9 October 2017
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about why I buy certain products from some stores and not others.
I’m specifically referring to products that are identical no matter where you buy them (e.g., board games), not products that vary from vendor to vendor (e.g., hamburgers). No matter how you buy an English-language retail version of Charterstone, it’s going to be the same.
Before I continue, take 2 seconds to think about the last product purchase you made. Where did you buy it? Why did you buy it there instead of someplace else?
I buy most of my games from an online store focused on hobby board games. Recently I stopped to think why I buy from this store, as I’ve actually had mixed experiences with them. The true answer surprised me: I buy from this store because they’re really good at listing games as soon as they’re announced, so when they’re fresh on my mind, I can go to one place, search for the game, find it within a reasonable degree of certainty, and at the very least add it to my wishlist.
This is such an odd reason to prefer one store over another, though it’s supported by a more rational reason, which is convenience. Time is my most precious resource, so if I can find and order something in less than a minute and have it delivered to me, that’s wonderful.
Your reasons may be vastly different from mine. While there are certainly more than 10 reasons, I’m going to list what I perceive to be the top 10, followed by a poll and comments section so you can share your perspective.
10 Reasons That Determine Where We Buy
- Price: I’m starting the list with price because it’s the most obvious, though it’s so obvious that we may overlook the other reasons. As you read through the rest of the list, ask yourself if you value the reason more than a small increase in price.
- Convenience: It’s nice to live in a time when you can order pretty much anything and have it delivered to your front door. Convenience also extends to how easy it is to order something or how hard it is to change something you’re already entrenched in. I shop at the same grocery store because I know where everything is, even though I could probably get better prices elsewhere.
- Loyalty: Sometimes we develop loyalty to a certain store or source. I’m talking about true loyalty on an emotional level, not loyalty programs, though those can have an impact as well. Loyalty can go hand in hand with locality–you may feel loyal to the store down the road because it’s nearby.
- Credibility: Have you ever looked at how other people have rated a certain store? The reasons for those ratings may be varied, but the average rating can have a big impact on your choice, especially for a first-time purchase. For example, if there’s a store that packages games really well before they ship and another that just tosses them into a box with a packing slip, I’m going to trust the former more than the latter.
- Community: This is a reason that can make or break brick-and-mortar retailers, and it’s something online retailers could also do better at. If you have a robust, thriving community, it can draw people in and make them feel included in something bigger than themselves. If you have a stagnant, possessive community, it can make newcomers feel unwelcome. This is often an extension of the environment created by the location.
- Customer Service: There are various offshoots of what this means. Part of it is how helpful a store is when you’re trying to purchase a product–do they provide the information you need or even teach you how the product works? Another part is how they respond when you have a question or when something goes wrong. And the last part is about personal connection–it’s high-level customer service when this happens (like how Top Shelf Gamer writes a handwritten personal note on every package they send out).
- Priority: There have been a few times that I’ve ordered something simply because I want to guarantee that I get it in the first print run–I don’t want to risk waiting another 6 months to get something I’m really excited about.
- Organization: This is what I was talking about at the beginning of this article. I like when a store is up-to-date with information about a product category and when I can easily find and enter my desires on a wishlist (or add them to my cart). It’s even better when the store will contact me when a product is in stock. This isn’t just an asset–when a store offers these things, I quickly end up going to them out of habit and convenience rather than hunt around.
- Testing Grounds: I don’t buy clothes often, and when I do, I usually buy them online because of convenience. But many people prefer to shop in person because they can try on the shirt or shoes on before buying them. Same with a game store–you can often test out a game before buying it. This is a powerful reason to make the purchase at a place outfitted with the capability to try before you buy.
- Impulse: We’re human, and we sometimes make buying decisions on impulse. This is one of the reasons why companies sell stuff at conventions. I think part of impulse is speed–within a few seconds of deciding you want something, you can own it. That’s pretty compelling.
Okay, so what? What does all of this mean? It depends on who you are:
- Consumer: The realization I came to is that I should figure out what I value and act on it rather than just default to price (which, as it turns out, isn’t in my top 3). Basically, be true to yourself. If having a testing ground is very important to you, but the store where you try on clothes or test games isn’t where you actually buy them, eventually that store may go out of business and you’ll lose the option of trying before you buy. Same with the other 9 reasons. We have a lot of power as consumers, but we only benefit from that power if we act on what’s important to us.
- Retailers: I think it’s possible to address each and every one of these reasons–it’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to go and if it’s sustainable. In truth, it may be better to do 7 things really well and sacrifice the others instead of doing an okay job with all 10. I love seeing when stores think outside of the box, like when an online store goes out of its way to create a community or when a local store offers delivery.
- Creators: Unless you’re planning to never sell your product via retail, it’s important to consider that backers are going to choose between pledging to your project now or waiting to buy it from a store later. You have control over many of the reasons listed above.
What do you think? The following poll is structured so you can pick your top 3 motivators for buying a product from a specific place instead of buying the exact same product from someone else.