Most missed CX opportunity and 5 ways to capitalize on it


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Research shows that watching others has huge impact on conversion

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Companies are spending increasing amounts of time and resources studying how consumers search for products, compare products, and shop across channels. Nothing wrong with understanding how consumers engage anytime and everywhere, including social media. Yet, most assume that the consumer journey is an individual event and decision process. But, it turns out that one of the most powerful influencers on our decision to buy is watching others! By making the experience of other consumers visible and relevant, retailers and stores can significantly increase conversion rates and customer satisfaction with their purchase.

Why this is important: Humans are social creatures. Shopping is and has always been a social experience. Yet, most retailers and brands overlook the power and importance of being able to watch what other consumers actually do.

HBR research surprise – Observing is biggest influence on purchases

A lot of attention had been focused on “net promoter scores,” which are an index of what consumers think and will say about your brand/product. Word of mouth and what consumers say on social media is very influential on what we consider. Amazon has been incredibly successful in leveraging consumer traffic through their customer ratings and reviews, which have become more trusted than mass media advertising. While all of that generates traffic and consideration, what makes the difference in the final decision to buy?

Harvard Business Review reported on a study of brand touch points of 14,000 people in North America and Europe. The study used MESH Experience’s real-time experience tracking. The real surprise in the analyses was the power of peer observation on consumer behavior. If you think about it, it saves time and effort to find other consumers (especially those most like you) using and talking about a product. As the product being considered increases in complexity and price point, the power of “seeing” peers trumps “hearing”. This is readily illustrated from the study results in the graph below.

5 Ways to leverage “Watching” to increase conversion rates

The most dangerous error marketers and retailers can make is to assume that providing the features and benefits is enough for consumers to make a purchase decision. While consumers heavily research products online to compare options and prices, a brand and product preference does NOT guarantee a sale. The final stage that is so often missed in the consumer purchase journey is the evaluation/implementation phase: “will this product work for me … does it fit my lifestyle?”

What is the best way to evaluate “will it work for me”? Turns out that consumers are heavily influenced by watching other consumers use the products. Observing peers evaluating and using products can significantly increase both sales and attachment of accessories.

Most marketers and retailers are missing major opportunities in the “Power of Use” and the importance of watching peers. The key to the five strategies outlined below is to find ways go beyond features of the product, and focus on showcase consumers USING it.

  1. Differentiate and branding for products in USE by real consumers

    Perhaps, the best place to start rethinking the process is to think about how to showcase a product when it’s being used, not just when it’s purchased. This means going beyond “packaging and presentation”. Yes, consumers still want to see product shots showing all sides, and product specifications. But, they are increasingly interested in seeing the product being used by customers in real life situations. A great example is how Amazon showcases Echo in use. In launching the latest portable Echo model, the showcase is built around photos of a family using the new Echo on the beach.

  2. Rich content showing consumers USING and evaluating products

    The most watched and powerful channel on earth right now – YouTube. One of the quickest and most powerful ways to leveraging the power of watching other consumers is through YouTube videos on product comparisons, set up and consumers using products in their lives. The best marketers are soliciting consumers to make and post both videos and photos of them using products on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest etc. At a minimum, marketers need to use the power of video to create clips showcasing how a key feature is important to the average consumer, and how it will be used in everyday life, especially at home.

  3. Focus on experience – Let consumers watch others USING

    The biggest missed opportunity in retail stores is the lack of ability to demo products and let consumers try them out first hand. One of the most powerful ways PlayStation and Xbox increased console sales was to let consumers play real games first hand, which in turn enabled a lot of consumers to watch the experience. There are a host of ways retailers can put products in consumers’ hands at launch and in the aisles. The key is that it is not just the consumer with product in hand, but other consumers being able to watch what is happening. Apple stores are a genius at this … and they have even setup their “Studio” coaching sessions right in the store aisles to take advantage of enable other consumers watching their peers doing things they want to know how to be able to do.

