Unfortunately, 2015 has been the year of the selfie stick.
Whether you’ve been to the Great Wall of China, Great Barrier Reef or simply been enjoying another non-summer here in Great Britain, chances are you’ve seen somebody wielding a selfie stick. 2014 was the year of the selfie – most famously demonstrated by Ellen DeGeneres’ record breaking tweet – but this year the #1 tech accessory has been the selfie stick.
Now, we’re certainly not fans of the humble selfie stick, as we’ll share in a moment. What we have realised, however, is just how much selfie sticks teach us about customer habits…
What’s Wrong With Selfie Sticks?
You might be wondering why we’re so negative about selfie sticks. After all, they’re a pretty innovative bit of engineering, right? What’s so wrong about an affordable, simple solution that gives you everything you need to take awesome photos of you and your loved ones? Maybe we should just lighten up a bit and take some more photos of ourselves?
We’re more likely to share the views of Arsenal Football Club, who have infamously banned selfie sticks from their Emirates Stadium. As one Arsenal official explained when asked why the club have banned selfie sticks,
‘Unfortunately, we can confirm that selfie sticks are banned on match days at Emirates Stadium… The club’s ground regulations prohibit any object that could be used as a weapon or could compromise public safety.’
Selfie sticks were banned from Arsenal on the basis of public safety, but our issues with selfie sticks run rather deeper.
As far as we’re concerned, the problem with selfie sticks is that they feed our addiction for making ourselves the center of our universe. They enable us to put ourselves in the picture and write ourselves into the story. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking photos of ourselves, but when we’re incapable of recognising anything bigger or more important than us then we’ve got a problem.
This summer I visited a major Asian tourist site. A deeply historical, profoundly powerful, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And what did I see?
I saw tourists wandering around with selfie sticks, taking photos of themselves. People of various nationalities from around the globe were united by their insistence upon writing themselves into a story that is not and never was about them.
Probably the worst culprit was a middle-aged man who was quite literally walking around videoing himself on his smartphone. Here he was, with a unique opportunity to enlarge his mind and grow as a human being, and all he was concerned about was smiling at his phone.
He’d traveled halfway round the world, and missed the very thing that he should have been seeing. I don’t know whether that’s comedy or tragedy, but I didn’t like it.
Is There Anything Right About Selfie Sticks?
As I reflected on the evils of selfie-sticks later that day, I decided that – not for the first time – I probably needed to get over my slightly irrational hatred of an amoral inanimate object. Besides, it’s not just Arsenal who have banned them – you can actually get arrested for using a selfie stick in Russia. I also realised that selfie sticks can teach us a whole lot about the way that people think, which for store owners like us is part and parcel of growing an ecommerce business.
They might be annoying, but there are several important lessons that selfie sticks teach us about customer habits.
1. Customers are Narcissists – We Put Ourselves Front and Center
As I watched that guy walking around with his selfie stick, my first thought was that he must have a serious editing job when he gets home. My second thought is that he’s doing exactly what customers are doing.
When I search for a product online, I don’t just want to buy that product. I want an experience that is all about me. I want to feel valued. I want to believe that my shopping experience is completely personal – and that I am in fact the most important customer to have bought that product. Like a tourist taking a photo of themselves at a famous historical site – in a sense, writing themselves into the history of that location – I want to be written into the history of that product.
It might sound dramatic, but I think it’s pretty true.
The most successful online businesses know that it’s not enough to provide solid customer service. You need to make sure that your customers feel completely treated. From your first impressions to your checkout process to your complaints handling, each customer or potential customer needs to receive what feels like a bespoke, individual experience.
If you’re able to sell products that can easily be customised – whether through a large range of size/style/colour options – and tailored to the unique requirements of each customer, then you’re onto an ever bigger winner.
2. Customers are Sharing More Online Than Ever Before
Much in the same way that the selfie stick only exists because we’re addicted to sharing photos of ourselves, targeted online marketing is only possible because we share so much of our personal information online.
Whether you’re running simple Facebook ads or sophisticated marketing campaigns, getting inside the mind of a customer is easier than ever before. Our shopping habits and behaviors are within the grasp of the people who are selling to us.
It’s great news for store owners.
As customers give us more and more information to work with, we should be able to produce more efficient, more effective marketing campaigns that make it easier than ever before to connect with customers. This should make it cheaper and easier to sell – and open up more and more opportunities.
3. Selfie Sticks Teach Us That People Are Looking for Meaning
Behind the superficiality, selfie sticks teach us a pretty powerful lesson about humanity.
The truth is that we’re all looking for meaning.
When a person takes a photo with a selfie stick – writing themselves into the story, placing themselves at the center of their universe – deep down they might just be trying to find themselves. We might be the best connected generation in history, but we’re also one of the most insecure and one of the most lonely.
The most successful online stores know this well. They understand the challenges that we all face and find ways to communicate their marketing messages in a way that offer us hope. They invite us into the story. They’re happy for us to place ourselves at the center of the universe. They know that if a customer feels good about themselves, then they’re going to buy your product and tell a whole lot of people about it.
Selfie sticks might look superficial, but they can teach us a whole lot about the state of the human soul.
4. Selfie Sticks Teach Us That People Really Will Buy Anything
Okay, we still don’t like selfie sticks, but at least they teach us that an innovative product – even a really, really stupid one – has the potential to achieve huge sales if it delivers an effective solution to a waiting market.
If you build it, they will come.
If you invent it, develop it, market it and sell it, they might just buy it.