Selling emotion: What retail can teach e-tail

Discussion
Aug 05, 2015

Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of an article from Retail Dive, an e-newsletter and website providing a 60-second bird’s eye view of the latest retail news and trends.

E-tailers may be blithely unaware of some of the subtle advantages that brick-and-mortar retailers enjoy. It’s related to "touch and feel," but also has to do with emotional reactions humans have in physical stores, says web psychologist Liraz Margalit of digital customer experience solutions startup Clicktale.

The good news, claims Ms. Margalit, is e-retailers can also "second that emotion."

"The online store needs to provide us with the same kind of experience, to create these feelings we have in physical stores," Ms. Margalit told Retail Dive. "When you go to buy something, it’s not always a rational decision. It’s an emotional one. But sitting at our screens is a more ‘rational’ environment than being in a store."

Physical stores almost automatically tap into consumers’ emotional side. Seeing the color of a dress, feeling the fabric’s texture, seeing it swing when you twirl around in it — all of those sensual experiences tap the emotional side.

Retailers, like Anthroplogie, that show short videos or multiple views of a dress online can tap into the same part of the brain. Hand-lettered fonts, beach sand and sunset-saturated photos and whimsical blog posts are all effective ways Anthropologie and sister brand Free People mesh with customer sensibilities.

Vans Gilbert Crockett=

Source: vans.com/skate

Ms. Margalit advises clients to use content just this way, to engage customers and create a fantasy for those who are passing through without necessarily knowing what they want.

Another example is Vans, which took the time to connect with several locally known skateboarders nationwide, then profiled them, magazine-style, online with eye-catching photos and copy.

Retailers may want to consider designing their online sections for men and women with similar differences. In physical stores, men’s sections are clear and straightforward while women’s are more about discovery.

Fonts, colors, photography and content should also match a retailer’s vibe, and that of their customers. Colors like pink evoke — for better or worse — notions of feminine things. A retailer catering to a punk crowd can post more alarming images, colors and language.

Finally, mass customization is another way to appeal to shoppers’ emotions by getting them to think about the look and feel of a jacket, a shoe, or a shirt, and the meaning that item will have.

One challenge is creating a pleasurable experience for the browsing customer that must work within a strict easy-to-navigate experience for the more goal-oriented online shopper. Advised Ms. Margalit, "Keep your visitors free of difficulties, then they can be free to enjoy your website. Within certain boundaries, we can be creative."

What tips would you have for bringing emotion to the online buying experience? What would you add to the suggestions in the article?

Braintrust
"Most online retail grew up focused on helping shoppers buy what they were already looking for, usually through relevant search results and complete and accurate product info. But there are definitely emotionally-driven online marketing and merchandising approaches that are effective and more viable now than before."
"I am thrilled to see an article like this — thanks Daphne for writing and RetailWire for publishing. My excitement is because this begins to take us beyond the world of the "seen" to the world of the "unseen.""
"First of all, with all due respect, Ms. Margalit is dead wrong about e-tailing lacking the same irrational emotional component that leads to impulse purchases in physical stores as demonstrated by Home Shopping Network, QVC and anyone else whose survival depends on creating an "irrational" excitement around generally unneeded objects."

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15 Comments on "Selling emotion: What retail can teach e-tail"

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Keith Anderson
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
Most online retail grew up focused on helping shoppers buy what they were already looking for, usually through relevant search results and complete and accurate product info. Before the screens and connectivity speeds enabled richer experiences, it was considered too risky to stray too far from a purely functional online shopping experience. But there are definitely emotionally-driven online marketing and merchandising approaches that are effective and more viable now than before. In a store, helping shoppers discover and decide what to buy (including through a sensory experience) through merchandising and service is a key focus. Educational and lifestyle content, rich… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
Not every picture is worth a 1,000 words! Some of the product photos on websites (including Amazon) are horrendous! Blurry, poor quality thumbnail photos do not engage consumers or sell products. In order to engage consumers emotionally, online needs to invest in “rich content.” Rich content not only accurately portrays the product (from all angles) but shows unique advantages of how consumers can use them in everyday life. Lenovo’s photos and video for their Yoga 2in1 computer are a great example. Ten examples of how online needs to invest in rich content: Product photos from many angles; Product photos in… Read more »
Ian Percy
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
I am thrilled to see an article like this — thanks Daphne for writing and RetailWire for publishing. My excitement is because this begins to take us beyond the world of the “seen” to the world of the “unseen.” From Newtonian physics to quantum physics. From phenomenon to Kant’s noumenon. The real source of any new reality is in this higher level of awareness. It’s where the magic happens. I’d expand the thinking beyond trying to “bring emotion to the online buying experience” to bringing intentional energy to the experience. The emotional response is not up to us, that totally… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
First of all, with all due respect, Ms. Margalit is dead wrong about e-tailing lacking the same irrational emotional component that leads to impulse purchases in physical stores as demonstrated by Home Shopping Network, QVC and anyone else whose survival depends on creating an “irrational” excitement around generally unneeded objects. Ditto with the color argument. At its height, Hot Topic, which clearly catered to a “punk crowd”, i.e., children not yet conceived when real Punk had ended, sold one boatload of pink products to lots of angry young mall rats — male and female. Pink, it turns out, contrasts well with… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

I caution retailers on this subject. The key performance indicators for online shopping are speed, convenience and choice. Notice I didn’t mention price. If the online retailer can’t deliver speed, convenience or choice, price does not matter

With that in mind, adding “emotion” to the online world adds risk to the online retailer meeting those key performance indicators.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

It’s too easy to click off of a merchant’s site versus being inside a physical store. Online retailers should tell a story similar to the examples in this article. Telling a compelling story generates a reason to stay on the site and investigate the brand further.

