Is It Hard to Sell Artisan Products Online?

The ecommerce industry is booming, and I don’t know anyone who questions that fact.  Amazon, the largest online retailer, is a household name.  The vast majority of brands who sell physical goods have online distribution.

So, why is it more challenging for some types of artisan products to sell online?  I have spent a LOT of time digging into the weeds in this issue, and often that with e-commerce experts and online media buyers about this topic.

However, I see fewer e-commerce success stories in the scented products space than I do in other categories.

Why is this?  

Well, I can’t make factual or data-supported conclusions, but I have a theory. And I am confident that it makes sense, so here you go.

We shop with our senses.  

When you go to buy something like jewelry, you look at a photo of the item (let’s say earrings), and often see a photo of a person wearing the earrings.  

If I close my eyes, I can imagine what I would look like wearing the earrings.

Same thing with clothes, we almost always want to see a photo of a person wearing the outfit so that we can imagine what we would look like in the same clothes.  

Because of this, many retailers are using different sized models, because  if you are a size 10, and only see the outfit on someone who is a size 2, it is harder to imagine what you would look like.

Now, with a scented product (let’s use a candle as an example) one of the primary reasons people burn candles is for the scent that they contribute to a room.  

So, if I show you a photo of the candle, how does that help you imagine how your house would smell once it was lit?

If its a tropical scent (let’s say coconut and mango), I could show you a photo of a beach, but does that really let you imagine the experience in the same way that the photo of a woman wearing shoes does?

No, not at all.  

This is why there is an inherent challenge selling products that are experienced primarily though smell or taste.

The wine industry has the same challenge selling wine online.  As an industry, they have created an entire language of coded meanings to allow one person to describe a taste in a way that another wine lover can understand with specificity (telling someone it taste like wine is not sufficient).

What does this mean for people who sell scented products?  

Your job is tougher.  

You have to use words, and images in a deeper way than other categories.
People like to use their imaginations, but that is a subjective art form, and as a marketer, you need to control that as best you can.  

For example, back to my tropical candle example – if you tell me the candle a tropical scent, that might mean something different to you than to me.  

So, if I want you to imagine something REALLY specific, I have to actually paint that picture in such a way that you can use your senses to FEEL what I want you to feel.

OK – close your eyes.

Imagine you are sitting until a palm tree, lying on a lounge chair.  A bird is cawing in the background and you watch a gecko explore a pile of rocks at your feet.  It is hot out, but the shade and light breeze protect you from the bright sun.  In your hand is a frozen cocktail that your friend just handed to you, and the first sip is a rush of creamy coconut, tangy mango and juice pineapple.  At that exact moment, nothing has ever tasted more delicious or refreshing. Life could not possibly be more beautiful or magical than it is at that moment. If only it could last forever.

That is an example of how one could create a detailed picture that someone could literally imagine and temporarily feel the feels that you could feel in that situation.

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