May 132008

Lifestyle Marketing and the Online Shopping Experience

Posted by admin | 12 comments

Can a lifestyle brand create a total shopping experience within the confines of the web?

This post is written by guest author Alex Hughart. Find out more about Alex in the sidebar.

Tough times for lifestyle, on and off line. Isn’t that what got us in trouble? - the headlines scream - Too much style, too little life! From now on, we’re all going to be lean, mean, green machines... and, we need stuff to prove it!

The end of consumerism is nowhere near in sight. What we are facing is a shift in consumers’ behavior, not the most pleasant one but, still a shift. Different groups will start buying different products, at a different pace, in different quantities (who knew a 20-lb bag of rice will be a must-have item!).

Capturing Imagination Online

Now that the argument of the impending doom of commerce is out of the way, let’s concentrate on the topic: the inherent limitations of online lifestyling.

• Whisk me Away

The goal of lifestyle marketing is to entice us to buy products and services that are partially or completely unnecessary, designed to improve such a nebulous thing as quality of life. It relies on its ability to take us into a different realm, where everything is just the way it should be. By evoking all those "priceless" moments (no need to say, with a very real price tag attached) such marketing expertly pushes our emotional buttons.

• When Dreaming, Dream Big

Your Lifestyle Brand

Television and print as fully controllable media still rule with their immersive powers. We are easily pulled in by a glossy magazine photo; a large screen HDTV, usually paired with a cushy sofa, is downright hypnotic. When it comes to the web, the fact that we are sitting in front of a computer busily clicking our way around, makes it seem a lot more like work than leisure - and often it is, since a good portion of web surfing happens at work.

• It Takes (at least) Two for Synergy

Big established lifestyle brands see the Internet as a natural extension of their TV and print marketing strategies. Their websites, more or less, have a complementing role of information and purchasing centers. Most of the shopper-wooing happens before they reach the web. What about pure online vendors and content providers with no such luxury? How do they capture people’s imagination in a fast-paced, interactive medium with so many technical prerequisites and variables?

• Dazed and Confused

Except for video games, a deeper emotional involvement is all but impossible in an environment where information is ground to the consistency of raw sugar with every grain competing for attention. Quality and size of the imagery are commensurate with space and connection limitations. An old monitor or a finicky browser can make even the slickest web designs look like crumpled old brochures. Flash adds movement but, when overdone, the loading drum roll announcing something spectacular is going to spoil the surprise.

The problem is further exacerbated by the multifunctional nature of online entities. My store is my ad and my ad is my store; my blog is my newsletter; my flyer puts products in shopping carts; my portal is all of the above, etc. Speaking of interactivity: my customers’ thought processes in wording search terms are my site’s neon lights that light up only when asked for! Now, who’s pushing the buttons here?

• The Power of Bling

Boiled down, all we have to work with are pictures and words (aka content). For a start, raising the overall production quality of graphics, photos and videos, not just their resolution, might help. We all know the importance of lighting in creating an atmosphere and depth (one of the reasons magazines are printed on shiny paper) yet, light is sorely missing in web presentations. Finding a way to introduce light as a design element is a challenge worthy of exploring.

• A McMansion You Can Afford

There is a notion that web design should display the entire content and give answers to every potential inquiry right off the bat. This led to perceived real estate shortages when in fact there is unlimited space on the web. People don’t mind clicking, they mind being lost. De-cluttering and taking firmer control of the information flow is the next task to achieve. According to the web’s construction code, any and every door can be an entry door. No need for visitors to feel like they snuck in through the utility closet, greet them with fanfare regardless of where they came in.

• Digital Sweet-Talking

And last but not least, when images are lacking, words need to pick up the slack. A new breed of copywriters is required to fuse computer sciences and behavioral linguistics with an aphoristic style of writing suited for a medium suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder (by the way, the style quite the opposite of the one I just used to introduce it). As Hippocrates said in his own aphorism many moons ago: Life is short, art is long.

On that note, I’ll let you go on with your life(style).


12 Responses to "Lifestyle Marketing and the Online Shopping Experience"
MiriamEllis says:
I enjoyed this post and it's face-the-facts approach to the changes that are happening in the way people live. I see what is being called a disaster by many as an opportunity for marketers to get behind projects that have the power to change Western Civilization for the better. I know I'd much rather be marketing the 20 lb. bag of rice than the Happy Meal that has filled our planet with poison and plastic and has seriously harmed human health. We have the opportunity to act as educators here, for products and service that may lead to real happiness for us and our planet. Thank you for the interesting read. Miriam
MiriamEllis says:
Oops...I meant: 'it's taking a face-the-facts approach'.
Adam Audette says:
@Miriam - thanks for your insightful comments. Great to have you here.
Alex: I really enjoyed this. We're in an age of transition and those who don't embrace it are doomed, if not to failure, at least to not enjoying work in the marketing field. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.
Alex Hughart says:
@Miriam - I couldn't agree more about the opportunity to act as educators. On the opposite side, followers of the "give-them-what-they-want" theory think that's the last thing a marketer should be. For me personally, it's definetely a more rewarding path (alas, it often means less financially rewarding as well). @Barrett - My goal in this field is not to feel like I'm peddling subprime loans! Thanks for participating!
That's what you call going with the our fast changing times. We are living in a high technology life.
laptop batteries says:
thanks , I really enjoyed this. We’re in an age of transition and those who don’t embrace it are doomed, if not to failure, at least to not enjoying work in the marketing field. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.
This is a very interesting read. Lifestyle of each person is different and changing too, with all the developments in our technology, giving us the effective ways to live our life.
Great articles and it's so helpful. I want to add your blog into my rrs reader but i can't find the rrs address. Would you please send your address to my email? Thanks a lot!
Adam Audette says:
The feed is:
Reyes Kagy says:
OK good to see- informed comments are always sweet! Blessings.
Excellent post Alex! There are several valuable nuggets in this article.

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