I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for years after a very kind, and prescient, friend gifted one to me. He was prescient because he’d already been on this early social networking site for years and was trying to help a budding hobby photographer get with the third millennium. I really enjoyed Flickr too, in fact, it’s the only internet property I’ve actually shelled out money to use, but Flickr, frankly, hasn’t been going anywhere. I haven’t been uploading many pictures lately and a few months back I let my Flickr Pro status lapse.
Gizmodo’s detailed description of the hows and whys of Yahoo!’s mismanagement of Flickr is an amazing, and perhaps disturbing read. It’s also a must read for flickr users, social media creators, and maybe anyone who’s working for a company that’s been acquired by another.
I saw this post about whether shoppers who showroom your business are unethical or just savvy. There are some excellent tips on that post that go beyond solving this problem through “differentiation” alone, but while I was practically screaming at the screen that it doesn’t matter, I realized that the question isn’t about how we feel about shoppers using our resources without paying for them, it’s how they feel.
Part of the issue is that your customer has no penalty for show-rooming but plenty of reward (in terms of price). It isn’t easy to punish customers, but we needn’t disregard their emotions either. Good salesmen know about this; they call it building a relationship. Customers are getting something from you before they make a purchase, but you may not have let them know they have. Perhaps it ought to feel bad if they don’t reward you for their efforts. Reputation, mutual trust, commitment, all these things are important to our social species, and we must take advantage of these positive aspirations if we’re going to keep customers from simply buying from the lowest bidder. Differentiation alone may not be enough.
While you’re giving away all that free information to your customers, make sure you let them know that you’re investing in the relationship. In retail this might be as simple as signage and discussion about buying-locally, or buying from a trusted source. For a technical businesses, it could be informing your customers that all the information you’re providing is part of the final product. Maybe it’s just a few words on your quotation or proposal, perhaps it’s frequent acknowledgment during discussions.
The fact is customers may want to the best bargain and will eventually pay for only what they value, but how they feel about themselves is part of that equation. Your goal is to make sure that buying from you makes them feel better and using your storefront or product knowledge as a show-room for a cheap online retailer, or a low quality solution feels about as nasty as it sounds.