Category: decision making

Profiling Ideal Customers: The Enthusiastic Hobbyist

Profiling Ideal Customers

This post is part of a series describing unique customer segments that are especially valuable to retailers. For each group, we’ll break down their unique characteristics, what kind of brands could benefit from getting in front of them and how they could be identified.

The Enthusiastic Hobbyist

I was introduced to an interesting guy during a trip out west years ago. He had such an intensely curious and forceful personality that I think of that trip regularly, especially as an example of a super valuable buyer type: the enthusiastic hobbyist.

Tim is a serial entrepreneur that lives on a beautiful property in the hills of Santa Barbara. He’s had enough success in his business ventures that he has all that he needs. Still, when I met him at his ranch in the hills he only wanted to talk about composting.

After a short greeting we were immediately led on a tour of his composting operation. Tim dove right in with an explanation without any prodding, obviously excited to share what he’s learned. In addition to showing off what he’s created with his new gear, he walked us through his journey of knowledge and what he plans to do next. It was obvious that he’d been binging on the topic and was bursting to tell anyone willing to listen all about it.

When we had a quiet moment I asked the colleague who had introduced us about his passion for composting. “That’s just his personality,” he replied. “He will be all-in on this for a while and will move on to something else in the next 6 months.”

Short Lived Passion

After meeting Tim I realized that he’s not the only one that burns hot with a new hobby. There are a group of buyers out there I’ll call the Enthusiastic Hobbyist, that are a marketer’s dream in a lot of ways.

Enthusiastic Hobbyists want to absorb as much knowledge as possible in a short amount of time. They aren’t looking to learn through trial and error or to root through discussion board threads for solutions. They want an trustworthy source of info that can lay out specific answers, not nuanced discussion with pros and cons. And when they’re in learning mode they want access to content on demand so they can binge.

If you offer them authoritative content on their topic, you can control the discussion around purchasing gear and services.

Quick Buying Decisions

Wealthy consumers are often confronted with the opportunity/obligation to make lots of choices so they can get up to speed. To make a good choice quickly, Enthusiastic Hobbyists depend on reviews. Having a healthy community management function will pay off.

Industry leaders also offer an easy way for newcomers to figure out what gear works best. Utilizing strategic sponsorships with influencers within your market can work great since mimicking them can be the fastest way to look the part of an serious participant.

Buying At a Premium

For newcomers like Tim, buying gear is a way to take a shortcut to achievement in their newly adopted pastime. A high price point is an indicator of quality for those that don’t know from personal experience. And more than that, buying the best at a premium price allows Enthusiastic Hobbyists to demonstrate commitment to the hobby to the community and to friends and family (and visiting work acquaintances.)

Word of Mouth Through Justification

Just like my new friend Tim, Enthusiastic Hobbyists can be great evangelists for their new community and for the vendor selections they’ve made. We humans like to justify purchase choices after the fact, especially when it’s an unusually expensive choice. Buyer’s remorse brings cognitive dissonance and we prefer to regard ourselves as effective judges of value. Explaining the excellence of the brand they’ve backed can help reinforce that the purchase decision was a good one and spreads the word as a side effect.

The passion that they have for the topic makes them likely brand ambassadors, at least until they move on to another obsession.

Finding Enthusiastic Hobbyists

Target passionate newbies online by looking for a new addition to their social media interests, or new accounts at dedicated discussion sites, subreddits and other knowledge centers.

Some hobbies require certification or other identifiable actions that indicate someone new to the activity. Recent or repeated rentals of expensive gear can indicate someone ready to go on a buying spree.

Sometimes one big purchase can lead to many others so purchase data can reveal new hobbyists. Also have a look at new memberships in owner’s forums like corvetteforum.com or festoolownersgroup.com.

Enthusiastic Hobbyists may not be numerous but to the retailer or manufacturer offering a premium solution within a hobby of lifestyle niche, they can be an important segment to cater to. And speed is of the essence since today’s current obsession will only last until the next one comes along.

How Podcast Ads Influence Like CIA Interrogators

There are plenty of reasons to like podcast advertising. One reason that might be known to interrogators but not obvious to the rest of us is the podcast audience’s state of mind while consuming content and its vulnerability to suggestion.

Podcast ad revenue

Spending on podcast advertising continues to grow at a blistering pace. According to IAB, ad revenue growth jumped from $69 million among the largest companies surveyed in 2015 to $119 million in 2016 and a forecasted $220 million in 2017.

podcast ad revenue growth chart
It’s not too difficult to see why podcasting is a hot market. Advertisers are seeing the value in the direct relationship between host and listeners. With production costs low compared to other mediums, there are shows dedicated to very niche topics, with hosts passionate about their material. That makes them an influencer with that community, with credibility and remarkable recommendation power.  Compared to digital display ads, podcasting offers a much less competitive landscape that’s naturally ad-blocker resistant.

Podcast Exercisers

In addition to these benefits, podcasts are unique because of the setting they’re consumed in. Subscribers often listen while doing other activities, including exercising. Distance runners, weight lifters and all kinds of athletes that train in long stretches need something to pass the time and podcasts are a wonderful solution. The reason that’s important to advertisers is that physical fatigue can bring down our mental defenses and make us more likely to be influenced by suggestion.
According to an article published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, individuals that are fatigued show a greater susceptibility to yielding to leading questions. This is one of the reasons that intense interrogations are often preceded by periods of sleep deprivation.  Taken too far, this technique is so successful it can lead to false confessions.  During an intense workout, podcast listeners are more likely to be convinced and influenced by effective ad messaging.

