Helen Ross 24 January 2018 3 min read

Why should a customer buy from you: a thought experiment

As part of making sure I’m writing blogs that speak to the problems faced by you, my intrepid eCommerce explorers, I spend a bit of time each week scrolling through the questions asked on various platforms like Quora. While some questions are very specific, quite a few are just variations on the same theme:


“How do I get customers in (insert saturated market) to buy from me?”


Because I’m the contrary sort, I’m going to answer a question with another question:


“Why SHOULD they?”


Why should a customer, who potentially has hundreds of alternatives, buy from you? I know why YOU want them to buy from you, but why should THEY want to?

Now telling you to offer a point of difference isn’t exactly a new piece of insight, so let’s dive into something you can sink your teeth into with a little thought experiment. For each of these, I want you to take your Company hat off and put your Consumer hat on. Consider you are the buyer in each situation.



You are a buyer who is relatively sure of what you’re buying. However, you are not so confident as to have searched by exact make/model. In your hunting, you have found two potential stores to buy from:  Jeff’s Jams and Gina’s Goods. Both appear reputable and have comparable pricing (inclusive of delivery costs). The product offered by each seems similar (though not identical), so you want to make sure what you’re buying will meet your need.


Situation 1:

  • Jeff’s Jams has a single shot of the product on a plain background.
  • Gina’s Goods has four photos of the image (3 angles on a plain background, and one lifestyle shot)
  • All other relevant details are comparable


Which site do you buy from?


Situation 2:

  • Each site has a single product image.
  • Jeff’s Jams product description includes detailed information like the average runtime of the product’s battery life.
  • Gina’s Goods tells you the battery amperage but not what that translates to as runtime.


Which site do you buy from?


Situation 3:

  • Jeff’s Jams has a placeholder image only
    • But it has an informative product description that provides a solution to your problem, and describes the product.
  • Gina’s Goods has four good quality shots of the product.
    • But it has technical specifications only and no user-friendly description at all. You can’t be sure this will solve your exact problem.


Which site do you buy from this time?


By now you can probably see the pattern to my situations. Each scenario asks the user to trade off one thing for another. They’re gambling that what they’re buying from Gina or Jeff is exactly what they need, without any assurances. Options like free returns may minimize this worry for customers, but wouldn’t it be better (for you AND them) if they didn’t need to return their item at all?


I know that in the real world, rather than the hypothetical situations I’ve described above, it’s not so simple. There are far more than two potential companies, the customer has to find you in the first place, the trade-offs are rarely so simple as imagery versus no imagery, you don’t have a single product to take care of (you have thousands), the list goes on. BUT… to the customer, you only have one product. The one they want to buy.




“How do I get customers in (insert saturated market) to buy from me?”


You make it easier to buy from you than anyone else.


Whether “easy” to that person is seeing the product, or describing the problems the product solves, or something else entirely is down to you as marketers to determine. Get to know your user’s pain points and then make them disappear. Make no mistake explorers; your jobs are hard ones. But when you get it right, it’s awesome!


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