  4. Encourage consumers to show others

    TOM’s shoes is a “low profit” organization with little or no formal advertising budget. Their model is that they give away one pair of shoes to a child in need for each pair they sell. To market their shoes and their model, TOM’s has been a master in recruiting loyal customers to talk about their shoes and wearing them all over the world. TOM’s has also been masterful in showing real consumers giving shoes to needy children and the power of the gifting experience. At a minimum, every retailer should be collecting some consumer selfies of them using key products and telling their stories. These can be used throughout social media and on websites.

  5. Real people USING real products in real life especially at home

    Consumers are 14 times more likely to believe a friend or trusted advisor than an advertisement. Consumers are very skeptical today of product “spokespeople” advocating products on TV. We have all been burned by gimmicks and fads before. We want to see and watch real customers like us, using products in real life. The most important, final question before purchase is: “will this work for me … in my lifestyle and my home”. One of the single greatest challenges in selling the new DIY home security systems is that we simply don’t have an opportunity of seeing actual consumers setting one up themselves in their own home.

The power of experience translates vicariously – get them watching

The message is simple, clear and profound. Watching is more important that hearing or reading. Consumers naturally watch their peers for cues. While consumers will continue to research online and compare features, the most significant part of the final purchase decision is validation of the experience related to using the product. And, watching over the shoulder of a fellow consumer is a very powerful tipping point in the final purchase decision.

Today’s omnichannel consumer is in fact overwhelmed by a mountain of sources, facts and choices. With so many decisions to make each day, today’s consumers are increasingly asking themselves:

“Why should I figure out this all out myself and make a purchase I’ll regret? Why not see what other consumers are testing and using … and how they decided what to buy.”

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Chris Petersen, Ph.D.
Chris H. Petersen, PhD, CEO of Integrated Marketing Solutions is a strategic consultant who specializes in retail, leadership, marketing, and measurement. He has built a legacy through working with Fortune 500 companies to achieve measurable results in improving their performance and partnerships. Chris is the founder of IMS Retail University, a series of strategic workshops focusing on the critical elements of competing profitably in the increasingly complex retail marketplace.


  1. This makes perfect sense. “Power of Use” and the HBR study reinforce the emotional connection that customers and prospects need to make between a product and their daily lives. And observation is what is behind infomercials and product demos, whether live or recorded. Ask Ron Popeil (pasta maker, knives, pocket fisherman, food dehydrator, rotisserie, etc.), the Sham Wow guy, and even the salesman who demonstrates ceramic cookware on the boardwalk. The visuals associated with seeing the product in use can be a powerful influence. One that caught my attention recently was the podcast for Sphero’s charismatic little bb-8, the $150 toy patterned from the new Star Wars movie: It is controlled by a smart phone app, so really needs to be seen in action to be appreciated.

  2. I do agree Chris that validation of a product once demonstrated by a peer has great influence over purchasing habits. That usually weighs heavier versus a talking-head just touting the product’s benefits.

  3. Thank you very much for your comments!

    Steve, I appreciate your validation of the importance of the peer demo. Unfortunately, it seems to have dropped by the wayside in many stores as they continue to try and reduce costs. YouTube may becomes the new virtual demo that “tells the use story”.

    Michael, I really appreciate your comment about the power of infomercials … you have some great examples like Ron Popeil and the Sham Wow guy! Thanks for sharing the YouTube video link for bb-8 … it reinforces that YouTube can be great way to show rather than tell about a product.

  4. What a great and comprehensive post Chris. It brings to mind the fact that much CX measurement – especially based on recommendation principles – focuses on either what a human SAYS they will do, or REMEMBERS how something made them feel (satisfied or not) – we rarely understand if they actually go ahead and actively recommend, or how they feel ‘in the moment’.

    Thanks again for such a thought provoking piece.

  5. Thank you very much for your comment Ian. I really appreciate your point about understanding what customers “will actually go ahead and do”, versus what they say they will do. I think that we don’t know enough about how customers “feel in the moment”. The concept of watching customers watch others could prove to be an interesting opportunity to discover much more.


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