Come Shop with Me
Imagine you’re there with me, stepping into the motorcycle store to take a look at all the incredible bikes. Imagine you can not only watch me peruse, but can hear the thoughts in my head.
That’s the wish of every single online eCommerce store creator, right? To see what I do and to understand my decision-making. But we’ll get back to that in a second.
Picking My First Motorcycle
As I walk through the motorcycle store, you start to notice something. I’m only looking at, and considering, the big bikes. You know, the ones that look seriously massive—weighing 700 pounds.
Maybe, you wonder, this isn’t his first bike. Maybe he’s upgrading after riding a smaller one for years.
But no, you’re wrong. I’ve never done more than watch multiple seasons of Sons of Anarchy.
I’m looking at the big ones because a) I don’t want to look stupid as a big guy on a small bike, b) I can afford it, and c) I see myself enjoying these kinds of bikes more—they look not only more comfortable but also more powerful, and I like power.
My Decisions Aren’t Related to Your Products
It’s at that point you notice that I’ve barely said anything about the bike. I’ve revealed much more about myself than about the product. I’ve also shared more about my vision of myself than I have of my needs. I haven’t thought about how or when I’d use a bike like the big one I’m looking at.
This is the challenge that most self-service eCommerce shops face. You’re building solutions under two assumptions:
1) People have a clear sense of their needs
2) People are making decisions that match products to needs
But what we saw above happens every day. People make online decisions about their purchases without doing the rational evaluations that help them match products to needs.
Instead, they’re making decisions a different way. Before I get into it a bit more, let’s look at another common buying decision, since most of us don’t look at motorcycles everyday.
Buying a Pair of Shoes
Imagine again that you are following me into a shoe store. These days you wouldn’t get to watch me—because I buy all of my shoes online—but imagine we get a chance to shop together and we step into a store.
As I look around, I notice three or four pairs that look pretty close to what I want. These are the pairs that I’ll be comparing to make my decision.
I’m already ahead because I’m comparing 3 or 4 pairs rather than just 2. That ensures I don’t get anchored too quickly. But even with these four pairs, you start to notice something going on in my brain.
To make it more explicit, let’s say each one has roughly the same look, a few different features, and the main difference is price.
One pair costs $22. Another costs $375. But in between, the pairs cost $65 and $95, respectively.
Since none of the features stand out enough to make the decision for me, I’m likely to make a decision based on price. But notice, if I’m like everyone else, that I don’t select the $22 pair of shoes. Why?
My decision process works a bit like this:
$22 – Why are these so much cheaper than the rest? I’m not a cheap person. I can’t buy these.
$375 – What are they thinking?!? I mean, sure, they’re great, but no one will know I’m wearing $375 on my feet, so what’s the point? Plus, how will I explain to my wife that our next Disneyland trip has been canceled because I bought this pair of shoes.
$95 – These look good and I can afford this price. I bet they’re the best pair, given that you’re probably paying for the brand name on those expensive ones.
Again, do you notice that the decision making process isn’t so much about the product, but is much more about how I see myself?
My dreams, goals, and aspirations drive my decision making, not your products and product variations.
Understanding Aspirational Intent
You see aspirational intent every time you walk into a corporate office and see mission and vision posters on the walls. These are the things that are meant to motivate the company’s staff to work hard while telling them the hopes of the enterprise.
But that’s not the kind of aspirational intent I’m talking about here. Though it’s worth noting that those posters rarely have anything to do with how a company actually works.
And maybe that’s the connection point. Because when online eCommerce store owners create their sites, they’re often thinking that people will make logical and rational decisions with their head. Aspirational intent can cheat all of that and completely separate the decision-making process from what store owners are hoping for.
When a person steps (virtually) into a self-service store, without any interaction, they’re free to decide what they want—in any manner they choose. And sometimes that’s not a rational and logical process. Instead, their intentions are driven by their aspirations—how they see themselves in their version of their future.
So What Does this Mean for Store Owners?
This suggests two different dynamics for folks creating online self-service stores.
The first is that you might want to spend more time on your product copy to ensure that speaks to people’s aspirations rather than focusing all of your effort on the facts related to your product (and its features).
The photo above shows you the exact opposite approach. The product text is driven around features. A nice long list. But it’s devoid of any copy that helps you see yourself differently, or in a different variation of your future.
The second thing this tells us is that we’re better off if we know more about our customer’s intent before giving them free reign around our self-service store.
You can imagine, can’t you, what would happen after a few moments in that motorcycle shop? A sales person would come along to chat me up.
If they were good, they’d ask about my riding history and soon discover that my only motorcycle experience was watching Sons of Anarchy. They’d quickly suggest that I take a motorcycle lesson and then come back to look at a bike that weighed a lot less.
They’d do that because they would know that this wouldn’t likely be my only bike purchase. Over time, if I was educated, I would certainly get better and more experienced and come back each time.
If they were good.
An online example might be purchasing a laptop. Understanding an online customer’s intent and aspirations might mean asking a set of questions before you show a customer the entire set of laptops they can buy.
The interactive buyers guide above does two things; it helps filter data (much like my helper at a motorcycle store would try to protect me from myself), but it also captures (if done right) aspirational intent. And by doing that, the company can stay right alongside me as I become a serious bike rider.
The Big Question
Normally, when we’re building an online store, we’re often caught talking about which plugin to use. But getting a store live isn’t the goal, is it?
Isn’t the real goal to create a store that not only sells products, but also builds long-term relationships with customers, which drives overall value for store owners?
To that end, you have to consider aspirational intent as you design your next WordPress eCommerce site.
Chris Lema is the VP of Software Engineering at Emphasys Software, where he manages high performers and oversees product development and innovation. He’s also a blogger, ebook author and runs a WordPress meetup in North County San Diego. His coaching focuses on helping WordPress businesses, or businesses wanting to leverage WordPress.