Every decade, there is a radical shift that sets the precedent for brands that thrive and brands that die. This can be sparked by technology, a shift in values (personal or political), or by experiences (both real and perceived).
When this radical shift begins is one of the most advantageous times for a brand to position itself as the new market leader.
Fun fact: Only 12% of Fortune 500 firms remain in the Fortune 500 ranking since 1955 due to creative destruction. That means 9 out of every 10 Fortune 500 firms have since gone bankrupt, were acquired, or still exist but are at a much smaller total revenue mark. Source: www.AEI.org
Each generation has witnessed this unfold.
Generation "X" watched the rise/fall of entire industries including VCRs, home phones, answering machines, beepers, recorded music (tapes, records, CDs), travel agents, and disposable cameras to name just a few.
Industry titans like Blockbuster, Border's Books, Oldsmobile, Kmart, Kodak, and Sears have either gone bankrupt or are barely surviving in today's world.
These brands, their products and the experiences are so far removed from our modern way of life that it actually seems foreign to us to own a camera that requires film to be dropped off and developed, or to wait until you get home to hear your voicemail messages, or to visit the travel agent store to discuss a trip to Hawaii.
Those brands and their consumer experiences failed to foresee the evolution and the consequences are extinction by their own inaction.
Did they not see the warning signs? Did they suffer from hubris?
Did they feel they were isolated or that other industries would be forced to change first?
Regardless of the reason, no industry is safe when evolution is sparked and we are amidst a massive evolution once more. The signs are everywhere and in plain sight. It's now up to you as a business owner or marketing professional to first recognize that this is happening and, secondly, to take action to ensure your brand evolves.
So, what in the world of commerce is changing?
eCommerce is currently in a state of an evolution. Better stated, commerce itself is undergoing a massive evolution and eCommerce happens to fall under that umbrella.
The indicators are across the board. You are seeing massive disruptions in the industry that are not driven by technology alone, but rather by experiences. This phenomena is coined Creative Destruction.
In my opinion, this is the single most concrete evidence that a major change is in progress.
A prime example is the mattress industry. The technology in beds, bed design and manufacturing materials for beds has changed little over the last decade. Yet, the mattress industry is experiencing a major disruption from independent brands such as Casper and Tuft & Needle.
Another example is the razor industry.
Dollar Shave Club didn't invent a new razor, they didn't change the way in which shaving is done and they didn't significantly lower the cost of razors, yet, the industry was turned upside down.
Why are industry titans beginning to crumble against small, independent brands?
It's because the way the consumer is experiencing the brand and the manner in which the brand is being marketed is entirely different. So different in fact, that brands that aren't ahead of the curve can't pivot fast enough. They lose market share, their marketing campaigns become irrelevant and consumer experiences become obsolete.
Messaging and positioning that lacks relevancy creates loss of consumer mindshare. The more mindshare you lose, the more your competitor gains.
We know how these stories typically end ... either the evolving brand is bought or they become the market leader.
Let's dive into the current evolution of commerce with each of the 7 Truths In Online Sales Success.
Truth #1: Shoppers are smart.
Technology and the efficiency of advertising has created a nightmare for the advertising industry. It's the exact opposite of what the advertising world actually wanted: the smart shopper.
Getting you to buy without thinking, without rationalizing, without comparing, without reviewing and asking few or no questions before the purchase is what advertising wants.
However, the invention of new ads, new channels for ads and technology making it easy for screens to be anywhere has created a situation where we are seeing more ads than they ever have before.
Options are endless; everything is within reach. This has created shoppers that have become aware of marketing tactics, they recognize false scarcity, false claims and mostly everything has less value to them due to mass exposure and ease of purchase.
You need to be respectful of your consumers. Provide them with clear, concise benefits, terms of sale and create a positive, trusting relationship.
Furthermore, you should help them with their pre-purchase research. Why? Because if you don't provide that for them, someone else will. You want the trust, you want the transparency, you want to make their journey to purchase the easiest, best possible experience they can have.
Truth #2: Honesty is important.
If your sales and marketing tactics include false scarcity, such as sales that reset each day or week, you need to change. If you are using cookies to try and trick the visitor with "exclusive offers" that aren't truly exclusive, you are running old-fashioned marketing tactics.
Consumers want honesty.
They want assurance that when they finally do make the decision to purchase, it's the right decision. They want to know they've made a smart move, that the value they think they are getting in exchange for their money is fair and equitable. They want to know that the person before them or after them isn't getting a better deal.
