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The Amazon Coat was a very affordable piece of outerwear that caught my attention for a few minutes. It’s an OK coat, but I keep forgetting the name of the manufacturer. I doubt that I’m a customer for life.
I’m not an oddball in this respect. One way that our lives online have rewired our brains is that we’re more comfortable buying from an unfamiliar brand. These same changes may be making us less loyal in our purchases.
Josh Lowitz, Michael R. Levin, co-founders and principals of Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, spoke to me about this phenomenon. We discussed how online customer reviews, social media advertising at a relatively low cost, and newer shopping destinations such as Amazon and Instagram have changed the way that we evaluate and buy products. It’s thrilling in many ways, and not so great in others.
Think about the ways that you might have bought something in the Before Times — like, before 2010. Perhaps you went to the hardware store looking for a cordless drilling machine, but they only carried DeWalt models.
You trusted the store to sell a good product — or if you didn’t, it was your only option anyway. That’s what you bought. Levin and Lowitz stated that the retailer made the decision for you.
That’s not usually how we shop anymore. Instead of being limited to one choice, we can shop the gazillion cordless drills available on Amazon from our couches and read customer reviews online.
Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker are two examples of start-ups that have shown us that clever products and clever marketing can make it difficult to stick with old favorites. We don’t need the store to be the arbiter of what we buy anymore. Instagram may be all it takes to persuade you to try new cookware.
This is amazing in many ways. A Shopify website, listing on Amazon or a Facebook Page might suffice for a small company to compete against multinational conglomerates. Powerhouses like Nike or Levi’s can’t rest on their laurels for a century. We have more options, are more open for trying new things, and great products can emerge.
It may prove difficult to build a lasting relationship, just like me and my Amazon coat. Perhaps you bought the vacuum cleaner you saw all over TikTok. But, will you ever buy from this company again? These young companies, as Lowitz described, “succeed in making sales but not customers.”
What happens when companies only focus on selling us something now and not on building loyal customers? If companies only need to convince us to buy something once it is hard to imagine how this creates incentives to sell me better products.
There is also a price to making these choices. There are more chances to be deceived by fake reviews or other online tricks. Sometimes, it’s a relief to have only one option of cordless drills rather than having to pick from an ocean of them online.
Molson Hart (owner of Viahart educational toys) told me that it was still possible to create a great brand and keep customers. It only takes new skills.
He said that products that were drive-by sales on Amazon might be able to encourage repeat buyers by including welcome messages in product packaging or reaching out directly to people who have raved about the product on social media.
The idea is to be in people’s minds, so that they’ll come back for another purchase, leave a positive review on Amazon or both. These tactics may not be popular with all customers. And some Amazon sellers go too far by offering gift cards in exchange for reviews, which is against the company’s rules.)
“Whether it is a store, Shopify, Amazon, a billboard, an advertisement … whatever. If you can get people’s attention and get them to think your product is good, you’re creating a brand,” Hart said. “It doesn’t matter how you do it.”
We don’t usually step back and think about why we buy certain products. When we do, it’s remarkable how much we’ve changed, and all the ways our habits have bent the shopping world.
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Tip of the Week
Are digital video games better than the real deal?
Brian X. ChenThe New York Times’ consumer technology columnist, Corey, addresses a crucial question for video gamers, especially novices.
Greg Bensinger, The Times Opinion Team, asked me this week for holiday help.
“We got our kids a Nintendo Switch for Hanukkah,” Greg said. “But it’s been so long since I owned a console of any type. Is it better to buy the physical versions of games or download digital copies?”
Each format has its own pros and cons. You can even mix and match. Here’s my advice to Greg and others who are making similar choices.
Game downloads:Digital copies of video games offer convenience and instant gratification. You don’t need to drive to a store or wait for a game to arrive in the mail. Downloads also don’t clutter your living room the way physical games do.
But downloading games may cost more. Although stores drop prices quickly for older games that are still in stock, this is usually only true for physical versions. Prices for digital titles remain at their original prices for longer periods of time, with occasional price drops.
Another problem with digital gaming is that it can quickly clog up the storage space. This can be fixed by purchasing a memory card for the Switch.
Physical One benefit is that you can loan a game to someone else once you’re done playing it or trade it in at a reseller like GameStop for store credit.
There is no difference in performance. Video games run just as quickly if you’re playing a digital copy or playing it off a cartridge.
Another advantage to games you hold in your hand is that they are much more festive than sending a digital download code.
(And if you’re curious, Greg decided to go for physical games for his family’s new Switch.)
Before we go …
Good news for your wallet as well as the planet: It would be frustrating and costly if your car’s muffler could only be replaced at the dealership. Apple used this method to control repairs for its iPhones up until now. Brian explains the benefits of Apple’s agreeing to start selling parts, tools and instructions to any repair shop and home gadget fixers.
Unusual side effect of the U.S. Embargo: Mailchimp, the software company behind emailed newsletters has temporarily blocked at least three independent news agencies in Cuba from sending information to their subscribers, Rest of World reports. The account bans appeared to be related to the decades-old U.S. embargo of Cuba, but Mailchimp reinstated the news organizations’ accounts.
They want to be part of the U.S. chip boom. David McCabe, my colleague, went to Taylor, Texas to see one the many U.S. states or cities that are trying to build a new computer chip manufacturing plant in their backyards. Their tactics are raising questions about how far communities should go — and how much taxpayer money they should pay — to get a piece of the high-tech economy.
This is a huge accomplishment
Baby Ruffles is believed to be the first native-born harbor seal in New York’s Jamaica Bay for nearly 100 years. According to The Wave, the birth was a sign that Jamaica Bay’s water quality has improved significantly.
Join us Thursday, April 13th for a virtual meeting to discuss the secrets behind healthy and productive online communities. This is what you need to knowRegister now to find out more and reserve your spot.
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Source: NY Times