Selling Technology to People Who Don’t Understand Technology

Posted by Taylor Haney on Thu, Feb 26, 2015

Our 2015 MITX eCommerce Summit is Tuesday! As we finish out this week we have one more guest blog for you. Ryan Mulloy, Experience Design ACD at SapientNitro discusses factors to consider when designing your eCommerce experience and content. Interested in guest blogging next month? E-mail taylor[at]mitx[dot]org.

Ryan MulloyAs an Experience Design ACD at SapientNitro, he gets to work with some of today's biggest brands on cutting-edge omnichannel experiences that span desktop to mobile to in-store to DOOH. With over 15 years of experience to pull from, he finds himself most comfortable embedding himself in the culture of other companies and leveraging a creative background to design experiences that are useful, usable and desirable.

How do you sell technology to those who don’t really understand technology? Actually, you don’t. You sell the benefits. I guess I could leave it at that, but that would make for some rather anti-climactic reading. The reality is that a majority of technology buyers really have no idea what makes it tick, but we’re still seeing a lot of companies getting wrapped up in their own internal technology-speak. These experiences usually tout a mix of Megahertz-this or AeroForce-that, and the net outcome becomes selling your product as just a sum of its technological components. That isn’t good for anyone.

While leading with benefits may sound simple, it’s slightly more complex than you’d think. Rather than quantifying features and taking a more formulaic approach to your product, you’ll need to dive deeper into the world of your customers to ask “why?” and “how?” If you do this right though, those insights will help shape a better eCommerce experience.

Research what they do, not who they are.

OK, I may have overstated for dramatic affect since understanding who your customers are will give you valuable data for delivering the right message at the right time. The problem is that when we engage with clients, segmentation data usually exists—but the behavioral insights are missing. It’s these behavioral insights that are more helpful in shaping your product pages, comparisons and even social curation.

The best way get that behavioral perspective is to talk to your customers, observe them, and use every opportunity to ask why. The nature of this research is actually a bit uncomfortable because there’s nothing formulaic about it. It’s more qualitative then quantitative, more art than science, more archetypes than personas and more customer journeys than user flows. You won’t get “98 of 120 customers think this so we need to do this,” but rather singular insights that spark something greater. A very talented colleague once told me, “It only took one apple to fall on Newton’s head.” (credit: Maryann Finiw)

More Than the Sum of its Parts

Gaining the right insights will help position your product as useful, but the real key to success is extending those insights into making your product desirable. To take a product and make it into something more than the sum of its parts is difficult to do. But when it’s done correctly, you’ll find yourself with a position in the marketplace that’s hard to replicate.

I’m sure I could create paragraphs upon paragraphs around how this could happen, but luckily there are already some great brands out there that demonstrate this.

SONOS gets it. While they’ve created a wireless speaker and mesh network that plays audio in every room of your house, you’ll rarely hear them speak to it. Rather they rely heavily on mood and feeling (because that’s really what their customers are seeking) to convey their point.

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For SONOS, this extends beyond their marketing and has direct implications on their eCommerce experience. Take their speaker comparison, for example (thanks to Will Millar for turning me onto this one). You won’t compare Sensitivity, Impedence, or Watts, but rather the things that everyday consumers get. Which one is the loudest? Has to be the “Crazy Loud” one. Can I use this as a home theater speaker? Yes, yes and no. It couldn’t be simpler, and really shows how brand and desirability can directly shape your eCommerce experience for the better.

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…and these brands get it too:

Google (Dream Commercial)

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Neato Robotic Vacuums

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Now, when you’re designing your eCommerce experiences and content, be mindful of your audience. If you’re moved beyond early adopters and your audience is made up of more tech users than tech learners, dig deeper. Talk to them, ask why, and shape your digital experiences in a way that values your product as something more than a piece of technology.

Topics: e-commerce, MITX, technology