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Product Review: Is Your Product Bringing Value to Your Customers?

icon-calendar 2020-09-07 | icon-microphone 25m 30s Listening Time | icon-user Joseph Ianni
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Ecommerce at scale means making a difference in a lot of people's lives, many of those good, some of those.. not so much. Joseph, a prolific shopper of online products, has had plenty of experiences across the spectrum. Here are ten experiences you might want to know about since customer experience is key to your success. They're not all the best, or the worst, just the first ten that stuck out the most.

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DISCLAIMER: Any advice I give is solely based on my own experience and research. There is no guarantee as there are many variables that will impact your success. Everything stated should be taken as opinion.

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I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m a customer. I know, big surprise. What’s actually a big surprise is that as I’m learning the in’s and outs of ecommerce I have found myself at the receiving7 end of a number of businesses that use dropshipping. What I’ve got prepared for you today is a list of experiences I’ve had ordering online. Some I suspect are drop shipped, some I suspect are run entirely by robots. So for those of you eager to hear from a customer’s perspective

Fun tip, before we start. I needed to look up my order history for this episode, so if you get to my point and you have lots of orders on your email, type in “your order” using quotes, and I guarantee you’ll find more than 90% since the copy is so effective.

Manta Sleep - Sleep Mask

I’m going to start with one that I found set a standard for a quality ecom experience, so much so that I don’t really think of it as an ecommerce platform, but a fully realised brand, and that’s Manta Sleep. https://mantasleep.com/

Before discovering manta sleep, I was using a low quality sleep mask i picked up from my local drug store, and I think it’s a good idea if I’m not sure about how something will work, that I should purchase a cheap one to see if it’s a good fit before committing to a more expensive purchase. Well after 2 weeks of waking up with it having slipped off my face and now under my bed, I looked up sleep masks online and Manta Sleep was there. Not to discredit Facebook advertising, but for me, if something is truly something I am in need of, I’m going to hunt for it. My girlfriend and I go shopping a lot, not as much since covid but we do when we can, and I have to say I can’t recall ever seeing a sleep mask of comparable quality in stores. I could be proven wrong but I don’t think I will be.

I’ve had a Manta Sleep Mask for almost a year and even though I bought just one that I routinely wash, the company has thoroughly ensured my purchase would deliver unparalleled value. The company obviously cares deeply about sleep, and it’s a topic everyone can participate in. I receive regular emails from their newsletter offering tips and advice on how to improve my lifestyle. Their website contains a blog so even if I haven’t bought anything they are still providing value.

The product itself uses foam cups that can be replaced as they attach via velcro, which means the product is highly versatile, and replacement means just having to use a different, or possibly even upgraded cup while keeping the brace the same. In other words, it’s well thought out. It came with a travel pouch and earplugs as well. Unfortunately ear plugs have a limit of use, and I’ve even gone online to seek out high quality earplugs. But because they are something I’d have to re-order, I opted instead to get a big box of cheap ones from the drug store. More on that re-ordering bit later.

During the checkout process, that’s when the upsells occurred. And it was a chance to introduce me to the other products, one of which I bought, the others I did not. The one I bought were freezable eye cups that are used to relieve stress. Here’s the thing, I’ve used those cups two-three times, but I use the mask itself almost every night except this one tuesday I forgot about it. The takeaway from my perspective is that it's one thing to have a product so integral to my lifestyle, I can’t not use it, versus a tertiary add-on that I’d have to develop the habit of using.

Bottom line is, as a customer, you can count on me to order my next one from there. You can count on me to order it for others if I want them to have it as a gift. But you can’t count on me to read every article or participate in the community. I would say getting customers to form new habits around your brand is the hardest task there is, but that’s me.

BrickHouse Nutrition - Field of Greens, Dawn to Dusk

This was one of the first products I ordered online recently, and it was promoted through a podcast I listen to regularly. As a podcast listener myself, there’s this vanguard of products I know intrinsically because of podcasting; Casper Mattress, Quip, which is also in this episode, emergency food containers… boy am I glad I skipped that one… anyways…

As with Manta Sleep, this is a premium level brand, with a blog, newsletter and an array of products I might want to look in to. The product I got in particular, Field of Greens, was well liked by myself and my girlfriend. We however found that even with a generous rewards program, it was still difficult to budget out. But it did motivate me to improve my own financial situation so I could afford it again without worry.

I also ordered Dawn to Dusk, an energy pill, and to this day I’ve never actually taken one. You’ll find a lot of this comes down to habits, but the habit of waking up every day and having a cup of coffee is not only effective but also pleasurable, for that reason it’s difficult to kick. The other issue I suppose is having to order or subscribe to products online. It’s one thing to order a product I only need one of like the sleep mask, it’s another to constantly have to order online. I predict in time this will change, especially if I get to the point where I’m ordering my groceries online.

