Monthly Archives: October 2009

3 ecommerce and online shopping at REI BNBranding

Ecommerce brands & on-line shopping — The best thing ever for MANkind.

BNBranding logoTen years ago I couldn’t imagine getting all my Christmas shopping done from the comfort of the man cave. For most guys, the idea of a world without malls was pure fantasy.

But today, it’s reality. Men really do have an alternative to the drudgery of shopping. Amazon and other ecommerce brands are the answer to our prayers.

For most men, shopping is just torture.  It triggers the reptilian brain in us that harkens back to caveman days when we’d hunt down the things we NEEDED to survive. Nothing more.

When men shop, we do it alone. We know what we want and we go out and get it… Essentials like tools, sporting goods and electronic gadgets. It’s a focused, goal-oriented, job to be done.

Not a hobby.

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shopping photo by Pexels

For women it’s a different story. Women go out in groups and gather things they might need someday, but probably not. Frivolous stuff like bed skirts and duvet covers. It’s part of their natural, nesting instincts. They can happily browse for hours without buying anything, because shopping fulfills a physical need for women.

Recent brain research is conclusive on this… An afternoon at the mall with friends produces oxytocin —  a chemical in the brain known as the cuddling hormone.

Googling “bargain jeans” on a smart phone just isn’t the same.

Ecommerce brands don’t offer the same psychological, sociological and even anthropological benefits that women get from traditional shopping trips. Let’s face it, most websites are more logical than they are intuitive. The whole on-line thing is more geared to the male brain than the female brain.

It’s the nature of the beast.

Nancy F. Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School who studies retailing and consumer habits, said that online shopping is more a chore than an escape.

“It’s not like you think: ‘I’m a little depressed. I’ll go onto Amazon.com and get transported.”

Drunken impulse purchases don’t count.

Koehn said that while traditional retailers have made the in-person buying experience more pleasurable, most online stores — and even the biggest ecommerce brands — continue to give shoppers a blasé, transactional experience.  Well guess what… Men don’t care! They’re not looking for an “experience,” they’re looking for a trophy on the wall.

The last thing men need is a true shopping “experience.” That’s what we’ve been trying to avoid all these years. To us, a “shopping experience” is sitting outside the outlet mall waiting for the women to return after an hour and a half in the Dress Barn.

Choose one main thing BNBrandingIn better retail environments, lighting, store layout, background music, graphics and good customer service all work together to make shopping a pleasant, sensory experience that appeals to the emotional center of a women’s brain. It’s a real art.

Unfortunately, most on-line stores are slapped together about as well as a Mexican convenience store. If it weren’t for men, half of those sites would be out of business entirely.

According to Forrester Research, men spend more and take less time than women to make on-line purchases.

Duh. We spend more and take less time to make all our purchases. We don’t quibble over price… just locate the target and make the kill.

Get in, get out.

Maybe that’s why I have such a hard time with sites that present a thousand random choices, right off the bat. Too many choices slows the decision-making process and leads to frustration for men.

It’s like standing in the beer isle in an Oregon grocery store … there are so many choices of micro-brews it’s almost ridiculous. Ales, IPAs, Hefes, Lagers, Pilsners, Stouts, Browns and Ambers in a crazy array of packages from all over the world. It’s too much information.

That’s one reason men love brand name products, brand name stores, brand-name beer and big ecommerce brands: We trust the brand to narrow the choices for us and provide some degree of quality control. (Anything from Deschutes Brewery is good.)

ecommerce and online shopping at REI BNBrandingWhen I shop at REI, online or offline, I know I don’t have to wade through a bunch of crap before I find the quality products. It’s all good, because it’s REI. They know what they’re doing when it comes to product curation. They stay well focused on REI’s niche, and the don’t offer too many choices in any one category.

In the brick & mortar world, the choices are limited by the physical floor space. An REI shoe buyer has room for only so many different styles and prices points, so that’s all you get to choose from.

There are no such limitations in the on-line world.

Zappos claims to have 1,095 brands, 165,722 styles, 906,874 UPCs and 2,957,471 products. That might work for women who make shoe shopping a pseudo-profession, but guys want those choices narrowed down.

Forrester Research reports that 70 percent of online consumers research their purchases on-line, then buy off-line. This “clicks-and-bricks” hybrid model is classic male behavior. But it’s not really online shopping, it’s research.

So where’s it all going?

