The Age of Variety

Written by David Sherry

Sharing a piece from my other column Art $ Attention. Curious if anyone is interested in a private channel where I share what I'm reading/consuming each week...


The Age of Variety

We live in a consumer society. And information abundance greatly empowers this consumerism. So today all people dig before they buy, and they're more aware than ever.

And they’re more social in how they shop, too.

We look to each other for what to purchase, and influencers broadcast recommendations en masse. Information sites like Zillow empower consumers to have more knowledge than yesterdays experts.

So, watch for a new crop of social product review tools and communities. Companies like Your Stacks, among others.

Why?

Because consumers have, and love to have… choices. And now there’s so many choices that the friction to purchase is our collective overwhelm.

This is why curators that reduce friction from purchase will be, in part, the new gatekeepers. Because businesses today, marketplaces, brands, are all about reducing the friction to purchase. Sometimes that's increasing information, other times that's creating a brand, which is a shortcut for trust.

So loyalty is the last frontier, and it starts with specificity.

That's the 1,000 true fans model in action. You've got to start with a core of believers, which means you can't speak to everyone.

And now, thanks to the majors (Google/FB) targeting to the micro-niche is not just possible but profitable. Which means that you can create a product for a specific group and you can find them. If you're in a major product category your margins get eaten, but on the edges...

And brand not easy to maintain. The function of a Brand is to get a specific message to a specific demographic. Nail that and you’ve won half the battle.

But the other half is continuing to deliver on that promise, and expand it through product leadership, which is difficult.

Patagonia knows this well, Apple pioneered it, Forever 21 on the other hand…

Purchasing is about reducing risk.

It always has been. You're parting with your dearly earned cash. Ever go to a movie you thought would be great and it turned out a dud?

It's just today it feels worse in the age of Netflix, where if something isn’t sitting right you just flip the channel.

Consumers today want a garuntee. It's a Reverse FOMO. It's a Fear of Wasting Time. Fear of Wasting Social Capital

The influencers don't want to be repping a bad product. Again they're world is built on trust.

So having the option to easily return a product is a must. And the social validation is also there to help us get over the hump, among other guarantees, like reviews.

We expect great out of the box.

And we expect it with no set up time. Sure, Ikea continues to thrive, but try that with your latest hardware.

Apple proved this point, you have it charged and ready to go immediately, with your account set up and all of your numbers, too.

Returns and fast shipping are table stakes.

If someone has a problem with your product, you refund them.  Customer Service is about doing the right thing.

You do what’s expedient for the customer, and you play the long game

If people are constantly retruning your product it’s likely your fault and not theirs.

Give people a taste.

We want to try and taste before we buy.

Peloton does this well with their show rooms. They make the sample a premium experience, too. This is what they mean by "Brand Activation."

So that’s the buying experience today. You try, and validate via your network. You weigh your choices, going to several sources for truth.  

You do what you can to make sure you’re not missing out on buying something better.

You’re loyal to a few, but the bar for that loyalty is high…

Long live the Long Tail.