Don't Let That Pendulum
in the Derriere
what? About 90% of all new businesses fail. Period.
Product, service, bricks-and-mortar, mail order, B2C, B2B,
A2Z - you name it. It happens for any number of reasons: bad
planning, poor location, shabby customer service,
short-sighted management decisions, insufficient cash flow,
weak marketing, and more. But no matter how you slice it,
lasting commercial success comes to very few. So why
should we expect e-commerce to be any different?
We've got to ask an even louder “why” when we look at
the fact e-commerce has only been around for a couple of
years. Heck, we’re still just figuring it out.
to our Avantgo Channel
GROK at the e-commerce summit in
Rome, Italy 10/03/2001 - 10/05/2001
of 2000: WINNER -
Grok Dot Com
capitalists who couldn’t wait to pour in cash
just a few months ago suddenly have been afflicted with
a deafness of Biblical proportions when they hear “dot
com.” The NASDAQ has beaten the dot coms to a
pulp. And, sadly, some pretty innovative and strong
players are biting the dust. Word on the street, word in
print, word online, word on the air: Internet B2C is
dead. Just one problem: nobody told the consumers,
who keep buying more and keep buying more often.
some of us forgot to buckle the belts on our Reality
Seats, but what's going on out there is not the Decline of
Western Civilization a la Web. All we are witnessing is
that old, familiar pendulum swinging back from its latest
peak. So it turns out the Internet isn’t a
get-rich-quick machine that defies all logic and all
history. Big surprise. The thing to remember about a
pendulum is that it keeps swinging.
there are folks out there who view all this for what it
really is: a bump in the road of continuing e-commerce
progress. And what they are saying should be music to
co-founder Geoffrey Ramsey predicts that despite a
slowdown in growth, 2001 will see e-commerce sales
increase 57% over year 2000 figures. "The fact is
that the Internet is not going away, and we're going to
continue to see a migration of dollars," says Ramsey.
"E-commerce is chugging along … It's a snowball
that's grown and grown, and people [who] have bought
online before will continue to buy online, and they're
going to buy more," although, "businesses are
really having to tighten their belts and [get] smarter
about running their business."1
separate forecast by Gartner Group, Inc., predicts the
North American Internet retailing market will grow from
$16.7 billion in 1999 to $142.4 billion in revenues by
2004, a compound annual growth rate of 53%!2
non-scary numbers, huh? But to get there, we're going to
have to make some changes. Stephen Dull of Andersen
Consulting reminds everyone that Internet-based
commerce as it is currently being practiced is not
close to meeting consumer's needs. "Half the
people we surveyed are neutral to very disappointed with
current Web offerings. That's an enormous well of
dissatisfaction. No business can survive with that
strength of dissatisfaction."3
probably sound like a broken - uh - CD, but instead of
focusing precious dollars on marketing, advertising,
promotions and price discounts, e-tailers need to pay
attention to creating value for their customers and
earning loyalty. They need to rethink their privacy
policies and the value of personalization, support more
than the “idea” of Customer Service and get real about
the consumer's desire for speed rather than media richness
(to name just a few).
words; the pendulum will come back. Already, wide
scatterings of seeds are being sown for a "Back to
Basics" movement in e-commerce as, right and left,
folks are recommending stuff like "knowing one's
customers", "delivering a Web experience that
customers really want" and "earning money"
(you will recall this is e-commerce). Of
course, folks are also recommending it's a good idea to
have enough capital to ride out the bumpy spots along the
I think Dana Blankenhorn, in his inimitable style, has
said it best:
many reporters, especially those with friends who lost
their careers reaching for dot-com riches, [this
downturn] proves the lesson of Dorothy in "The
Wizard of Oz." You should stay home, you
shouldn't take risks, and there's no place like home.
But the real lesson of the film is different: Everyone
grows up, and without adventure the world's just gray.
if you loved a start-up and lost, however, you've had
an adventure and are ready for another one. Another
ship will beckon and another and another. Some will
founder, but some are bound for glory. The only way
you'll know which is which is to get on board."4
you going to hibernate, or are you going to meet the
challenge? Check the weather, dress right, and get going.
And oh, yeah … don't let that pendulum hit you in the
backside on your way out the door!
"E-Commerce to Grow 57 Percent in 2001." Jon
Weisman, January 8, 2001. E-Commerce Times.
2 "Retailing Web Sites Face Tough Future." Candace
Talmadge, December 24, 2000. Internet Report.
3 "Retailing Web Sites Face Tough Future."
4 "Start-Up Love Will Go On and On." Dana
Blankenhorn, January 11, 2001. ClickZ. <http://www.clickz.com/cgi-bin/gt/print.html?article=3152>
soon to a website near you –
in fact, maybe YOURS!
guys and gals have been asking and asking, so OK: on
March 1 I’m gonna start making house calls. That’s
right, I’ll be visiting your own websites and then
writing in future issues about how you can apply the
stuff we talk about here.
want a free Grokanalysis of your site? It’s
simple. Just click
here, fill out the form, send it to us, and if
I think your site illustrates something that will
be of interest to a lot of our readers, you’re in!
