Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How to sell to the internet generation…

The generation of consumers who purchase a considerable amount online or who at least research everything online before buying is growing. Supposedly over 50% of Americans research online before making a household purchase. Approximately 100% of my friends do. Obviously these types of purchasers are only going to increase. Yet it seems many brick-and-mortar businesses, like my own, have trouble both understanding and selling to this new wave of consumer. Here are a few lessons you need to keep in mind when designing your website or responding to email inquiries from the internet generation.

The traits of internet consumers:

  1. Prefer to negotiate via email
  2. Always looking for a great deal
  3. Will wait patiently for the right deal
  4. Consider ourselves to be well-informed
  5. Expect a Guarantee
  6. Have little problem purchasing something site unseen (and can even prefer it)
  7. Require Testimonials

And now the nitty-gritty details of each trait…

1. Prefer to negotiate via email – There are a few reasons for this. We don’t want to be “pressured” by a slick-talking salesman. We like to take the time to reflect on the emails we receive to do additional research on competitors, pricing, specifications etc. before replying.  Sometimes we just don’t like the human interaction. We work best at 1:30am when your office is closed.

2. Always looking for a great deal – A quick example of this is my method of purchasing anything that takes batteries or requires a plug. For me, 90% of those things I purchase online. Once I determine the exact product I want (after exhaustive research) I check prices with Tigerdirect.com, Newegg.com, Buy.com, and Froogle.com. If a vendor shows up on Buy.com or Froogle.com who I’m not familiar with, I check it out on ResellerRatings.com. After all, the lowest price doesn’t really help me if it’s a shady business and never actually send me anything. This whole process takes me less than 10 minutes, usually less than 5. Moreover, I’m on mailing lists from the first 3 so that when a super special comes up, I know about it right away. 🙂 We internet shoppers are trained to get the best price, for the best product, along with the best service EVERY time.

3. Will wait patiently for the right deal – There are numerous examples of when I’ve done this, however just last week I made a purchase of an item I’ve been watching since January 30th, 2006. That’s correct, I waited 2 years and 9 months before pulling the trigger. Was it because the product improved or because I suddenly came into a bunch of cash that was burning through my wallet? No. I was just waiting for a GREAT deal. After 2 years of waiting for that deal and trying to negotiate one out of them I was starting to think it wasn’t coming…  Then low and behold they send me an email saying if you buy a sonos bundle in the next 3 days, they’ll throw in free speakers (about a $180 value). Yes! I jumped on it and swear that my sonos is the coolest thing ever. Even better then my $320 sunglasses… Which I only paid $160 for… But we don’t need to get into that. Keep in mind, the right deal does not necessarily mean we’re cheap. Check out Sonos.com and you’ll quickly learn that to replace my “antiquated” wireless music system that I paid $80 for 2 years ago with a Sonos (that essentially did the same thing but with a whole lot more features) I forked over $1300. (But I got $180 worth of speakers for free! What a great deal!)

4. Consider themselves to be well-informed – Whether they actually are an expert in car maintenance, replacing a roof, or accounting, they’ll think, because they read a few blogs, that they are. So don’t ignore that. Ask them questions about what they want, need, have researched, and are looking for to fish out exactly what they know so you don’t offend them by telling them something they think is brilliant is not. If you do make the mistake of inadvertantly calling something we read online stupid, we won’t call you on it, we’ll just assume you’re an idiot and should spend some more time learning about your trade. Be prepared to answer tough or even outlandish questions.

5. Expect a Guarantee – Let’s be honest here, we internet consumers are a very trusting bunch. WIthout seeing your office, you, or even your product we’ll fork over some money for the item we’re looking for. However, don’t mistake that for stupidity. The BEST internet marketers always offer a guarantee. Some of them are price match guarantees. Some are 30, 60, or 90 day trial guarantees. Some are 110% satisfaction guarantees. The list goes on and on and the type of guarantees they offer are much different than the ones we in the brick-and-mortar world are used to… I’ll write another blog focussing solely on creating a great guarantee to clarify this point further.

6. Have little problem buying something sight unseen – and often prefer it that way. Reference point 1 regarding email negotiations. We’re smart, informed, know where to get the best price, read all the online reviews of your business, and like your guarantee. Why do we need to talk to someone? This is where your website needs to fully understand the mind of the Internet Generation. If you’re selling a service or product that requires an onsite evaluation, inspection, analysis, etc. your website needs to sell that appointment! It should not be trying to sell your product because we can find that product (whether it’s exactly what’s needed for our situation or not) 100 different places online. By you requiring and selling the appointment you’re differentiating yourself from everyone else who says just give us money for this one-size-fits-all item.

7. Require Testimonials – We will NOT buy something online without reading and reviewing several testimonials or objective reviews of your business and your product. We’ve been sold by radio, TV, internet, billboards, direct mail, telemarketers and who knows what else our whole lives. We don’t buy that “Trust us we have a great product” crap. Unless several credible sources post positive reviews about a product or service we’re moving on to the next thing. Check out Amazon.com, Cars.com, Cnet.com, Newegg.com, Ebay.com etc. etc. etc. All major online retailers offer customers the ability to review products they’ve purchased to help prospective customers make the best decision. We’ve been trained to only buy things with great reviews so if your website doesn’t have any objective reviews or testimonials then forget it.

In summary, we are not the same type of consumer most businesses are accustomed to. Our requirements are different and expectations are higher. You (and your website) can decide to ignore our nuances… Or you can address them before your competitors and open up your business to a huge, constantly-growing market.

To your success, Bryan