People don’t do business the same way they did 10 years ago. Consumers don’t shop the same way they did 10 years ago. Increasingly, people gather information about goods and services online before they make a purchase. When they show up at a store (if they show up at a store), they already know what they want and they know what it should cost.
Let’s say you sell shoes. Why would someone buy shoes from you? What incentive do you offer that your competitors don’t? Let’s look at a real life example.
Recently I was looking for some shoes. Shoes are somewhat of a commodity because you can get them anywhere. But they’re also a very personal item. If they don’t fit right they don’t do you a lot of good, so I like to try shoes on before I buy them—not something I can do online.
Nonetheless, I began my search for shoes online. I had something specific in mind and I did my online research. I knew what I wanted and I knew the range of prices I should expect. Then I went out to local stores to try them on—and couldn’t find what I wanted anywhere, so I returned home frustrated and empty handed.
Then I remembered a company I had done some research on for a client: Zappos.com. Zappos had built a stellar reputation for customer service and ease of online shopping. And although they’d expanded their offerings to other items, they had started by selling shoes. Because of their great reputation, I decided to check them out.
Within minutes I had found exactly the shoes I was looking for—in a variety of colors. The price (including shipping) was right where it needed to be. There was only one problem: How could I be sure they’d fit? Here’s where Zappos made a shoe more than just a shoe. If you aren’t completely satisfied with your purchase—for any reason—you can return it at their expense. They took the risk out of my purchase. I bought the shoes and waited to see what would happen.
Within a few days (exactly as promised) my shoes arrived. They were exactly what I thought they’d be and they fit perfectly. After I wore them for a few days to make sure they’d be OK, I was so pleased that I went back online and ordered a second pair in a different color . . . and things got better. Even though I’d selected normal delivery, Zappos rewarded my loyalty with overnight delivery—at no extra cost. Where do you think I will purchase my next pair of shoes?
Here’s the thing: My experience with Zappos wasn’t all about technology. Yes, their website was easy to use. Yes, I found out about them through social media (when I wasn’t even looking for shoes!). Zappos took away the obstacles (in this case, the risk of the shoes not fitting) and they rewarded my trust. They understand that business is built on relationship.
You may not be able to compete with a big company like Zappos—or even want to. But what can you do to build your reputation in the way they did and to overcome the obstacles facing your potential clients? And what can you do to reward your clients’ trust? I’ll be going back to Zappos. Will your clients be coming back to you?