Archive for May, 2011

Two Kinds of Products, Two Ways of Buying

May 19th, 2011

The other day it occured to me in (almost) any market segment there are two kinds of products with entirely different ways of buying:

  • Mass-produced products: This is everything made “in a factory” in a standardized process which leads to (almost perfectly) identical copies distributed to all retailers.
  • Unique products: These are products that are made “by hand” specifically for you and only you, unique.

The difference between the two is like buying a shoe in a shoe store or from a shoe maker. The first is a finished, tangible, testable, take-it-or-leave-it product. The second is not really a product because it doesn’t exist yet, it’s a service.

The problem is we as consumers buy 99.9% off-the-shelf stuff, and thanks to the Internet this side of the market has become very transparent. Whatever we want, we type it into the search field and within seconds we know about price and availability. And because we do it all the time we have come to believe that this holds true for any product. Which is not the case, of course. How do you compare products that have no been made yet? Obviously you can’t, and the only thing you can do is make guesses by talking to the manufacturers to see how you like them, or talk to people who have bought something there.

So when people are hesitant when it comes to buying products that are not comparable, one of the better things to do when you’re the one making these products is facilitating the exchange of user experience, creating a community of fans and curious people, a go-to place. Do not leave them lost. Help them make a decision they are happy with, whether it’s in your favour or not.

(Not) Buying Tyres

May 18th, 2011

Two weeks ago, I started looking for new tyres, so I went to the place where I got my last set about 3 or 4 years ago. They gave me the quote, and that was it. Take it or leave it. Not too hard a choice, thanks.

The next dealer I went to was entirely different. Besides talking at breakneck speed, he was really competent without selling anything, and at one point he said: “Y’know, everyone can go out and compare prices these days via the Web, it’s completely transparent, you know in a few seconds what I pay for tyres myself when I order them for you. It’s completely transparent, so there’s no sense in trying to make something up, all I can do is recommend and share my experience so you can make a good decision.”

You wouldn’t expect to find this insight in a courtyard garage, but it’s all what being a merchant is about today: Making your customers happy by helping them make a decision they’re feeling good about.

Clothes

May 17th, 2011

If every morning you woke up you had no clothes at all but had to wear them you like you do now, how much would you spend? How much would it be worth to you to enjoy the good and comforting feeling of this additional shell, per day? 20 bucks, 30, maybe 50? Or even 100, when you’re working in a suit position?

Maybe you already figured where this is going: How much do you actually spend on clothes? Per month, per year, doesn’t matter. The math is easy, you won’t need any directions, but I reckon everyone spends far less than they would in the above scenario. To me it’s worth a few minutes to think about.

Thing is, unless you’re buying in a fair trade store, buying expensive clothes helps everyone but those who really make them. I trust you to be smart enough to figure the rest out yourself. And I trust you to be brave and responsible enough to really commit to it.