Convincing Customers to Buy Something They Do Not Think They Need is a Difficult Marketing Task

If one hundred marketers were brought into a room and asked to explain what it takes to be successful, nearly all would respond by saying success starts by offering customers something they want.  For most marketers, this means providing products or services they believe are of interest to their target market.  How do they know this?  Typically by conducting market research and essentially asking customers: “Would you buy this product if it fits your needs?”

However, organizations sticking to the “let’s-ask-customers-what-they-want” approach may not realize the full demand for the goods they market. This is due to customers not always knowing what they want.  For instance, they don’t know what they want because they may not fully appreciate the benefits a product offers (e.g., “I don’t understand how that product works”). Or they don’t know because they have yet to experience a usage situation (e.g., “I’m still in college why do I need to save money in that savings fund?”). Or they don’t know because they do not realize the product exists (e.g., “I have never heard of that product”).

No matter the reason, encouraging purchases of unsought goods, which include products customers do not know about or think they do not need, is one of the most challenging aspects of marketing. But let’s be clear, we are not talking about marketers directing efforts to get people to purchase something for which they do not have a need. Rather, we are talking about marketing strategies aimed at broadening customers’ understanding of something that may actually benefit them in ways they may not clearly understand or appreciate.

The challenge of getting customers to direct attention to something they currently do not believe they need is seen in this story from Re/code. It discusses issues facing a new venture within e-commerce giant Amazon. The new area is called Amazon Launchpad, which is populated by start-up companies selling a wide-range of products.  Compared to what is sold through the general Amazon site, many products found in Launchpad are quite different than what the average Amazon shopper is seeking.   Thus, a marketing challenge exists in how to expose customers to a product if they are not looking for it. The story offers some ideas of how Amazon is trying to generate customer interest, though it seems it will take a lot more if these start-ups are to reach customers who may have little knowledge and interest in what they are selling.

Image by sindy