Less than six percent of all retail sales are currently made on-line — a reassuring stat for traditional retail businesses. And yet Amazon is on its way to becoming a Trillion dollar company.

So if you have an e-commerce company, look at it this way… you’ve hardly scratched the surface. The upside potential is astronomical, as long as you do a few little things better than the next site.

If your product line and/or brand appeals to women you have to work hard to establish an emotional connection and emulate the mall experience as close as possible. But realize, e-commerce will never replace the real thing.

If your on-line store is more male-oriented your job’s a little easier. Keep your product selection focused — don’t try to be all things to all men. Offer brand name products and establish your own brand as a name to trust.

And give guys a way to avoid the mall altogether… they’ll reward you for it in the end.

For more on ecommerce brands, try this post.

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If you got hit by a bus, what would happen to your brand?

BNBranding logoDeath and taxes. The two are always lumped together as inevitable parts of life. So why, as business people, do we obsess over taxes and ignore the issue of death?

Nothing derails a small business faster, and more dramatically, than death. When a partner or key employee dies, or experiences a death in the family, the business suffers. No two ways about it.

The question is, is your brand strong enough to survive a devastating personal loss? Have you done any business succession planning at all?

My dentist lost his 3-year-old daughter in a drowning accident.  How do you go back to drilling teeth after that?

bnbranding Brand Insight BlogMy business partner lost her 14-year old son to a rare form of brain cancer. Jumping back into her role at work wasn’t exactly a priority.

Children. Siblings. Parents. Clients. Close friends. When you lose them, you also lose hard-fought momentum, motivation and money if you’re in business for yourself. And chances are, you won’t even care.

All those niggling managerial details that seemed like a high priority will almost certainly fall by the wayside. Clients and vendors are usually very forgiving in times like that, but if you don’t have some kind of contingency plan, you’re liable to experience yet another loss… of your business.

Personal loss is particularly hard on professional service businesses. When my mother died, I was physically ill for weeks. I was grief sick and unable to work.

Imagine a key attorney in a small law firm. A star architect. A senior executive recruiter with a big, fat rolodex. These key players are often the lifeblood of a company. Or as CFOs like to call them, “irreplacable assets.”

When those people go, the business goes with them. So what can you do to protect your business in case of a death?

Before you get too depressed to read on, here are some practical tips on small-business succession planning. It’s not about hiring the right law firm.

Successful business succession hinges on building your brand.

Once you’ve built an iconic brand, the business is much more likely to survive a traumatic loss. Sounds great, but how do you do that?

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Make it about more than just money.

Great brands stand for something beyond business. There are values built into the brand that transcend time and personnel. Patagonia for instance… if Yvonne Chounard were to die in a climbing accident, the brand would endure. Not just because it’s a big company, but because they have a large clan of customers and employees who share the company’s core values.

Have a better hiring strategy.

Business succession planning involves hiring the right people to carry the torch. You want people who share your values and your vision, not your management style. Rather than hiring clones of yourself, find people smarter than yourself, with diverse backgrounds, experience and style. That way you’ll achieve some balance in the organization and it’ll be easier to fill a void, if something terrible happens.

positioning strategy BNBrandingKeep your story straight.

Too many companies get fixated on their logo and forget about the brand story they have to tell. Logos change and evolve, but the core brand story should always stay consistent.

Unfortunately, many C-level executives can’t articulate their brand story. Even Richard Branson has a hard time with the question, “what’s the Virgin brand about.” (It’s not just about Richard Branson) So before something bad happens, put your brand story down on paper. Hire someone to help you craft the story that doesn’t revolve around any one person. Then stick with it.

Build strong alliances.

Successful companies tend to have a large number of brand affiliations.  They don’t operate in a vacuum. The more companies, people, brands and causes that you are affiliated with, the more support you’ll have in tough times. But don’t forget… all those affiliations need to be aligned with your brand. You don’t want just random alliances.

Devise a succession plan before you need it.

It’s kind of ironic… in order to get funding, start-ups have to include a slide about their exit strategy. And it’s usually pie in the sky stuff.

But many established businesses that are actually good targets for acquisitions, never even think about succession.

It’s one of those painful things that always gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do pile. But you need to make time for business succession planning. If you’re an owner, a manager, or just an employee, you need to know what would happen in the worst-case scenario.

For more on how to build an iconic brand, try this post. 

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