Ecommerce Q&A – Un-Scientific Branding

Michael and Dillon discuss ways in which companies are successfully connecting their customers to their products, on an emotional level. TRANSCRIPT Michael: Hello folks, and welcome to eCommerce QA. This is the podcast where store owners, directors of eCommerce and eCommerce managers can stay up-to-date on the latest tools and technologies in eCommerce. I’ll be […]

November 9, 2015 13 mins
eCommerce Q&A
Download (MP3)

Michael and Dillon discuss ways in which companies are successfully connecting their customers to their products, on an emotional level.

Michael: Hello folks, and welcome to eCommerce QA. This is the podcast where store owners, directors of eCommerce and eCommerce managers can stay up-to-date on the latest tools and technologies in eCommerce. I’ll be joined on the show by my colleague and partner-in-crime, Dillon Holst. Our goal is to handle one or two questions per episode. You can check us out on the web at There, you will be able to get in touch, ask us questions, and just generally participate. Dillon thinks branding is scientific.

Dillon: Yeah, I do.

Michael: I don’t agree.

Dillon: I do.

Michael: Why? Why do you think branding is scientific?

Dillon: Because I think there are some things that just innately appeal to people, and as a result they’re why we see tropes, they’re why we see the same thing over and over again. There’s a reason for that. Hm?

Michael: That’s a good point. Folks, you are listening to e-Commerce QA, and this is episode 3. And Dillon and I are with you today; we’re going to talk through something that I insist is not scientific. And I know that’s a little bit hyperbolic, but I actually think I’m right. Specifically that whole idea of, we see these standard e-Commerce flows where you have your homepage, you got some landing pages, maybe you got a Lookbook. You know, category pages with products on it, then you go to the product details, then you click “Add to Cart” , then you go to the cart to checkout, and you’re done. That’s kind of the standardized format that we’re all used to now, and that’s all well and good, and your e-Commerce site probably does all those things. But, stepping back for a moment, really, I mean is that a good experience? Is that the best we can do for connecting to a customer? I’d venture to say that no, it’s not. And the reason I’m bringing this up is, we have a couple of our customers asking that same question right now. And we’re doing some usability testing and prototyping on how can we create user interfaces that are more immersive, that bring the customer into the experience of the product, even though it is a virtual experience on a screen, on a flat surface. Even though it’s basically like looking through a tiny porthole, how can we make the picture through the porthole of this product something that really resonates, something the customer will want to buy, emotionally? And, um, so Dillon I wanted to ask you some questions about that. Can you tell me a time when you bought a product, not because it was the best price you found, not because you found it on Amazon, but because it was the experience presented on that e-Commerce store was so good and just tied in so well with who you are as a person, or something that they resonated with, that it was just a natural progression for you to purchase that product.

Dillon: Sure. But, before I answer that question, can I ask you a question?

Michael: Yeah, sure.

Dillon: What do you mean when you say “immersive experience”? What does that mean to you?

Michael: Bringing the customer in, you know. Imagine you’re looking into a pool of water, and you stick your head in that water, and you go like “oh!”. You know what I mean?

Dillon: Kind of. I like the analogy. I think I know what you mean, and the closest thing to that, for me, is probably, actually. Astro Gaming, they sell headsets. They have done a fantastic job of appealing to their customer base, and I would say the reason for that is they understand that, in general, gamers — they swear allegiance to one platform, or one system or another. So you’ve got your PC gamers, and they don’t like console gamers, and the console gamers, they don’t like the PC gamers. And even amongst the console gamers, you’ve got the xBox lovers and the PlayStation lovers, and Astro gets all of that. So when you go to their website, the way that they have organized their products, the way that they have laid out their site is that they encourage people to shop by system, by platform.

Michael: Hm.

