The numbers game
A brand and the relationship that customers have with a brand are qualitative measures of a business. They’re the heart of a business, packed with emotions. And like our own hearts, qualities are about feelings, which are hard to quantify.
Or are they?
What if we measured quality, or feelings, by the amount of time that passes from the peak of the hedonic treadmill (aka hedonic adaptation) to baseline levels of satisfaction?
To put this into practical language, think about something you bought recently that really excited you. For some this may be a big expense, like a car. For others, it might be a new garment, which, hopefully, didn’t cost as much as a car. Now think about how that felt. At the moment of purchase, you were likely at your peak of the hedonic treadmill. In the time since then your excitement has likely diminished, and if you’re not there already, you’ll eventually return to a baseline state, desiring something else to feel this excitement again.
We might measure this time span and assert that the time from peak to baseline is the measure of quality. The longer the span, the higher the quality of the brand, and in turn, the deeper the relationship is between customers and the brand. Perhaps somewhat controversially, we might even draw some conclusions about the quality of the customers.
Not perfect, in fact, messy, but that’s the nature of emotions. Nonetheless, it’s something that’s on my mind as I want to put things into the world with a long peak-to-baseline value, whether these are physical or digital things. It’s also, admittedly, a bit of a tangent because when I first set out to write this post, I was thinking about the things that are truly quantifiable for a business, such as followers, traffic, and abandoned carts. These are classic metrics of a modern business, ones that I’m learning about weekly, while trying to discern their relationship to quality.
So, let’s get to it, with learnings 13-15.
Thanks for reading.
P.S. The comment button is an invitation to share your own learnings, challenge my observations, or simply energize this thread. What’s on your mind?
📸 : Alexander Sinn
#13 I never thought I’d care
There’s an interesting thought experiment for personal reflection. What are five things that you believe (or do) today that you didn’t believe (or do) five years ago?
Now go the opposite direction. What are five things you believe (or do) today that you won’t believe (or do) in five years?
Did you do the exercise? Seriously, take a few minutes to do it.
I’m willing to bet that the second question was way harder than the first. And there is so much that we could unpack in this exercise around beliefs, but we’ll save that for another post. The point here is that if you asked me five years ago whether I’d care about followers on Instagram or any other social platform today, I would have had a hard time coming up with reasons why that might be true.
Things change and now I care (not without near-daily feelings of inner conflict, of course).
Followers are the top of the sales funnel, driving traffic to our site, and they’re a view of who our customers are, or at least, who cares about us, the brand, or the content. Followers care about something that we should take note of, and I want to learn from our followers. Moreover, followers are our gateway to more followers.
As conflicted as I sometimes feel about seeking more followers, it has been a learning experience to forecast organic follower growth. Surprisingly, growth has been somewhat predictable, growing 7-10% weekly. There are even some tactics that seem to drive steady growth, such as posting five days a week, following the people you want as followers, mining the followers of the people you want to follow you, engaging in comments, and most significantly, collaborating with other businesses. To be clear, these tactics have been useful for organic growth. We haven’t entertained the thought of buying followers. Surely, my inner conflict would be full blown inner turmoil if we did, but remember that thought experiment?
#14 The only place I welcome traffic
Without followers, there would be little digital traffic. There are other drivers of traffic, such as SEO and ads, but both approaches are more costly. SEO can also get a bit technical and take longer time to prove out. I’m still new to this game, so it may be that SEO is, in fact, the better play for the long game. We’ll see. For now, I feel confident that our follower growth has been key to high traffic.
How high? You’d be surprised. justmystic.com is in the top 13% of digital traffic for all Shopify stores launched the same week as us. We even hit the top 12% briefly. Impressive, I think, for a hyper local brand that’s not even on TikTok (yet)!
So, the learning here is that if you want digital traffic, you need followers on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Discord, or any other social platforms in which your customers are spending time. Obvious, maybe. Less obvious, though, might be online conversion rates. What’s your guess?
Again, you might be surprised. Our online conversion rate is around 5%, which is about three points higher than the industry average, signaling a high intent to buy on justmystic.com. Even mighty Nike has a conversion rate that’s in the low single digits. The point, or the learning, is that to make the economics work for a digital business, you have to have thousands, if not millions, of visitors.
Talking tactics, briefly, we’ve run some fun experiments to increase traffic. For instance, we ran the time-tested approach of a raffle giveaway. Check out our post on Instagram to see the mechanics of the giveaway. More experimental, we also ran a digital treasure hunt, “hiding” a “Golden Gull” token on justmystic.com. The first to “buy” the token (it was free) won a prize. Besides driving traffic to our site, we learned that people love games and free stuff (duh).
#15 Scare tactics
Related to traffic and conversion, naturally, is the abandoned cart rate. In other words, when someone visits justmystic.com and adds an item to their cart, how often do they leave that item in their cart without buying it?
The abandoned cart rate is important for at least a few reasons. To start, if a customer has added something to their cart, that’s a signal that our marketing is working, moving a customer down the sales funnel, but failing to convert. It also implies interest in our product, validating our design, but again, failing to convert. This failed conversion may imply that the customer found something else to meet their needs or desires. Maybe they waited too long to buy and their size or color is now sold out. Or, possibly, the user experience at checkout is poorly designed.
In short, if a customer has added something to their cart, it’s a giant step toward conversion, and if they’ve come this far (remember those single-digit conversion rates!), you want to understand how you might nudge them over the finish line.
For this, we turn to scare tactics.
KIDDING! But seriously, assuming that the user experience isn’t flawed, there are ways to create feelings of scarcity or urgency, and in turn, increase conversion. Without giving away too many secrets, the easiest is the follow-up email. A follow-up email is usually triggered 6-24 hours after someone added something to their cart. The email might tell the customer how many units are still available or how long a deal will last, or the email might even offer a discount. Essentially, you want to encourage the customer to buy immediately and/or remove friction in the purchasing decision. It’s also an opportunity to extend the dialogue with the customer, which may open the door to learning more about what drives conversion. For Just Mystic, a few simple tactics improved our abandoned cart rate from 13% to 7%.
Love the idea of measuring the distance of the hedonic treadmill with regard to purchases. I actually had this exact thought today looking at my new car, that I was super excited to buy and in love with for a few months. But now, yeah, I can feel it waning. A fascinating idea to measure that time and use it as an indicator of brand quality or brand success.