Lastly, they want you to be real.
If you state your product or service can do something, it damn well better do that thing and do it well. We live in a world where mediocrity is easily replaced. There are too many options available and if you fail to abide by these rules, you, too, will see extinction.
Truth #3: Tripwires are dead.
This heading can be misleading, so let's get some clarity right off the bat. Some tripwires still do work well but the old way of offering a highly valuable service for 90% off does not work.
Here is an example for clarity.
I run a successful marketing agency that offers full-service digital marketing and consulting for small business owners. One of the service products we offer is retained services. Our retained service packages start at $36,000 per year.
Now, if I offer you my $36,000 retainer service for a $1 trial, are you going to take the offer?
Arguably, you would not. No way. It doesn't make sense! In fact, the offer actually cheapens my brand and lowers your consumer confidence in working with me.
Why? Because your brain thinks in a logical pattern and wants distinct, clear logic when making a purchasing decision.
The $1 trial offer (tripwire offer) makes zero sense for a $36,000 package. Even if I offer the same trial package for $500 as a tripwire, it still does not work!
This is called impressional primacy whereas the human brain makes a judgment based off of the hypothesis from early cues. In this case, the heavily discounted price cheapens the offer/product/service, therefore creating an imperfect image of the offer being less valuable.
When is the last time you walked into a department store and they said, "pay us $10 for the $150 shoes, wear them for a week and we'll then charge you the full amount later if you don't return them by day 7"?
I'll bet never.
I'm also betting when you purchased a car, a home, a vacation, a plane ticket, a sandwich, a haircut, toothpaste... nearly anything of value, did you ever purchase based off a tripwire?
The tripwire (as you know it today) is dead.
Truth #4: Pricing inconsistency is deadly.
If you want to create a tribe of trusting, loyal consumers then you must have consistency. People's lives are filled with uncertainty and uncertainty tends to include, if not be, inconsistency.
They don't seek out inconsistency in the brands they are loyal to; they want quite the opposite. Consumers want to know that every time they buy a hamburger from In N' Out that it has the same flavor, color, size and quality.
If you continually change your prices, offer discounts "just this one time," and run deeply discounted promotions, then your pricing is inconsistent. Pricing inconsistency creates distrust.
Distrust creates delay until either the consumer finds a new trusted seller or the distrust is rectified. If you are an online store, your chances of rectifying distrust due to pricing inconsistencies are slim to none.
Make intelligent pricing decisions and stick to them. Consistent, fair priced products that deliver true value will succeed.
Truth #5: Excessive sales will sink your ship.
The evil twin of Truth #4, excessive sales is a major mistake I consistently see small business owners make. They lack confidence in their own product or service to maintain a fair market value price point. They get nervous when sales dip and resort to the dreaded sale... for no reason.
One meaningless sale "to attempt to gain more sales this one time" turns into a monthly routine that then bleeds into the bastardized "newsletter." That newsletter typically offers no value nor any reason for yet another sale.
It's the perfect storm of turning a warm list cold; sending meaningless sales intertwined with emails that have no value. Not only do you condition your list to distrust your pricing, but you have also conditioned your list to only buy when there is a sale.
This then creates a nasty cycle of your customer either waiting for another sale before they buy, or worse, finding another brand that has an equal or lower price point. Because you have created a relationship based purely on a number with no emotion, you have a shopper base that is not loyal. Your customers are now 100% price sensitive and will jump ship the first chance they get.
This is the death of your online sales, so avoid these troubled waters with smart, strategic sales that are well-spaced out, make sense to the consumer (the product that is on sale, the reason for the sale and season of the sale), and add value to their life.
The sale becomes natural for them to buy at that exact time because it makes sense.
Truth #6: Marketing without emotion is wasteful.
In today's day and age of consumerism with the smart shopper, people want a connection with the brand they buy from. Relationships have evolved into a digital world. People react and communicate with each other through emojis, texts, posts, likes and comments. That same experience is available for brands they shop with.
The collision of two worlds into the same communication realm has created a demand for meaningful connections with the brands consumers buy from.
If you are trying to focus on price, if you are trying to push scarcity, if you are trying to market any way in today's age that does not spark emotion, then you are wasting your ad spend. People want a connection, they want to love the brand they buy, and if you aren't connecting with them on an emotional level, your competitor will.
To best explain this, I have captured a variety of ads I have seen over the last few months that speak to emotion. Emotional marketing is the trend and that, aligned with smart marketing that builds upon a meaningful relationship, is the new way commerce works.
