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Why Should Anyone Shop with You?

We get emails sometimes that start, “You are receiving this email because we want you to purchase our services” or their sheet metal or LCD lights or something. I’m sure they do want us to purchase their stuff. The thing is, that doesn’t mean that we want to purchase it.

This common spam-email salutation is actually a sign of an attitude that turns up in a lot of unsuccessful business websites. The website tells about what your company does, your company’s history, your mission statement, all about you you you.

Your visitor is surfing the web on her own, with herself and her concerns on her mind. She doesn’t care about what you want. She may not even care about your company very much.

Sounds harsh, perhaps, but it’s true.

Economists talk about a philosophical construct called Homo economicus. This hypothetical person makes all choices rationally, invariably choosing what is best for her.

Here are some rational reasons people will buy from you:

  • You offer something different from other companies.
  • You offer something better than other companies.
  • You offer the same thing, but with free shipping.
  • It’s easier and more convenient to shop with you.
  • You’ve done something for visitors that causes them to relate to you enough that they feel that doing something good for them will be doing something good for you, too.
  • You’ve done something for visitors that makes them feel that they need to reciprocate.

So, for example, people will shop at Amazon because 1 click checkout and free shipping make it easy and in many cases it’s also 1 stop shopping. They’ll shop with a local craft brewery or artisanal cheesemaker because they believe it’s good for the community where they live. They’ll choose one doctor over another because that doctor has taken good care of them in the past or because they’ve read positive reviews.

In fact, if we believe what people say, free shipping and good reviews are pretty much why people should buy from you.

However, Homo economicus is not the whole story. There is a reason that people will pay a premium for rickrack and sugar from Martha Stewart’s website when they could buy much the same thing at their local discount store. Her persona, her photography, and her empire have convinced people that buying her rick rack will provide them with a certain lifestyle.

There’s a reason that people will pay twice as much for an item in the knowledge that some portion of the proceeds will be donated to a cause — instead of buying the cheaper item and making their own donation. Making that purchase gives the consumer a certain feeling about himself or validates a certain idea he has of himself.

So you can give people logical reasons to shop with you, or you can give them emotional reasons to shop with you. You can’t expect them to shop with you because you want them to.


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