All currently existing unicorn businesses have one thing in common: They excel at understanding what their customer wants. Think of Google, Meta, Stripe, Airtable, Reddit, Shopify, and Netflix. These businesses get it and capitalize on the wants of their customers.
More books than you can read in a lifetime have been written on understanding customers’ wants. From The Four Steps To Epiphany by Steve Blank (a must-read for every e-commerce business!), to The Lean Startup by Eric Reis, to Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz. The take-home message of all three books comes down to: “Know your customer.” Steve Blanks formulated the reason for the importance of knowing your customer (quite poetically) as follows: “The path to disaster is the product development model, the path to epiphany is the customer development model.”
The importance of ‘Customer Discovery’
The first step to understanding your customer should always be “customer discovery.” In other words: What makes your customer tick? However, the road from knowing next to nothing about your customer to understanding their intricate thought process isn’t easy.
Unfortunately, a course teaching you to understand your customer doesn’t exist. So instead, it seems that we are forced to keep to the ye’ olde ways of keyword research and competitor copycatting. This is the most well-known method in the e-commerce business. We assume that as long as we are somewhat identical to the competition, our product will receive at least a slice of the revenue pie.
This is the entire Amazon FBA business model in a single sentence, isn’t it? As Amazon Sellers, we believe the only way to win is by playing dirty or investing tons of money in heavy launches, tricks, and gimmicks. This is what we believe because it’s what everyone else does.
What if there was another way of winning the Amazon game? A way that leads to understanding your customer?
What the data says
Intellivy has been analyzing successful launches on Amazon for years. With the data we have derived from Amazon, a pattern has emerged that allowed us to understand what a successful, mediocre, and bad product is in the eyes of the customer. We extracted data from monitoring over 200K listings per day on Amazon (Amazon never allows this):
- The recommendation engine;
- The trends of products from just starting out without any reviews to remaining a steady bestseller;
- The dirty tricks played by the bad guys;
This taught us that sometimes, the blackhat tactics work, at least until recently. Sometimes, the bad guys leave a hardworking e-commerce business in the dust. They knock your product — the one that earned its bestselling spot with blood, sweat, and tears — off its throne.
But another pattern we uncovered is that the ‘old emperor’ — when it is stable enough and has a long track record — will be getting back on its feet again and again. No dirty tricks needed. It will return to its stable place at the top.
We’ve been doing a thorough analysis to find the cause for it, studied all the quantitative and qualitative data points, and compared them with our own brands and the thousands of launches we’ve been involved in. The one thing that gets products launched and keeps top sellers in their position despite heavy attacks, is this: they have great products (not always higher quality), speak the language of their consumers, and focus on elements that are exactly what their customers want. Sometimes with very subtle differences that are hard to notice for the untrained eye.
Why would this matter to you? The message that the good guys will overcome the bad guys, in the end, might be a hopeful one, but why should you care when your product has just gotten knocked off the bestseller spot? Well, because dirty tricks will never be a long-term solution. They are a sleazy and corrupt way to gain short-term success only.
With the right data, your product will be transformed into something that speaks the language of the customer and will (re)take the bestseller spot by storm.
Listening to your customer is where it all starts
This is what speaking the language of your customer is all about: Ears to the ground, listen, interpret, test, validate, and thrive. Repeat this every few months to keep up with the changes in the market. When you fail to do so in a systematic way, you will always be late. Too late. Others will thrive, while you will have a hard time. Instead, start with extracting data from customers. ASAP. And never stop.
Don’t do this:
- Copycatting. The road well traveled seems like the obvious choice. It’s not. It’s too crowded with short-term solutions and e-commerce businesses that don’t care about the customers’ wants.
- Making decisions based on gut feeling. You are biased. Your decisions are biased. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. Gut feelings can’t be trusted when your business is on the line.
- Bleed money everywhere. 97.9% of launches on Amazon will never cross the 10 units per day mark. Be like the 2.1% and understand what your customer wants. (And make money!)
Instead, do this:
- Find out what customers want today and develop products accordingly. Test and validate today’s market.
- Support your business decisions with quantitative and qualitative data.
- Only launch products after validation, with certainty in a way that increases the chance of success by 95%
From assumption to validation
Non-data-driven decisions are rooted in bias. It’s assuming that you found a solution for a problem and thinking that your solution is better than what the market is currently offering. The question is: Do customers agree with you or is your gut-feeling lying to you? As long as you don’t validate your gut feeling through data, it will always stay an assumption — a non-data-driven decision.
A quick fix to going from gut feeling to validation is not asking your spouse, best friend, or neighbor. You have to get from behind your desk and start talking to people that are close to your target audience and are not biased towards you or your product.
To make the input reliable, it is important to also quantify the feedback you get from this group. Talking to people is the first step, and quantifying these data is the next. Only then will you be able to decide if your product or solution is equal or better.
Let the numbers speak for themselves: All e-commerce unicorns went this route and thrived, where a gazillion others failed miserably. Let that be your guide.