Dillon: And what that allows them to do, is to customize the experience for, you know, the console gamers or the PC gamers, depending on which you’ve picked. And it allows people easier access to customizations for Astro’s products that would appeal to that particular demographic. For instance, let’s say I love the PlayStation and I go to Astro’s PlayStation headsets. In that section, I can now customize my headset to a game that would only be available on the PlayStation platform, that I wouldn’t see anywhere else. So, Astro’s done a fantastic job of, you know, hitting that emotional connection with their consumer base.

Michael: That’s something that’s really nice about e-Commerce and specifically websites, is that you can have different experiences that you offer different niches. And yeah, it takes time, and so you want to, you know, limit that down: start with one, do one right, and then add more. But there is that opportunity that we often, um, just kinda go like “oh, well that sounds like so much time”. No! You’re essentially widening your net exponentially when you do that. Um, so let’s talk about another example. Have you had any other examper……exampers? Have you had any other exampers?

Dillon: Exampers. Yeah, yeah I got one more. I’m gonna stay in the gaming arena. I would say that At Jinx they sell t-shirts and hoodies and other gaming-related apparel. They sell some other stuff as well, but that’s primarily what they do. And if you go to their website, it’s not laid out in any particularly innovative fashion, right? It looks like a normal clothing website, except for the fact that they have – intentionally – used models and used, uh, pictures that actually represent the demographic of people that would be shopping on their website. So the people that you see wearing the clothes on their site are people – the type of people you would see at a gaming convention or, um, you know. Essentially when a customer goes to the website, they can see themselves, you know, wearing these products. It appeals to their audience incredibly well, so…

Michael: Mhm.

Dillon: Kudos to them for realizing that they don’t need to do anything crazy with how they lay out their website and their navigation, but at the same time recognizing that there are certainly things they can do, as anybody can in any vertical, right? They figured out the different areas in which they could, you know, customize their website and make it appeal to their demographic, and they’ve done it extremely well.

Michael: Nice. You know, there is an element of taking a stand there. ‘Cause this is not going to appeal to a non-gamer. Now that’s obvious, right? But what if you’re selling something that, um, you know…we were working with a customer recently where they wanted to do gaming AND another industry. Actually, and a lot of other industries, and that was a big challenge figuring out. Are we going to make this look like a gamer website or not? And we think we figured out a pretty good approach for that, but it would’ve been stronger if they had actually had one area that they would focus on.

Dillon: Certainly.

Michael: So this, you know, this is actually a problem. It’s a bigger problem for more established vendors than it is for new vendors. Because as a new vendor you have one thing that works, typically, and it’s typically gonna be appealing to one subset. But as you expand your product line and so on, it’s gonna be more of a challenge and it’s very important to continually refocus on “what is the most important customer demographic that we’re hitting, and how can we appeal to those people?”. Those’re your VIP customers. So, let’s talk about some examples we’ve been dealing with internally, recently. Dillon, you’re working with a client who is selling some tennis-related apparel. Now, without going into the concept, because we haven’t launched it yet – we want to show you guys once that’s ready to show you – what would you say they’re doing right to create that emotional connection with their customers?

Dillon: Well, I think very similarly to Jinx, they have created imagery that really speaks to their demographic.

Michael: Hm. What did they do there? How did they––

Dillon: Yeah. I mean, this particular organization has recognized some things in their industry that they think everybody is doing wrong.

Michael: Hm. Nice.

Dillon: And they’re, you know, going for it. They’re doing the exact opposite, and I think it’s a fantastic – they’ve got a fantastic strategy and I really think it’s going to work, and I’m really excited about launching the site. But, um, in terms of their imagery, agreed I wish I could talk a little bit more about it, but in terms of the imagery that they’ve used, they again have used people that look like their target market.

Michael: Exactly. They used people in their target market, they put those people in a natural setting…it was – I totally agree with you.

Dillon: Yup.

