When I was 13, I enjoyed nothing more than spending my Saturday afternoons wandering around the mall. But these days, I have zero time, and even less patience, for this leisurely pastime of my youth. I now do over 80% of my shopping online–mostly because it saves me time, but also because the thrill of opening packages never diminishes.
Thanks to our global economy, I’m not just limited to products in the US. I can order a dress and a swimsuit from Australia, tea from the UK, and ham directly from Spain–all without leaving my couch.
As consumers, we have more options than ever and are busier than ever–two factors that have completely changed the way we shop. What hasn’t changed is how we make buying decisions. There are two things that I strongly believe, no matter the purchase:
- People buy from people they like.
- People buy based on emotion and back it up with logic, not the reverse.
In Simon Sinek’s brilliant TED Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” he breaks down how most companies sell:
- Rattling off a list of features and benefits
- Describing what they do (always), how they do it (sometimes), and most importantly but most rarely, WHY they do it (often an afterthought)
As Simon Sinek said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Companies that understand how people make decisions win business. Their purpose drives their results and not the other way around.
In this blog, I’ll shine a spotlight on how brands can make their story and purpose crystal clear by answering the “Why?”:
1. Lead with Your Values
When customers visit your site, can they easily understand who you are and what you stand for? In other words, is your mission clear? What is your brand purpose? This type of clarity lays the foundation for what people will use as the basis of their purchasing decisions.
Try this exercise right now to identify your values: stop reading this blog post, grab a piece of paper, and write 5-6 words about why your company exists. To paraphrase Simon Sinek, your company does not exist to make money. That is just the result. The best brands can express what they stand for in just a few words.
One of my favorite examples of a brand that does this well is Cuyana, whose tagline is “Fewer, Better”. Cuyana’s founders joke that they’re probably the only retail company that encourages people to buy less. Their intent is for you to have the minimalist, quality wardrobe of your dreams, and their target audience is clear: women who don’t want a disposable wardrobe and take good care of their clothes. Personally, I shop Cuyana because my mother raised me on the old adage, “Pay twice as much, buy half as many.” Cuyana’s messaging resonates with me so much that I’ve started echoing Cuyana’s tagline to my friends when we discuss expensive purchases.
2. Tap into Emotion
How do you create Apple-like fanaticism for your product? You tap into your audience’s emotions to create a positive brand perception, one that converts buyers into loyal customers and then into advocates. Invoke emotions that build brand affinity, whether that’s funny, innovative, inspirational, or something else.
Elon Musk recently got on stage and revealed the much-anticipated Tesla Model 3 to a rapt audience–the energy in the room reminded me of an Apple conference with Steve Jobs. By the time he got on stage, before anyone had even seen the car (barring any speculative Internet leaks), the pre-orders were approaching 200,000. Shortly after his talk, this headline came out:
Over a quarter of a million people put down a $1000 deposit for a car they’ve never seen in person and isn’t even completed. This is important to note, as the car’s features probably didn’t play a huge part in their decision (if anything, it only helped them justify it after the fact). Tesla has increased their positive brand perception so much over the past few years that everyone who pre-ordered the Model 3 wanted to be a part of that perception–the “it-factor” associated with owning a Tesla.
3. Tell a Great Story
When I’m interested in a brand, I develop a slight obsession for it. I have to read everything about them, follow them on social media, and text all my friends: “You HAVE to check out this company. They have the most amazing story. I’ll send you a referral link! Do it now!”
One such obsession is Everlane. Everlane excels at creating buzz around their product releases, consistently generating thousand-person waitlists for new bags, coats, and shoes. They drum up buzz and excitement with a strong digital marketing strategy that tells a beautifully clear and compelling story–drawing people who believe that luxurious, long-lasting pieces should have transparent origins and a reasonable price tag.
I’ve been shopping with Everlane for several years now and repeatedly reach for their pieces in my closet. As a lover of stories and why companies exist, I really appreciate their transparency about their factories and their materials. (And Everlane, if you’re reading this, please create the perfect wrap and A-line dresses. I will buy one in every color.)
4. Be Aspirational
Taylor Swift gives us serious #squadgoals. In fact, #goals is such a buzzword that Fitbit created a “Find Your Fit” commercial around it.
But here’s another interesting social media phenomenon: girls love to tag their friends in pictures of well-dressed women with just one word: #goals. But if goals are dreams with deadlines (thanks Pinterest), why not make your goals a reality? Rocksbox, an e-commerce startup based out of San Francisco, makes it easy for busy women to effortlessly ace their jewelry game through their subscription box service. Think of them as the stylish best friend with the closet you just wish you could raid. (I’ve got my eye on Blake Lively’s closet, naturally.)
It couldn’t be easier: you take a fun style quiz and receive a handpicked box of three beautiful pieces from top jewelry designers. You can wear the pieces for as long as you like–with an option to purchase–and then send back the box with the included pre-paid shipping label. Then, you submit your feedback and the stylist team will take it into account when they create your next set (as well as any items you’ve wishlisted on their Instagram account). Their fun, easy to use platform, and ongoing (cross-channel) feedback system has made me infinitely more adventurous in my accessory choices over the last few years–not to mention how fun it is to unwrap a surprise box of jewelry that shows up at your doorstep. I’ve been a loyal customer for four years and it doesn’t get old.
What are your favorite brands and why do you love the story they tell? If you’re an e-commerce company, how do you differentiate yourself? Let me know in the comments below!