Sugru - Moldable Glue

This one I discovered on my own, as a tech hobbyist, I encounter exposed wires. And I was having difficulty fixing the issue with electrical tape. I later learned I was using poor quality electrical tape but life’s a journey.

I was searching online for ways to fix exposed wires, and Sugru was one of the top hits on a blog about this very subject. The demand is there, and Sugru is the supply. It’s a fine product, I needed a bit of a learning curve but I can see myself using it again.

The brand itself is genuine, with the founder’s story on full display. I don’t get the sense it’s relevancy on search engines is artificial, as it’s clearly a labor of love.

The only gripe that I have is as of this writing, I cannot order a single yellow pack as that’s the only one I need at the moment. I could order it in a multi pack but there’s no assurance that I’ll use them before their expiration date.

One Compress - Compression Gloves

There’s two parts of my body I worry about over usage, its my eyes and hands. Being a computer age nerd, I’m on screens a lot and am typing constantly. And I have experienced aches in my hands for certain. Most computers have built in blue light blocking now, but they don’t have built in compression gloves.

I first tried to find a cheap pair at the drugstore, but after accidentally torching them by trying to dry them near my space heater, I went with these.

I’m pretty passionate about proper hand care, and I strongly recommend any regular computer user, aka most people, to consider getting a pair as well to minimize hand pain.

My experience with One Compress is about average, I wasn’t disappointed but I wasn’t blown away. Their website highly relies on user reviews, satisfied customers who take photos of them wearing the gloves. No newsletter or blog, which is fine, as those things are tertiary, but I could say it’s a missed opportunity since the people wearing these gloves probably have a lot in common.

The other critique, and keep in mind this was a year ago almost, was the minimal packaging. No branded wrapping, a nondescript envelope, no card or mission statement from the founder. Again it’s all fine, and what’s interesting is that, like with manta sleep, once I’m ready to get another pair, I’ll probably be ordering from them again. But unlike with manta sleep, I’m not convinced 100% these are the be all and end all, so I could see myself looking around first for any competition before I go back.

Desklab - 1080p Portable Monitor

I’m a little fired up over this one, because out of everything here, this is the most expensive of the bunch by far, and so far it’s also caused me the most grief.

I’ve wanted a touchscreen monitor for years. I do a number of visual projects involving animation, I also do audio editing as a freelancer, and I’ve grown used to using my graphics tablet for editing. The idea of being able to do all these things and more from a stylus directly to monitor is indicative of my own forward thinking, as we’ve been rapidly moving towards this technology with smartphones, tablets, and 2 in 1 surface pcs.

Desklab, after a successful Kickstarter campaign, is currently advertising the product and the advertisements are coming in fast and furious. Many customers however are not pleased with the company at the moment, and you can count me as one of them. When I got mine in the mail, they neglected to include the adaptor and therefore I haven’t been able to use it for a week now. I’ve contacted support twice, as well as posted a comment publicly. I still haven’t gotten any feedback from the company. Others have it worse, they’ve been waiting longer but haven’t even gotten their monitor yet.

As a customer, this is where it starts to feel offensive, to see the advertising is still going strong, as they continue to entice new customers to buy, but there isn’t evidence of equal value in supporting customers who’ve already signed on. One thing that any good company understands is that nurturing is as important as networking, and my opinion of the company rapidly deteroriates. This goes back to my philosophy about trying it cheap from the drug store first before investing in an expensive one. This monitor wasn’t cheap, but there are more expensive options out there as well.

IQShield - Phone Shield

This was another Amazon discovery, as I was looking for a phone shield. Not having done thorough research, I was in for a few surprises, mostly pleasant ones.

The first was that the application process was more nuanced than I expected, it came with a solution that I had to spray on the material before applying. I ended up doing a terrible job, used up all the material and there was constant dust. I threw it all out in a fit.

Customer service, presumably having dealt with this before, were courteous enough to send me a whole new package, as well as gently remind me to check the instructions online. Which I did. I have to say I was delighted that they would send another one completely free, but I didn’t mention that in my public review because I didn’t want to encourage other users to then take advantage of their generosity. It’s a tricky scenario, if it was the customer’s fault, would it be fair to offer a second one at cost rather than give it for free? Imagine if I lied and said it didnt work, I’d get a second one I could save for later. But all that said, the shield works amazingly well and the company deserves a worthy shout out.