Tony Orlando
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Well thought-out videos and outstanding clear photos in 3-D would help to let us see the product and enjoy a user-friendly video. There are some good instructional videos on how to operate a new camera or cell phone, and that stuff I like. Real emotion comes from interaction with people, and it is hard to duplicate it online but it can be done. Some of our brightest students leaving college can create some amazing stuff, so it will only get better for the companies that can find the right employees to make the magic happen.

Shep Hyken
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
I just wrote an article that described the type of customers retailers have. There was a question at the end of the article that asked, “What type of customer do you want to do business with?” The choices were customers who love low prices, bigger selection, location convenience, the loyalty program and the people who work at the company. The last choice is about the human connection. When they love the people they do business with it creates a connection, that makes price and other issues less relevant. How do you do bring that to online? Go to Amazon and… Read more »
David Zahn
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
At the risk of being too simple here, I would suggest going back to selling fundamentals (Selling 101): sell the benefits, NOT the features. How will the product enhance the buyer’s sense of self-worth, confidence, effectiveness, efficiency, etc.? Look for the testimonial/storytelling angle. Buyers are swayed by what others are saying and doing, so show them their “neighbors” or “peers” using/wearing/doing with the product. Include the praises from REAL users of the product. Saying that something has a 600 thread count means little to many potential shoppers on an emotional/energy level. Showing someone luxuriating on sheets or sleeping dreamily conveys… Read more »
Adrian Weidmann
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
We live in a Hollywood world where we’ve come to expect video/film storytelling. Stories that connect with each of us on an emotional level. The challenge today is to tell those stories in seconds not minutes. Lowe’s is using Vine clips to convey tips and ideas. Static is today’s black and white. Today’s shopper expects a sensory-rich experience. We all travel with screens in the palm of our hands (or more recently on our wrists!) and expect brands and retailers to use them creatively. Stores will continue to have an advantage because of tactile senses — touch and smell. These are… Read more »
James Tenser
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Online shopping sites are at risk for the same type of error that often afflicts product advertisers: the assumption that our shoppers are very much like ourselves.

Since web developers (and their backers) tend to be technical/rational types, they tend to build technical/rational customer experiences. Even “relevant” merchandising is a tech solution without soul.

The answer may lie in putting the merchants in charge. Great images, crisp copy, clearly explained features and values are fundamental. Not to mention making the concerted effort to understand who your customers really are and what they want most.

Lee Kent
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
For those of us who delve into the “customer experience” world, we know how important it is to engage multiple senses in order to achieve the right experience. This article was great in pointing out some of the great ways to do just that. One of the techniques my friend Mike Wittenstein uses in CX is called “See What You Say.” When looking at a proposed journey, he has sketch artists sketch out the scenarios. Why? Because pictured stories help people imagine together. Did you know that? Apply that type of thinking to online journeys and be ready to be… Read more »
Vahe Katros
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

1. Better act now
2. Only 1 left
3. You are only one purchase away from unlocking your backstage pass.
4. Join us for an exclusive AMA with the designer.
5. Free purchase or gift and free delivery if you buy now.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
This is a great topic for discussion and exchange of information. To date, e-tailers are able to draw customers with in-stock and price. After that, there is the problem of delivery and tangible experience from the customer perspective. As consumers search the net for needs the brick and mortar stores see fewer and fewer visits. This directly effects the whole market in many negative ways. New products and compatible alternatives are now confronted with a continual downturn in consumer visits and awareness. For the foreseeable future, touch, taste, try-it-out and smell are a thing out of information technology’s immediate range.… Read more »
Mark Price
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
First of all, it is true that retail’s physical location and customer experience can trip emotions in customers’ perceptions, but many of those emotions are related to frustration and anger. When a customer has a range of bad experiences in a store, then a neutral experience online doesn’t sound so bad. It is true that online retailers can leverage the knowledge in their customer databases to segment customers and drive content to those customers about their particular interests and passions. They can do that on-site or through email newsletters and youtube videos. Pleasure online is also derived from a simplified… Read more »
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Braintrust
"Most online retail grew up focused on helping shoppers buy what they were already looking for, usually through relevant search results and complete and accurate product info. But there are definitely emotionally-driven online marketing and merchandising approaches that are effective and more viable now than before."
"I am thrilled to see an article like this — thanks Daphne for writing and RetailWire for publishing. My excitement is because this begins to take us beyond the world of the "seen" to the world of the "unseen.""
"First of all, with all due respect, Ms. Margalit is dead wrong about e-tailing lacking the same irrational emotional component that leads to impulse purchases in physical stores as demonstrated by Home Shopping Network, QVC and anyone else whose survival depends on creating an "irrational" excitement around generally unneeded objects."

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