. That’s why the iPhone is 2.7 times more expensive than an Android (because you can’t argue that the iPhone is 2.7 times better than an Android unless you’re a complete Apple nut). That’s why we’re willing to pay so much more just to have a label on our clothes. And that is why Hollywood can continue to profitably produce movies for hundreds of millions of dollars while independents struggle to scrape enough together for a hand-held camera.
What that means for a new startup is that you’ve got to do everything in your power to get out ahead of the competition, to get the brand recognition and lifestyle association to end up in that top 10%. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up failing with the other 90.
And to do that you’ve got to understand the foibles and biases of your customer. So let’s look at a few.
1. Social Proofing
You’ve got to have a following and if you don’t, you have to pretend like hell you do. In any way you can you’ve got to demonstrate that people are engaging with your brand and that through it they are demonstrating their individuality and augmenting their lifestyle (this is a vital point – most people now don’t just buy for utility but also to say something about themselves). There are many ways to do this:
- A series of Instagram photos showing happy customers using your product
- Engagement with your blog, social media and your website, through comments, likes and shares – preferably over different media platforms
- Brand ambassadors and influencers showing off your products across their social media feed and at social events
- Testimonials from people who’ve used your product and found it amazing
In short, you’re trying to make your brand appear desirable. The interesting thing is that you can generate quite a lot of these things quite easily, simply by hiring a few people to comment, take pictures and demonstrate engagement. Social studies say that power of persuasion is really strong when it comes to social opinion. Fashion and social proofing always were great marketing instruments. If you can then couple that with an aggressive campaign to create buzz among actual customers, then you’ve got a decent shot at passing the tipping point where this becomes self-perpetuating.
What you above all should not do is demonstrate when there is no social engagement going on. So if you’re not getting comments on your blog posts, do not show at the top of the article that big fat zero. If you don’t have lots of likes, don’t show that and if you aren’t getting many testimonials, tuck them away somewhere deep down until you get more.
2. Reduce Fears
What you also need to focus on is to make certain people trust your website. One vital element here is to make people feel like your site will not handle their private information badly. Fear of online fraud and theft are major breaks on the growth of online retail. For that reason, it is vital that you have both back end and front end security.
That is not enough, however. There are a lot more factors that make your site seem untrustworthy. Shopify has a great list of factors to consider:
- Have a strong design
- Make sure your website is up to date
- Use security badges
- Be active online and make it visible
- Make sure you are easy to contact
And then they say you need:
3. A hint of personality
You have to remember we evolved on the savanna in small groups, where we saw each other and dealt with each other. That means we’re made to deal with people, not companies. So strive to give your brand a personality. Make it seem human and make it seem like there are people with good intentions working there.
In this way, you’ll make certain to avoid the biggest trap of the online world, which is to seem like a faceless corporation, which is easily left behind when something more interesting comes along. One of the best ways to do that is to make sure that you have great customer support, to show that you’re not just some screens online, but that there are real people working behind the scenes who care deeply about the customer experience.
4. People are bad at statistics
And this can be used to great effect by companies. For example, if you increase the amount you sell by 50% that’s the same as a 33% price reduction (take a moment to let that sink in). And yet most people in the shop will not realize that and prefer the former to the latter. Similarly, people love the idea of discounts, sales and two for one offers, even if they aren’t getting an advantage. For that reason, offer people coupons, codes and other freebies to bring them back to your site.
5. Have a good user experience
We’d like to think that we way the pluses and minuses of all the things we buy, but we don’t really. Instead, we form an overall impression based on different (frequently unrelated) attributes and then allow this to steer our buying choice. This is called the Halo effect and is why we think beautiful people are more trustworthy and more intelligent (even though all the research says they’re not). This is also why the slower your page loads, the lower your conversion rate is. It doesn’t matter that your load speed has nothing to do with the quality of your product. Everything that happens gets added to the impression that is you and that, in turn, influences if visitors become customers.
Also, you’ve got to avoid making the customer feel like they’re losing something. We hate the thought of losing something and will go out of our way to make certain we don’t. That’s why a great way to make certain a customer doesn’t buy your product is to suddenly tag a cost on the end (like shipping). They’ve accepted the original price you gave them as the reference point and now you’re suddenly adding another cost on top. They perceive that as a loss which they will instinctually avoid. And that will cost you far more then you’ll ever gain on shipping. So tell them right from the beginning how much they’re going to pay (Also consider throwing in shipping as a freebie).
6. Make them feel they’ll be better people by having your product
People don’t buy most products because the need them. Almost all of us already have everything we need. We buy products because they satisfy us emotionally and fill some lack we imagine we have. Therefore, products and companies have to work to make us feel good about ourselves and our actions. To do that you need to make sure that the action of buying your product is as positive as possible (and more importantly has as few negatives as possible) and that they will be better people for buying it. If you can do that successfully, you can belong to that 10%.
And if you don’t?
Well, there’s always next time.
Did you enjoy this post?
Never miss a blog post. Subscribe below to get more posts like this sent straight to your inbox as soon as they're published.