Quip - Electric Toothbrush

Quip is the first product I ordered online once I became a mark, er I mean e-customer… And it came from a few motivations. One was to support the podcast I was a regular listener of. The other was that, having had braces, the permanent metal retainer in my mouth is a magnet for food. So I decided I needed to get something more effective than a regular toothbrush.

Sponsorships are a great system too I might add, I get a product I can use and I get to support two operations instead of one. It’s the kind of collaborative commerce where everyone wins.

Quip is anothe premium brand, they sell a fine product with great supplemental products. I get new brushes every three months in the mail, but I stretch the brushes out longer than that personally. The package is custom, and for a while so were the batteries, but they seem to have stopped doing that.

There is one downside, which I’ve addressed with the company, is that between the packages, the plastic container the replacement brushes come in, and the brushes themselves, it does feel a bit wasteful. My solution was to hold on to the old brushes in case I needed to do any household cleaning with them before disposing of them once and for all.

I’ll also say having tried a normal toothbrush again because I forgot to take my Quip with me, it makes a massive difference. You’re welcome Quip.

Ironically, I don’t listen to the podcast regularly anymore, but my subscription to the toothbrush has a lot more staying power since I still have teeth.

Little Style Shop - Posture Correction

I wasn’t expecting to have to do an epitaph for this episode, but when I looked up Little Style Shop to discuss my experience with ordering a posture correction device, I regret to say their last Facebook post is from May, and the website is currently inaccessible.

Out of curiosity, I scrolled through the timeline on it’s still accessible Facebook page, and I went back an entire year to June 2019, and I didn’t see any post about the products they were selling. Just memes. Dank memes, granted, but still only memes.

The posture corrector is helpful, but as someone with poor posture, it falls to having better habits to fix the issue. Rest in Peace Little Style Shop.

Optimal Artifact - Push up Pad

As I’ve said before, it’s hard to form new habits. But I was hoping that ordering a board designed to help me do push ups would turn me in to a regular user. And it was close. I’m no athlete, but even ten push ups a day add up. What I found more motivating was seeing videos on youtube on how to do one correctly.

The company was Optimal Artifact, and they too are now defunct. Such is life. However the product was not an original of theirs, and so if you’re interested in a push up board, they do work, and there’s plenty online to choose from.

UBER Eats - Bubble Tea

I imagine most of you have had experience with UBER eats, so my story here is less the details you probably know of, and more time and place. Around March when we went in to full covid lockdown, and not to brag but I was ahead of the curve by being laid off in january for completely unrelated reasons. So yeah.. Pretty proud of myself for that one..

Anyways, my girlfriend and I decided to have our preplanned date at my home, I paid for the food and she paid for the bubble tea. Our meal arrived no problem, the driver dropped the food off infront of my house and rang the doorbell, all according to instructions. The driver who delivered the bubble tea however, dropped it off at a neighbor's house, and there was no confirmation on our end. My girlfriend, being the brave one of the two of us, runs out of the house to find the tea before someone else takes it.

A week and a half later, my craving came back and I ordered one for myself. And that time, the driver cancelled the order because he couldn’t find my house. No attempt to contact me was made by the way, and so I presume that drink went to waste.

The point here is that when demand shot through the roof, the structure was evidently having some issue keeping up. Uber was forced to scale past what they anticipated and as a result a lot more orders started coming through. I acknowledge my incidents are anecdotal but I’m curious to know if other people met with the same issues.

Nowadays, I have said that I will be ordering bubble tea again in the future. BUT at full price, without discount, and if I decide to be a decent human being and tip favorable, I’m looking at almost twenty dollars Canadian to order it. So with that in mind, it has helped me keep my craving at bay.

Lets be Compelling - Heated man brush https://www.letsbecompelling.com/

I’m not a big fan of ripping in to something or trashing something on air, I’ve been on the receiving end and it doesn’t feel good. That said, I had to make that statement because the “heated man brush” from “lets be compelling” fell far below an acceptable purchase.

The advertising was ok, but I noticed as I would scroll through my Facebook feed that there were other brands also selling either this product or something similar to it. The competition was fierce for about a month, and then it dried up. I already got the sense that there were loose ends in need of tying up. But as my hair was quite long at the time, I went for it. It’s meant to heat up and then straighten my hair through brushing. It took 5 minutes to warm up the first time, and by the third time the product had broken down completely. The entire package was not only damaged on arrival, it had no indication of being a part of the compelling brand. The instructions were poorly translated in to english.

To be fair, I didn’t contact customer support because frankly I didn’t see the point. Instead, I got a haircut.

Written by

Joseph Ianni

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