This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. Here is a collection of past columns.
A few winters ago, I and many other American women bought it the amazon cloak, a fairly affordable piece of outerwear that caught attention for a hot minute. It’s an OK coat, but I keep forgetting the manufacturer’s name. I doubt I’ll be a customer for life.
I’m not an eccentric in this regard. Our online life has changed our brains, among other things, by making us feel more comfortable buying from an unknown brand. And these changing habits can also make us less loyal to everything we buy.
I recently spoke to Josh Lowitz and Michael R. Levin, the co-founders of the research company, about this phenomenon Consumer Intelligence Research Partner. We’ve talked about how online customer reviews, relatively inexpensive social media advertising, and newer shopping destinations like Amazon and Instagram have reorganized the way products are rated and bought. It’s exciting in many ways, not so great in others.
Think about how you might have bought something in the Before Times – like before 2010. Perhaps you drove to your local hardware store looking for a cordless drill that only had DeWalt models in stock.
You trusted the business of selling a good product – or if not, it was your only option anyway. You bought that. The retailer essentially made the choices for you, Levin and Lowitz said.
We don’t usually shop like this anymore. Instead of having this sole choice, we can browse the vast amounts of cordless drills on Amazon from our sofas and evaluate online customer ratings.
Startups like Dollar Shave Club and Warby Parker proved that a clever product and clever advertising can dissuade us from waiting around. We no longer need the store to decide what to buy. Maybe we just need nudges Instagram to convince us to try new cookware.
That’s great in many ways. A one-person company may only need one Shopify website, Listings on Amazon or a Facebook page to compete with multinational corporations. Powerhouses like Nike or Levi’s cannot rest on their laurels for a century. We have more choices, are more open to new ideas and great products can prevail.
But like me and my amazon coat, building a lasting relationship can be harder than ever. Maybe you bought this Vacuum cleaner you’ve seen all over TikTok, but will you ever buy from this company again? These young companies, as Lowitz described, “achieve sales, but not customers”.
What if companies focus solely on selling us something right away and not on making us loyal customers? If companies only have to convince us to buy once, I wonder whether there will be incentives to manufacture more products.
The choice is also associated with costs. There is more chances for us to be deceived from fake reviews or other online tricks. Sometimes it is a relief to only have one cordless drill option instead of having to choose from an ocean of online.
Molson Hart, the owner of the educational toy company Viahart, which I written about Earlier this year he told me that it was still possible to build a great brand with lasting customers. It just takes fresh skills.
Products that may have been drive-by purchases on Amazon can encourage repeat buyers by putting welcome messages in product packaging or reaching out to people who post raves on social media, he said.
The idea is to stay on people’s minds so that they will come back for another purchase, leave a positive review on Amazon, or both. (Not all customers love these tactics. And some Amazon sellers go too far Offer gift certificates in exchange for reviewswhich is against the company’s rules.)
“Whether it’s a store, Shopify, Amazon, a billboard, an advertisement… whatever. When you get people’s attention and make them think your product is good, you create a brand, ”said Hart. “It doesn’t matter how you do it.”
We usually don’t step back and think about why we buy certain products. When we do that, it is remarkable how much we have changed and how our habits have changed the world of shopping.
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Tip of the week
Digital video games or the real thing?
Brian X. Chen, the New York Times consumer technology columnist, addresses a burning question for video gamers, especially beginners.
In this week, Greg Bensinger from The Times Opinion Team asked for vacation help:
“We have our children a Nintendo switch for Hanukkah, ”said Greg. “But it’s been so long since I’ve owned a console. Is it better to buy the physical versions of games or download digital copies? “
There are pros and cons to each format, and you can combine them. Here is my advice to Greg and others who are making similar choices.
Game Downloads: Immediate satisfaction and convenience are the greatest benefits of purchasing digital copies of video games. No need to drive to a store or wait for a game to arrive in the mail. Downloads don’t clutter your living room like physical games either.
However, downloading games can cost more. Stores are dropping the prices of older games pretty quickly, but that usually only applies to physical versions. Digital titles stay longer at their original prices and price reductions can only be made occasionally.
Another disadvantage of digitization is that games quickly clog up console space. With the Switch, this can be fixed by purchasing it a memory card.
Physical games: One advantage is that after playing a game you can rent a game to someone else or exchange it for credit at a reseller like GameStop.
There is no difference in performance. Video games run just as fast if you’re playing a digital copy or tape.
Games you hold in your hands have one more great advantage this time of year: wrapping a game as a gift is much more festive than emailing a digital download code to a loved one.
(And if you’re curious, Greg went for physical gaming on his family’s new Switch.)
Before we go …
Good news for your wallet and the planet: It would be annoying and expensive if you could only have your car muffler replaced by the dealer. Up until this week, Apple has essentially steered repairs for the iPhone that way. Brian explains the benefits of Apple’s approval of the launch Sale of parts, tools and manuals to every repair shop and do-it-yourself fixer.
A strange side effect of the US embargo: Mailchimp, the software company that operates email newsletters, temporarily blocked at least three independent news organizations in Cuba from sending their information to subscribers, reports the rest of the world. The account suspensions appeared to be related to the decade-long U.S. embargo on Cuba, but Mailchimp restored the news organizations’ accounts.
You want a piece of the potential US chip boom: My colleague David McCabe went to Taylor, Texas to see one of the many US cities or states trying to get a new computer chip factory in their backyards. Their tactics begs the question of how far communities should go – and how much tax dollars they should pay – to get a slice of the high-tech economy.
Baby ruffles It is believed to be the first native seal in New York’s Jamaica Bay for nearly 100 years. Local news publication The Wave said the birth was a sign of significantly improved water quality in Jamaica Bay.
Attend a virtual event on Thursday to discuss the secrets of productive and healthy online communities. Read this to find out more about the event and to reserve your place.