Michael: Um, we’ve also got another client who sells high-end camping gear. Made in the USA, extremely high quality. You know, the type of situation where you would want to spend three times as much for an item, and you’d be happy when you did. Now, what they’re doing is, they’re actually going through a discovery process right now, to figure out how can we take their more typical product page experience and optimize that so that it’s very tied into their, uh, their adventures they talk about on other parts of the site, their LookBooks, even the catalogs potentially. There’s a lot of interplay that we’re gonna try and create between the different parts of their website, because we usually think of product content and non-product content. Well, that’s baloney, right? If you’re doing e-Commerce, then what you’re about is selling your story. You’re not telling a story, you’re selling your story. And you’re selling your story through your products. And uh, you know, who you are as a company, that’s reflected in your products, right? And that goes without saying, but putting that into an actual experience that users will connect to, that’s the goal. So…

Dillon: I will throw in there, Michael, if you don’t mind me interjecting.

Michael: Please do.

Dillon: Um, just in thinking of that concept, right? The technical specs of the computer you’re trying to sell, or the technical specs of your headset, or what your clothes are made of, those are all important things that your consumers are going to want to know at some point. Especially people who are coming back and continually buying your products. But, I think it’s important to remember that your product information doesn’t have to be primary on the page, because when somebody wants to find out, you know, what your product is made of, or what the tech specs are, they’ll figure that out regardless of how prominent that information is. So it’s important to focus on that emotional aspect of selling your product, and keeping that focus as the primary on your product page, or even, you know, if you’ve got a splash on your homepage. Those things are really important, because people are going to go out of their way to find out more information if they’re emotionally connected to the product.

Michael: Very very true, and I would say that this whole emotional connection is more important for certain industries than others. So, you know, if you’re selling something that’s more focussed on the specs, these comments wouldn’t be as relevant, although your brand would still have to have an emotional impact. So, a few things that you can do, easy takeaways. One of them is, we’ve already talked about it twice now, having pictures that correspond to your target market. Now, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily look like your target market; like, for example if you’re selling a health supplement you probably don’t want to have sick-looking people. You want to have, like, whatever version of the sick person is, imagining they were healthy. Or, you know, in the case of the tennis brand, we’re probably taking the cream of the crop of the target market. And it’s no longer difficult to do this because people are already posting on Instagram a lot. We recently found out that people have a high tolerance for talking about brands on Instagram, compared to something like Facebook. So Instagram is a good way, where you can get out there and get people talking about your brand. And uh, so that would be pictures. Another good thing that you can do is to have areas of your site that are continually changing to reflect this cultural, on-going narrative. If you’re selling funny tees, then maybe you’re gonna want to pick up on some of the memes on the internet or twitter and put on tees that correspond with that right now. If you’re selling, you know, obviously the classic example would be apparel, right? Your apparel line changes depending on the season, depending on the “after-school” or whatever. But, trying to think that way about your product line, how can you put this out there in a different way; it’s the same products, right? But, different categorization of product, or top products chosen by this subset of our customers. Or, that type of thing. So having, basically changing specific categories that you set up every month, that’s another thing that’s really easy to do. And then a third thing we talked about was taking this cultural idea, not only into the landing pages that you build and into your product pages, but all the way into your products themselves, if you can do that. Personalization is a really big differentiator. Having unique stories from particular customers on that page, that talk about how this product specifically spoke to them. Anything that you can do to bring less of that sterile white background behind your product picture into your product page. Yes you need to have that, but you should also have other pictures there, you should also have more of a story, you should also have these other elements that bring in the bigger emotional picture. So, a few things for you to try there. We’re going to have some links in the show notes, and you can get some Astro headsets here, uh…

Dillon: Haha!

Michael: I’m looking at your Astro headset, been looking at it here on the Skype video here.

Dillon: Ok, now we need to be sponsored.

Michael: Yeah, exactly. Get some Astro headsets, and we’ll catch you next time folks.

Dillon: Haha, sounds good. Ok, Michael, thanks for having me on.

Michael: Yeah, take care.

Examples discussed:

Astro Gaming Jinx!