Buying is Not a Rational Decision
heard me say it many times: to succeed out there in
commercial cyberspace, you've got to speak to the need
your customer feels. I don't say it just because I
think it sounds clever - I've got lots of good reasons,
not to mention all of the history of successful selling to
back me up. And remember, online the customer rules
like never before. You go ignoring your customers'
needs and feelings and you won't be online for long. It's
one of the caveats in convention sales training, too - if
you want to sell, you've got to think like your customers
rather than try to make them think like you. Or in
Grok-talk, you gotta surf a mile with their mouse.
underlying that is an even deeper principle:
RATIONALIZE BUYING DECISIONS BASED ON FACTS,
MAKE BUYING DECISIONS BASED ON FEELINGS.
me for shouting, but it’s that important. The single
biggest motivator in buying is not data, nor is it facts,
it’s emotional response. Humans buy when they feel
comfortable, when they feel they can trust you,
when the process feels natural and reassuring, and
when they come to the feeling that buying will make
them feel good. (And by the way, Martians are no
different.) Fail to address that, and most of your
prospects will bail out sooner or later in the process.
Tap into that correctly and
your conversion rate will go up dramatically.
this isn’t some kernel of interplanetary wisdom I
imported from Mars. You folks have known this about
yourselves for a long time. My job is to tap you
not-so-gently on the head and point out you’re not using
it in the design and implementation of your site.
cursory search on the Internet gets you this sort of
buy on emotion and justify with fact. You may resist
this statement. You may want to shout, "No! No!
No! I am a rational, cognitive human being! I make
calm, considered, well-thought-out decisions! I do not
buy on emotion! … By the time you've finished this
book, I hope you'll have this principle scrawled
across your time manager, emblazoned on your desk
blotter at work, taped to the dashboard of your car,
and posted on your refrigerator at home.”
buying decisions are emotional.
have both logical and emotional buying motives. Recent
consumer surveys show that, in most cases, 20% of the
decision to make a purchase is logical and 80% is
emotional. Logic is reason supported by facts.
Emotions are feelings that cause us to act and react
and can be a large influence in our buying habits.
is more important when persuading people, facts or
emotion? Easy question, huh? … I don't mean to imply
that customers never want cold, hard facts. Of course
they do. You should always have them available and
prepared in a very professional manner, and present
them when the time is right. But it is not facts that
convince customers to go with your company. It's
someone going into a bookstore to browse for something new
to read. While exploring the shelves, the thing that will
compel her to browse a book first and foremost is the
cover. It might be the color that is eye-catching, or a
picture on the cover, or a design, or the way the title is
printed. Yes, she might read the blurb about the book, but
only after the “presentation” attracted her by how it
made her feel.
think of a parallel non-retail example. Let's say you are
hiring someone to oversee backend fulfillment. You’ve
culled a handful of resumes that present you with lots of
facts about the people who seem most qualified. Do you
just call the one with the most “points” and offer
them the job? No, the next step is you meet them face to
face. One applicant has all the right qualifications and
presents himself well, but you’re looking for that
Certain Something that convinces you he's your guy, and
you can’t feel it. Another applicant has similar
qualifications, but she comes across as charming,
effervescent, determined, a team player and an innovator.
Bingo! Your Certain Something Meter lights right up. Who
are you going to hire? Qualifications being reasonably
equal, you're probably going to choose the person you feel
truth is, you probably decided which person you were going
to hire based on your emotional reactions even before
you gave the final decision any focused thought. Deep
within humans is a core of essential values that
ultimately governs how you interact with the world. The
filters between this core and all the physical stimuli
outside you are your thoughts and emotions - and emotions
lead the field when it comes to the decisions humans make.
Far more often than not, a person knows how she feels
about a particular choice long before she has articulated
it in actual words. Most of the time by far, thought
clarifies, justifies and rationalizes what is
fundamentally an emotional impulse.
this can help your conversion rate ought to be pretty
clear by now. There's tons of stuff
out there clamoring for your prospects’ attention - lots
of products and services, lots of competition, lots of
messages. So how are you going to distinguish yourself?
What is it about you and your enterprise that’s going to
reach out and grab those potential customers and proclaim,
"We’re the people you want to be doing
business with!”? The answer: your ability to deeply
engage your prospects’ emotions in addition to, and even
above, their intellect. Your design, layout, copy, balance
between graphics and text, download speed, even your
colors and fonts, much less your overall information
architecture and usability, all either draw your prospects
in or push your prospects away - emotionally. And
your implementation of online expert sales processes, or
not, will determine precisely how well you engage
different personalities in the different ways they prefer
to be engaged, as well as how effective you are in guiding
them to a buying decision that feels right.
works online the same as it does offline (and why did
anybody ever think otherwise?). Folks want to buy from
businesses that make them feel good. If you're going to
close more sales, you must acknowledge their need
for trust. You must mirror their values. You must inspire
confidence. You must appear empathetic. You must
communicate that you are responsible and dependable. You
must offer them a delightful shopping experience (this is
not to say you must entertain them … that's proven to detract
from buying). And through it all, you must convey
persistently that you understand their emotional needs as
well as their material ones.
to one company out there, "The most successful
salespeople possess the noteworthy ability to effortlessly
get into the buyer's mind and create exceptional value
based on "the buyer's" thinking." They’ve
got it right, they just haven’t articulated it right.
“Thinking” from the buyer’s point of view helps you
get them feeling all of those things we just
listed, which is what gets them to want to buy from
you. If you can get their Certain Something
Meters vibrating, you are well on your way to
distinguishing yourself from the crowd and increasing your
online sales, by a lot.