How to Sell a Product by Appealing to the Senses
In a marketing sense, tangible products are the ones which you can see, touch, taste and smell. Intangible products on the other hand cannot be seen or touched, and include things such as insurance, web development, consultancy, tutoring, etc. The main difference between the two is that whenever faced with a purchase decision, a consumer can test tangible products in advance, whereas intangible products can only be acquired based on the promises of satisfaction.
Despite the obvious differences, the backbone of this discussion is on the notion that all products have aspects of intangibility, including the ones that are tangible/physical. The intangibility ultimately creates a subconscious room for doubt whenever customers are faced with a purchase decision. Let’s first see exactly how every product has elements that are intangible.
The way that tangible products have a degree of intangibility is in the sense that there are limitations to the levels which consumers can test the physical product. For example, when you intend to buy toothpaste – a tangible product, you have no guarantee that the content inside the tube is actually toothpaste. And since it may not be practical to open and crosscheck before making the purchase, you can only resort to the promises made through it’s presentation.
In that sense, the tube of toothpaste has a degree of intangibility because a customer would be making a purchase decision based on the product’s presentation and the promises that the actual product will match their expectations.
Intangible products on the other hand are purely just promises made to the prospective customers. How could a customer foretell if the services of a bank or an insurer would match his or her expectations? What the customer is buying are the promises that the vendor has made, to deliver the service. There is no guarantee that the service actually will match their expectations.
Their decision to trust the seller is subconsciously made through the assurance they get when the seller say ‘yes, I can do that for you’, and through the recommendations of previous customers. That natural consumer conditioning is covered more profoundly in the post ‘Understand this Common Consumer Behavior for an Advantage in the Market’.
Why a product’s presentation matters more than you think
Consumers are usually subconsciously aware that at any given time they might be spending money on a product which is not in perfect order. There are usually certain elements which are not so easy to verify. For instance, when purchasing a new laptop, you could easily test the speakers and the keyboard, however it is not likely that you will test the processor sockets, IDE and SATA ports inside the motherboard – which could be dysfunctional. Most average people will not go to those extremes. The product’s presentation, however, (the box, the manual, the specifications, etc) is what gives you reassurances over the things that are not practical to test – the intangibles.
As for products that are purely intangible, since a customer can also not determine the outcome beforehand, what they would be buying are nothing but the promises of delivery. New businesses often lack brand identity and the natural state for a consumer who cannot relate with a brand is to be doubtful. It is no easy task selling promises to consumers that do not trust you. The presentation is what usually closes the deal.
We all depend on external impressions to help us make judgments, and the impressions translated into performance. In order to give confidence over the intangible elements, a product’s presentation has to be appealing and reassuring. Products that are purely intangible will be judged based on their surrounding attributes; that is who, where and how it was presented.
In the best seller ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, Robert Cialdini explains that physical attraction is a key factor for people to naturally gravitate towards someone or something. That is also why many service oriented businesses such as hotels, restaurants and airlines coincidentally hire the most physically attractive people to represent their brands. A good looking waiter or waitress gives a restaurant a good look.
How to sell products and gain a competitive advantage
Our purchase decisions are highly influenced by our opinion of the attributes surrounding a product or service, including the salespeople. The most state-of-the-art TV might be in the hands of a mediocre sales person who does a terrible presentation to the prospective buyer, and the sale fails to go through not because of the TV, but the presentation.
In order to give consumers confidence over your products, it is vital to boldly present the intangible elements through the external presentations; whether in the packaging – for tangible products, or the sales presentation – for intangible products. The product absolutely needs to give reassurances through its presentation.
Mercedes Benz does not only market the mechanics of their cars, but also luxury and comfort – which are intangible experiences. Harley Davidson does not sell only motorbikes, but also freedom and independence. That is how to sell a product and gain a competitive advantage in the market by appealing to the senses that aid in making purchase decisions.