There was this computer hardware company (we will call them Company AT) where I bought a few entry level Xerox printers 5 years ago. And ever since I checked the ‘Subscribe me to the latest promotion…’ check box, I have been receiving their newsletters. And I did not opt-out of the mailing list, which probably says alot about my level of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
They started sending me emails, and the links in their emails were directed to their website at AT2U.com
And in the beginning of those emails, their website was either out of service, or was hacked. I actually took the trouble to call them up and alerted them about it, but they don’t seem to be able to fix it. Or nobody seemed bothered about their website.
And a few more months passed. They seemed to have decided that their website could be an important sales channel to complement their retail operation. And that’s when the SMS starts coming in, and I had to admit I was quite impressed at the level of customization that was invested in these promotional SMS- “Get Your Xerox Phaser 3010 Toners at Only RM225.00”.
They actually remembered which printer I bought.
And I did buy those toners from them.
And just today, I bought a bulky Fuji Xerox CM305DF for our new office. But I did not buy it from them. I got it from a retail store that I have never heard of in the mall.
Then, as I drove back to setup the printer in the office, I kept thinking what went wrong with Company AT’s marketing? They’ve been very consistent with their Petronas and KFC Vouchers. They occasionally sent me warnings about toners and printing supplies price hike which I find very useful.
But why didn’t I buy the CM305DF from Company AT? Where was my sense of loyalty to this company that has been persistently sending me product updates and offerings? I was just comparing their prices online with other online portals such as Lazada and Lelong yesterday, and they’d one of the lowest pricing.
The salesman that was attending to me wasn’t very knowledgeable and not at all helpful in closing the sale. He was lucky I was a determined buyer who had done his homework.
And so, I ran a list of possible factors that could have caused me to buy from the unknown retailer:
1) There was no additional value buying from Company AT. No member points, no rebates. Maybe free delivery, but I am already in the mall, so it makes no difference.
2) There’s a lack of human interaction when I am shopping online. There are a lot of other questions I threw to the salesman where I got almost instant answers, e.g. price of the toners, similar price products, cost of ownership, special features etc. I couldn’t get all these from the online stores, at least not instantly. And if you are shopping online at 11pm, the phone numbers don’t work either. I guess fast and timely human response is very important to get me to part with my money. Impulsiveness at work here.
3) I could get physical with the products. I tried to carry a few of the printers to gauge their weight, opened up the compartments and paper trays, checked out the cable connectivity. All these help to reinforce the idea of possessing the printer, even though I hadn’t pay for it yet. I was also able to instantly visualize how the printer would fit in my office. And there’s no way these information can come so easily from product photos on the web.
4) A retail space can be a very controlled experience. The moment I stepped into the retail shop, instead of being distracted by irrelevant banner ads, annoying Facebook game invites, I am surrounded by products that the retailers wants me to see. The retailer had somehow meticulously designed the surroundings to give him the best ROI per square feet. It’s like walking into a trap :-)
As a guy who runs a few e-commerce businesses, I am particularly curious in identifying what goes on in the mind of a potential customer who in the end, after all the marketing and communications I’ve done, still end up not buying from me. A returning customer is one of the best assets a business can have. If I can keep improving the odds of my customers coming back over and over again, we are on the right track to a healthy bottom line.