Y’know, this e-commerce thing is pretty cool, to a point.
But lately, I’ve been suffering from human-being withdrawal. As I’ve moved more and more of my shopping and buying online, I’ve become aware of the sterility of most web interactions, and I’ve been yearning for some good old fashioned human touch.
Thankfully, it’s starting to reappear. I’m beginning to see web sites with photographs of people. I’m seeing customer service tools that offer a humanized front-end to a knowledge base, and others that allow me to chat, in real-time, with a customer service agent.
I’m starting to see relationship marketing programs that -!V while automated — at least make me feel like I’m dealing with a service individual and not a bot.
And I’m seeing truly innovative approaches such as Hand Technologies, where an e-commerce back-end is combined with a human touch front-end to marry the best of the real world with the best of the e-world. (Hand uses a network of over 10,000 independent technology consultants to introduce its e-commerce offering to consumers and small businesses in their own homes or offices.)
Why is this important? Because engaging the senses, and not just the brain, is key to gaining a sustainable competitive advantage. Or, looking at this another way: Engage only logic and you’re on your way to becoming a commodity.
Think about the process. When you start shopping !V- let’s say for a new car — you immediately rule out certain brands, allowing two or three brands to percolate to the surface.
What’s going on here? Subconsciously, you’re reacting at an emotional level to the branding efforts of various car makers, ruling out brands and models that don’t fit with your self-image and placing those that do on your consideration list.
Then you begin the logical work. You evaluate the features, specifications and prices of the models on your list, endeavoring to narrow the list even further before you set out to test-drive a few vehicles.
Once you get to the showroom, emotion begins to rule again. You respond emotionally to certain colors, and to the vehicles’ styling. You begin to mentally place yourself in each vehicle and picture how it feels. Your emotions are fueled !V- positively or negatively — by the comments of the salesperson.
Ultimately, you make your decision and — more often than not — emotion, not logic, rules the day.
On the web, you can’t smell the leather. You can’t sit in the driver’s seat and feel your heart begin to race. Which means that in the absence of emotional triggers pulled by human interaction, web-based buying decisions will become more logical and less emotional.
Therein lies the opportunity. Web marketers who realize the importance of emotion in the buying decision, and who implement innovative ways of appealing to the senses in the virtual shopping world, are sure to capture far more sales than their sterile, fact-based competitors.
So connect me to a human being, or a clone that makes me feel like I’m interacting with a human being. Then, set your sights on establishing a one-to-one (human-to-human) connection that:
- Makes my life easier.
- Provides me with a level of service that goes beyond the norm.
- Makes me feel like I’m in a comfortable, trusting environment.
- Allows me to ask questions and get them answered, at any time.
- Takes the time to understand what I’m looking for, then guides me to the products and services that best match my needs.
- Learns about me and my interests and preferences over time, and uses this knowledge to suggest new products and services to me in a non-intrusive way.
Yep, this is what I, as a web shopper, want from my online shopping experience. Already got it? Let me know. Because you just found yourself a new customer.