Application

The interrogator analogy paints an alarming picture with advertisers playing the role of brain-washer. But our malleability during physical training can be empowering for the listener too.  If you’re having a hard time making a positive change, physical exertion may be a catalyst for internalization when combined with audio messages.
The idea of inserting persuasive messaging during physical work is nothing new. Drill sergeants and football coaches have been using the tactics forever, repeating their favorite mantras while their target audience sweats. And judging by college football TV it works; just listen to athlete interviews and count the number of internalized messages that are dredged up when put on the spot.
Brands that advertise on a podcast that’s consumed while exercising now get their turn to play coach.

What Your Browse Page Says About Your E-Commerce Brand

Shopping or browse pages tend to be the domain of the usability team, with utility and efficiency being the primary goals for optimization. There’s good reason for this as conveying the important product attributes can help users make purchasing choices, guiding them down the sales funnel. And click through rate to the product’s detail page is a critical performance indicator. But the browse page can also be an opportunity to deliver and reinforce value statements about your brand too. Visual clues on the product listings deliver brand messages with repetition, which aids in comprehension and recall.

Have a look at this browse page for Red Wing work boots.

They have codes that indicate the features of each pair of boots in relation to workplace needs. Filtering options include insulation against electricity, waterproofing, etc. Besides helping a customer navigate the site, displaying these product attributes sends a message to users that this brand is serious about work and their boots are purpose-built for the task. Visitors get this information at a glance, without having to read.

Compare to another shoe site NikeID, that is more geared toward the fashion-conscious and those the like to express a unique personality.

This site allows for color personalization and notes each product that is eligible for the feature. The addition of color wheels to each product image reinforces their brand’s commitment to co-creation and personalization.

The outdoor retailer REI uses a different browse page template for their outlet versus their main store. Here is their main store’s listing of jackets.

The outlet “REI Garage” displays products in a similar way but emphasizes the bargains by using strike-through pricing and calculating the percentage savings.

Because they’re delivering a different message in their outlet, they use a different template.

Messages can extend beyond the products to include store policies and content marketing. Bulk Reef Supply serves the DIY reefing community and has invested heavily in tutorial and product review videos. They add value to customers by offering lots of helpful guidance and infuse their product listings with visual cues to remind visitors that help is available.

In addition to badges, product images themselves provide an opportunity to lay out value drivers. In this case SCOTTeVEST offers an ‘x-ray’ of their apparel on mouseover. Besides being somewhat functional for browsing, it delivers the idea that you can carry a lot of stuff in these closes without looking bulky, which is the center of their value proposition.

The fact that these visual brand messages are native and repetitive is the key to this opportunity. Product listing pages with 50 or more products listed at a time offer a chance to drum key attributes into visitors’ heads as they scroll, in a way that feels natural.

Tactics for delivering brand statements are often at odds with usability tools designed with utility in mind. But the browse page for a product catalog offer a rare chance to do both in the same place.

Reducing the mental weight of purchase decisions

There is a mental cost to making purchase decisions and having to process options can take its toll, especially when contending with a field that isn’t familiar.

Source http://www.cbc.ca/parents/learning/view/should-i-buy-my-kid-a-cell-phone-a-flowchart
Complex buying considerations. Source cbc.ca

A higher cost purchase can be a factor but the mental energy involved doesn’t necessarily line up with the dollars involved. Consider a few especially tricky decisions and some easy ones, at all different costs.

Weighty decisions
Buying a new car $$$$
Selecting a new phone and plan $$
Hiring a contractor to work on your house $$$
Picking a gift for a new girlfriend $

Easy choices
Vacation souvenirs $$
Specialized products with a clear leader (e.g. WeatherTech car floor liners) $-$$$
Renewing existing services like insurance $$ (Conversely, selecting a new provider can be very taxing.)
Favorite dishes at known restaurants $

Certain purchases can feel like an ordeal. For brands in e-Commerce, the goal is to remove as much of the mental labor required to make a purchase decision. Some of the things that exasperate users and contribute to mental weight include:

  • Opaque costs and terms – it’s mentally taxing to try and figure out where the catches are and how we might be getting taken advantage of.
  • Unfamiliar settings – making decisions in a new city or in an industry new to you can leave you feeling disadvantaged.
  • Convoluted options and dependencies – if it’s too difficult to consider various scenarios, the customer starts to feel overwhelmed.
  • Visibility – if your purchase choice is very public there’s added pressure to get it right.
  • Incomplete information – it’s tougher to make a confident decision with unknowns in play.
  • Unclear product lineup – sorting through tiers of service, model generations and variations can be tough if the differences aren’t well communicated.

Mapping user personas and customer journeys can help to illustrate the state of mind of those who might be considering a specific product or service. Consider how hard they need to work at making a buying choice and how you can reduce some of the mental energy required.

And there are new business opportunities for companies that find a way to make high dollar purchases with difficult purchase processes more enjoyable.