Compete With The Big Boys In Your Business: What We Can Learn From Tea

I drink tea.  Not only has it become a habit since I began “working for myself,” but it has become a source of pride to be able to drink something good without going broke.  Here’s the great thing about tea- you can get it anywhere, for just about any price, and in about any blend imaginable. There are too many choices and little help to make an informed decision, so most people stick with what they know and buy based on price.

For $20 and Super Saver Shipping I can get a good Matcha (japanese powdered green tea) from Amazon with one click, bulked into the random doodads and office supplies I usually lump together in one order.  It’s a safe familiar purchase and heck- it’s cheap.

Big businesses like Amazon have it down to a science- keep prices low with access to all the competition within the market, enable impulse one-click buys, and allow shoppers to capitalize on free shipping at $25.  I love to save a buck and do most of my shopping online- buying my tea at Amazon would make perfect sense, but why don’t I?

Two weeks ago, I was listening in on a webinar with a friend– she was discussing her daily ritual of tea drinking and how a daily cup of chocolate tea allowed her to get her “fix” without the digestive problems associated with the chocolate shakes she used to crave.  On her recommendation I found that her local tea company- Tea Embassy was also online.

The tea itself isn’t something I couldn’t have found elsewhere, but how they executed my user experience was extraordinary.  Tea Embassy offers a butt-ton (technical term) of teas- but all I was interested in was the Chocolate tea  my friend described.  I had no idea about, nor a recommendation to try anything else- how would I know I liked the roobios?  Do I really want to try an oolong when I normally drink green? 

[highlight] That’s the problem with online commerce- there is often way too much to choose from, the inability to touch/feel in person and the ability to search for the lowest common denominator- PRICE is usually what drives business. [/highlight]

Amazon has just about everything pegged for the lowest price.  They don’t need to sell you on something new if they know they can get you in to buy your normal product and out in 30 seconds.  If you’re looking to make money selling online, you’re going to have to get creative.

[highlight]Truth be told- you as an entrepreneur, freelancer or business owner cannot compete with Amazon & cookie-cutter services on price alone- but most of the time, you can win by fostering explorative & personalized user experience.[/highlight]

As I mentioned, I was normally just going to get the tea I knew to buy and get out of there- but saw there was a quiz to find what teas fit my palate and needs.  I discovered 2 other teas I’d like to try and best of all? They offered a 20% off code.  Quickly, what might have been a $10 order (you know, had I not found it on Amazon or some other site) grew to a $50 order.

Oh, did I mention that once I hit $50 my shipping was free?

[highlight]Customers are faced with too many options & perhaps limited experience.  They may know “exactly what they want,” or conversely, they simply see too many options and shut down to making a decision at all-  create a user experience that fits these needs & you will win big.[/highlight]

Big online retailers or “one-size-fits all” freelancers can capitalize on customers that already know what they want & are simply looking for cookie-cutter solutions at the cheapest price.

For most customers, when they go shopping for a product or service-they only problem they think they have is price.  In an oversaturated market, unless you have the lowest price & get noticed, you won’t win. Instead, shift the customer’s main objective away from price alone.

Tea Embassy accomplished this through their quiz was designed to help me discover what tea would best suit my tastes- it helped me explore their selection without feeling overwhelmed or uninformed.  Sure, this was a product sell- but it fit a need and then provided me with extra incentive with a 20% off coupon for my loyalty.

[highlight]If you work for yourself as a business owner or freelance- it doesn’t matter what you do, selling homemade jewelry or logo design, overwhelmed customers who don’t know what to look for, look for price. 

[highlight]Make their buying experience pleasant, facilitate exploration to help them make an informed decision and their loyalty will go beyond price.[/highlight]

Quick Wins For Your Business:

  • Built exploratory features into your website to help customers understand their needs and how you can solve them (Quizzes, needs assessments, etc.).
  • Simplify choices by putting together packages that can be customized (i.e. website package for designers or a season look book for apparel).
  • Put together a simple teaching page that offers value & education, not just geared to sell (see Tea Embassy’s page here).
  • Offer incentives to customers after interacting with your brand, not upfront.  (DM a code to a new Twitter follower, promise a coupon to a newsletter subscriber).

Okay, so I really enjoyed buying the tea.  It’s good tea and I’m happy I got free shipping at 20% off.

But what has turned me from a one time buyer into a hardcore Tea Embassy loyalist- was this: 

A note and a tea sample.  I seriously got hooked on their brand from the 30 seconds of their time and probably about 45 cents to add a personal touch.

That personalization is not something I would have found anywhere.  Not only did they sell me on their brand’s likeability but they helped me experience their unique offerings even further by facilitating my exploration with something recommended to my tastes.  Tea Embassy, and others like it are a great example of online businesses that really work -they make a profit by standing out and capitalizing on personability.

Hell, if anything it just made me feel appreciated and cared for during an online interaction- that simple.

[highlight]A handwritten note and a free sample of a tea they thought I might enjoy based on my purchase.  Brilliance like that speaks for itself.[/highlight]


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