In this post, I’ve summarized a list 10 forces that influence the buy/no-buy decision of your consumers, especially in B2C commerce. These forces may be applied through your marketing communications or even the product design. If these forces are applied in right proportions, they can increase your returns many-fold!
1. Force of Requital
If someone helps you or gives something, you’ll feel obliged to return the favor. That’s human tendency, that’s how we’re brought up! Let’s use this in business. Give your customers a free lunch. If you were selling T-Shirts, give away some free t-shirts to potential long term customers. Sometimes the cost of such a campaign would be lower than the cost of acquiring customers through regular PPC. In addition you end up building the Requital force.
If you are into Web Hosting business, give free hosting for a reasonable span: say 3 months. If you are into SEO business, offer a free SEO report. The tricks to this sort of approach are :
a. Identifying the right potential customer base. (Else you’ll end up giving away free stuff to those who’ll never pay for your stuff)
b. Don’t explicity market your products / services. Keep it implicit. For eg, don’t send an SEO report and tell the customer that you’ll improve the numbers for $xxx. (You don’t help someone & ask for a return, do you?)
Pricing is a very potent force. However, right price is the key here rather than low price. Customers perceive the price as a function of product quality.
So, for them a low priced product could translate into a low quality product. However, if there’s little differentiation in terms of the product or service offered (as perceived by the customers) then low price can help you establish a customer base, especially when you’re new to the business.
On a long term, it may be necessary to stay close to competitors in terms of price, but do not use this as your main force to compete. Because, lower price also means lower margins!
3. Force of Urgency
Customers often take days, if not weeks to make a choice. Let’s say that a customer visits your online store, to buy a wireless speaker, finds what he wants
for $100. He then visits Amazon, PriceGrabber.com to see if he gets a better deal. Then he visits a local store to check the product. A friend who called him two days later, bought similar speakers but is not using them now. Hence he might share the speakers. Or, someone might tell him that wireless speakers don’t produce good sound.
Long-story short – The longer the time span you give your customers to make decision the higher the chances that the customer will not end up buying.
Woot.com gives 1-day deals. So does Amazon.com – they have several deals which are time-bound. Often, the force of urgency does well in tandem with pricing (deals). When you introduce force of urgency, the customer pays a cost for delaying his decision : he misses the deal (which he wouldn’t want to).
4. Force of Scarcity
Using this force requires that you either have : product exclusivity or price advantage. That is, you should either have a product no one else has, or should be able to sell for the product for real low price (force of price again)!.
We see this force in action at Ebay auctions & even Amazon deals. Amazon limits the daily deals by number of units of the item sold. Another example is the Gmail launch. The initial registrations were only through invites, and this created scarcity. In fact, Gmail invites were sold on Ebay for several dollars.
Black-Friday mad-rushes at various sites are also examples of this force. However, to use this force the potential customers should believe (and be sure) that there’s value in what you’re offering.
5. Force of Immediacy
Customers tend to perceive the value in a product delivered tomorrow higher than that of the same product delivered the day after! “Sameday Shipping” can convert atleast 25% better than “Shipping in 3-4 days”. How often do we see this : “Make Payment & Download the Ebook Immediately”. This one is a lot different from “Make Payment & the Ebook will be delivered within 24 hours”. If implementing Immediacy doesn’t cost a lot, it is a force to use to your advantage as it can definitely improve your competitive advantage.
6. Force of Expert Opinion
Expert / Authority opinions can be powerful forces, especially in certain verticals: technology, health etc. People do make their buy/no-buy decisions based on Cnet Editor reviews. New book authors often send out free copies of their books to big names to get expert opinion – which can help with the sales. You can give a free copy of your product or service & ask for a honest review from people believed to be experts in the vertical. May be even a blog post by the expert could help!
7. Force of Social Opinion
We all read product reviews by customers on Amazon before buying a product. This could be an extremely powerful force, specifically if the opinions are negative they could spell doom for the business. A customer needs to read atleast 5-6 good reviews to make a “buy” decision, but it takes only 1 bad review to make a “no-buy” decision! To top that, the ones with bad experiences are more likely to write reviews. The extreme potential of this force has given rise to the practice of ORM (Online Reputation Management). I’ve had some interesting experiences with companies handling this social opinion force very carefully. I’ll share them in one of my later posts.
You can proactively ask your customers to write reviews. Often dis-satisfied customers reply to such review requests with their problem. If you fix them, you’ll get some super-good reviews! You can also incentivize your customers to write honest reviews of your product. Without an incentive, two types of customers write reviews by themselves: The dis-satisfied ones, and the over-satisfied ones. It’d take a bit of effort to over-satisfy your customers!
8. Force of Fitting the Frame
This force is the one that marketing guru Seth Godin, discusses in his book “All Marketers are liars”. Customers see the the world from a certain frame or beliefs. This frame is based on the way they were brought up, and the environment in which they’ve been. So, as marketers you need to tell them what they would believe based on their current beliefs. ie., Extrapolate their current beliefs, such that it helps you sell. The better the fit of your extrapolation, the better it is for your sales!
For example, you would have heard of SEO Hosting. We all are with the frame (belief) that links from different C-Class IP addresses would help with our SEO efforts. Businesses have used this belief to come up with SEO Hosting giving multiple C-Class IP addresses per account. If I start a simple webhosting service, without multiple C-Class IP addresses I shouldn’t be targetting the SEO savvy guys. I should be rather targetting the normal webmasters, because they don’t believe in SEO Hosting (or probably not aware of it).
If you were selling sunglasses & lenses, and if the customers coming to your store probably believe that wearing sunglasses makes them cool. So, tell them how the sunglasses you sell makes them extra cool, rather than trying to sell them colored contact-lenses claiming that sun-glasses aren’t as cool! That would be a very bad idea.
9. Force of Consistency
Customers try to be consistent with what they say. So, the trick is to map your product or service with what the customers would be consistent with. This method is used by sales-people across the globe, and is also widely used in sale copy-writing. This force should have its place in your site’s sales copy. For eg, ask them “Isn’t your site getting enough traffic?”,
“Are your SEO efforts not giving enough results?”. The customers would say “Yes” for each of those questions, within their minds. A series of these “Yes” creates a positive disposition. Now, finally propose your solution!
10. Force of Safety
Customers are often worried before making the payment – What if this thing doesn’t work? What if this purchase makes me regret? This is probably the last barrier to the “buy” decision. Assure them that they would never have to regret. Businesses offer warranty on electronic goods. We see money-back guarantee on several software packages too. When you offer your customers safety, ensure that the same isn’t abused.