Marketers are always looking for creating better experiences with their products and services. But there’s another experience that matters to your customers as well: The buying process itself. Don’t underestimate its importance, and how much this can influence your customer’s buying decision.
For example, Amazon.com sells a commodity product – books – but has a patented “one-click buying” option that makes it so much easier for customers (and so much more profitable for Amazon.com!).
Creating a positive buying experience has two benefits. It might allow you to charge a higher price, just as if the product itself had that experience built in. More importantly, though, it sets you apart from your competitors, who might be offering the same product or service, but can’t offer the same experience.
Kevin Kelly, in his e-book Better Than Free, identifies factors that allow you to succeed in a highly competitive market. We can apply these to your buying experience, so customers and clients are more likely to buy – and become long-time advocates.
There’s no doubt Apple has cultivated a desire for immediacy in some of its (admittedly more obsessed) fans. When Apple releases a new product, or even a new version of an old product, Apple stores are besieged by long lines of customers who want to be the first to own the new release.
Even if you’re not Apple, you might be able to find ways to give your customers a similar experience, with things like priority access, “pre-sale sales” and early releases of new products.
Personalizing the buying process goes beyond a Web site addressing repeat customers by name. Smart Web sites can do so much more to tailor the buying process for each customer.
For example, Music Notes, a site that sells downloadable sheet music, invites customers to complete a “profile page” after their first purchase. It then uses this information when recommending relevant products the next time you visit the site.
Even if your Web site isn’t so sophisticated, you can still do some basic things for returning customers, like remembering their address, preferred payment option and credit card details.
Don’t assume your customers know how to fill in an order form, use your currency converter or find the 4-digit security number on their credit card. Help them through the process and you’ll increase your sales.
If you’re operating a smaller business, you have an advantage, because you probably already offer a more authentic process than a big organisation – not by design, but simply because you’re not a big organisation. So emphasise this and explain how it’s a benefit.
Can you add something to your buying process that makes people want to support it? An obvious example is promising to donate some percentage of your sales to support a charity.
Andy Sernovitz, author of the marketing blog “Damn! I Wish I’d Thought Of That!”, reports that Columbia Sportswear offers its customers the option of having their product shipped in a reused box, to reduce the environmental cost.
If your buying process can help customers find other related products, this improves their experience and comes across as helpful rather than pushy.
One of the best-known examples is Amazon.com, with its helpful (but not intrusive) “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature.