Ever feel crippled by indecision?
Where should we eat?
What should we do?
Many times, this cycle is broken when somebody in the group suggests a familiar restaurant. It’s a situation marketing and psychology expert Robert Cialdini calls a “paralysis of analysis”: times when the complexity of our world overwhelms our decision-making ability.
When the options are overwhelming, people rely on brands to filter decision-making — even if that doesn’t lead to the best choice. How do these preferences form, and how can you build a brand that people default to when it’s time to buy?
Forming Brand Preference
Brand preference begins early in life, when parents act as your filter. My dad used Old Spice cologne, and that’s probably why I use the company’s body wash and deodorant.
My parents preferred to drive Hondas. My first two cars were Hondas.
As kids gain experience and exposure, they begin to form their own opinions about brands. Your friend swears his dishwashing liquid is better than the generic. You fall in love with the cheap car you bought when you were in college.
We merge those life experiences with existing preferences to create new filters that influence our purchases.
Understanding how people experience the world can help you design an experience that will make your brand the filter consumers use to navigate a complicated world.
Simplify Customer Experiences
Brands should make life simpler, so some retailers are going further to streamline customer experiences.
CVS redesigned its stores based on data about what customers were buying at each location. In the suburbs, where consumers primarily purchase health and beauty products, CVS placed those products in optimal locations so shoppers could easily find what they needed.
Clothing retailer Shopbop found that men were less likely than women to make returns. To ensure male customers are happy with their purchases and don’t encounter barriers to making returns, Shopbop is simplifying returns by including packing tape with online purchases from its new men’s line, East Dane.
Before, During, and After
Shopbop, like many successful brands, thinks about the customer’s experience before, during, and after the purchase. Before the purchase, there’s advertising, the website user experience, and calls to action. For retailers, there’s the checkout, email confirmation, shipping, and unpacking. Unfortunately, after the purchase, there’s often radio silence, followed by email marketing.
If you’re going to become the brand people use as a filter, it’s time to evaluate the entire customer experience.
Does your advertising attract the right people?
During the purchase cycle, are you wowing customers or frustrating them?
Every touchpoint, from beginning to end, is an opportunity to delight.
People post videos of themselves opening Apple products because they’ve created an awesome experience with their packaging. Think about how you can continue to exceed expectations and charm your customers. Need some inspiration? Take a note from Urban Daddy on email marketing: their copywriting makes readers feel like a cross between James Bond and a trust fund baby. You feel cool for having read it, even if it’s a sponsored material. Every touchpoint matters.
Leverage Your Reputation
You can’t be all things to all people. Instead of trying to manufacture products outside their expertise, many smart brands are leveraging their reputations by curating a selection of items.
J. Crew stores now carry handcrafted Red Wing boots. Instead of thinking, “We can do that better,” they thought, “How can we enhance the experience by offering the shopper something he wants?” Trust in products can be transferred, and brands are now creating this connection.
An online retailer with a unique approach to curation is Cloak & Dapper, a men’s shop that offers a limited selection of high-quality items. Instead of filling their virtual store with a variety of items, hoping you’ll find something you like, they’ve done the shopping for you. Cloak & Dapper is becoming a filter for its customers, providing the single best version of certain items a man needs.
Companies that want to complement products in their wheelhouse are discovering it’s best to find somebody who does it better. Focus on what you do best, and explore partnerships that add value.
Become the Filter
As the world faces “paralysis of analysis,” your brand can become a memorable, visible beacon in a sea of confusion. Become that preferred filter by simplifying your customer experience, designing a delightful brand experience at every touchpoint, and leveraging a good reputation.
About the Mark Kinsley:
Mark Kinsley is a Vice President with MediaCross, a marketing firm based in St. Louis, Mo. Outside of the office, he enjoys mountain biking, golf, and snow skiing. Connect with Mark on Twitter and Google +.