Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cyberthrift: shopping but not buying.

         Ever hear of the U.S. Thrift Index? It's new and it reveals that Americans are becoming thriftier. As if they had a choice during the Great Recession.

         The organization that commissioned the Index is the John Templeton Center for Thrift and Generosity, which might be a confusing place to work.

         Anyway, their study measured six components of thrift: valuing hard work over luck, entrepreneurship, personal savings, avoiding credit card debt, municipal recycling, and charitable giving.

         Guess what. The study found we're stretched thin and lack the income to give or give what we'd like to charity.

         That explains a lot of my shopping behavior lately. Like many people, I enjoy online shopping, especially at sites such as Gilt that let me feel vicariously rich. And Amazon, which lets me discover new books and even read pages in them.

          But yet when the time comes to check out, I often mentally check out, putting my fabulous choices on the wish-list or simply abandoning the site.

          It's not only me. It happens with millions of shoppers, and merchants are trying all kinds of things to get us to follow through.

          Land's End, for example, can tell when you're indecisive on their Web site. If you linger a little too long, a photo of a representative comes on as she asks you if you have any questions. Hopefully she can nudge you into purchasing.

          Good salespeople know how to ask for the order and make it stick. But the Web often seems more show and tell than salesmanship.

          There's been a lot written about the different roles of advertising and the Internet. A number of experts think advertising persuades you to buy a product, and the Internet makes it easy to purchase.

          That's simple enough, but too simple. There are other things going on at the same time, a lot of them on our computers and phones. We can compare products and prices and find out what our friends think and what the experts recommend.

          If you're in marketing or advertising, you have to think things through. You have to start with the customer, put yourself in her shoes, and then work out what it would take --- the product, the price, the experience, the process --- to encourage her to buy.

         Without starting with the customer, you might as well push the delete key right now.

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