Evolve or risk extinction.
In this ad example from Southwest Airlines, we can see that they are marketing the "feeling you realize" that Southwest has the most nonstop flights from California.
The Kickstarter success story, Peloton, uses emotional marketing in this ad speaking to how you can transform your life from the comfort of your own home.
Bonus fact: Peloton broke into the cycling industry by creating a fierce tribe and incredible user experience connecting people across the world. It's all about the experience in today's world of sales and marketing
I love this ad from Beats. I think it's brilliantly done. "Change the way you hear sound" has such a powerful impact and an incredibly well-written, concise statement. Their headphones will change (transform, alter, improve) the way you hear sound.
In this ad from Sandals, they speak to the primary reason all humans do anything in life, for the love of self, others, satisfaction.
Their copy and imagery speaks to removing the rationalization of vacation planning ("Can I afford it?, Do I have time off?", etc) and directs you to the only thing you need is love, everything else is included.
In this screenshot I grabbed from Robbins Brothers engagement ring store, they tackle two emotional aspects at the same time. Funny enough, their copy even states "at the same time."
In today's age, consumers want to feel like they are buying locally from someone they know and trust. They want a quality product and even higher quality service. This ad speaks to both emotional aspects quite well.
I took a picture of this ad while pumping gas in San Diego, CA. Here you see Snickers speaking to your emotions and the way you might feel if you are hungry while driving.
Their copy is spot-on, they know you are pumping gas, they recognize that the service station sells snacks and they know that you've got time to kill while pumping gas.
The probability that you are hungry and not seeking a proper meal at the service station provides them with a perfect opportunity to suggest a relevant solution that speaks to your feelings of fear ... because no one wants to be confused, edgy or a hot mess.
Truth #7: Failing to create a brand experience can be fatal.
Consumers yearn to be part of a bigger meaning, a purpose. Life's routines can be monotonous.
Our nervous system has more stimulation than any other time in human history. Our attention span has shrunk. What was once considered exciting is now dull.
The Internet, mobile phones, and technology have changed the way humans interact and connect. We live in an age where everything is at our fingertips for easy, instantaneous consumption.
To compete in today's world of commerce, we need to create an experience for our consumers. Every step of the journey to purchase must be an experience.
Shopping for essentials is no longer just shopping. It's an experience that must create pleasure, must reward the shopper and make them feel that they are part of a larger community of like-minded people.
If your sales funnel is not designed to create an experience along the customer journey, you are setting your brand up for extinction.
The writing is on the wall. Look to what the titans of the industry are doing now to evolve in the world of commerce.
Perfect real-world example:
Nordstrom is a retail giant in the land of department stores. The Internet and eCommerce has changed the landscape of how people shop. Year over year, online sales have increased and in-store sales have slumped. Shopping malls across the U.S. are seeing store closure after store closure.
Nordstrom understands there is a mass evolution happening right now. They know that they must evolve in order to prevent extinction, like a competitor of theirs, Neiman Marcus.
Nordstrom's unique solution:
Nordstrom is opening a retail store in Los Angeles on October 3, 2017 with no inventory in it. You read this right. A Nordstrom store with no inventory.
The store will staff Personal Shopping Assistants, local craft beers, and chilled wine. The store will be designed like a social lounge.
Inside this store, you might go with a friend, grab a glass of wine, meet with your Personal Shopping Assistant and have him/her (who already knows your sizes and interests) bring you samples of new clothing you might like.
Your shopping experience has been transformed.
No longer will you be digging through racks of clothes, trying to find something you like and then trying to find your size. No longer will you wonder what shirt matches those pants or, if the outfit is in style, matches, or looks good on you.
Your Personal Shopping Assistant does everything for you while you enjoy a drink, have a casual conversation with your friend and other lounging shoppers.
When it comes time to buy, the Personal Shopper runs your order and your delivery arrives at your house the next day.
This is the new world of commerce. It is about the experience, not the purchase.
As you notice in this example of Nordstrom, the entire sales "funnel" is an experience. It's all about the experience.
In my earlier example with the mattress industry, buying a mattress is no longer about buying a mattress.
It's a journey to find and preserve the ideal sleeping environment.
By transforming a mundane process of buying a mattress and turning it into an experience, small independent brands were able to come in and dominate the titans like Serta and Simmons, rewriting the way you buy a mattress.
Welcome to the new world of commerce folks. You now know what the future looks like. It's up to you to evolve or risk extinction.