When the very best becomes the minimally acceptable

In the physical world, when you shop at a bodega you don’t instantly compare it to an experience at a high-end Dean & DeLuca. When you purchase headphones at the airport, you don’t compare it to the selection and speed of buying something at B&H.

But when we consume digital services or buy stuff online, something radically different happens — at least to me. I get very disappointed when any service doesn’t deliver what the very best service out there is doing. It’s to the point where I change my behavior or try to convince others to adopt the very best. It’s unfair, and doesn’t mirror the offline world, but it’s happening and I suspect it’s driving lots of consumer behaviors these days.

For example, when I purchase any physical product online, I expect shipping to take 2 days max, maybe even just one day. Which is what Amazon/Zappos has trained me to expect. Any service that doesn’t do that, will cause me to double check if I can’t just buy the same thing on Amazon.

I’m a huge fan and user of Uber Conference which allows you to do conference calls with a visual browser interface, provides stats, easy calendar hooks, and calling-in from Chrome. Now when I have to use some other conf calling service with a 10 digit ID and no way to see who is talking – I feel underserved. I try to get the sender of the conf info to switch.

So what’s the conclusion ? Bigger marketshare for the leading services ? Probably. Build something that is at least as good as what the very best is offering ? Yes, but tough to pull off on all fronts.

I think one definite answer to all of this is to do deeper integrations with the very best and build on top of these platforms. If you sell physical stuff, work with Amazon Fulfillment or something similar. Doing voice services, start with integrating Twillio. Building a publishing app, build on top of WordPress.

Otherwise I think you’ll find that your customers are going to turn away when a certain core feature isn’t the best.

6 thoughts on “When the very best becomes the minimally acceptable

  1. Very interesting observation, Raanan. I’m glad I clicked through. Expectations differ based on past experience and context. Upon entering a bodega the consumer probably immediately understands what it is and what to expect. We’re ok with a bodega not being Whole Foods because it serves its purpose and we intrinsically understand its role in commerce. It’s obvious from the exterior what to expect. For digital services (or services in general) this isn’t always the case. For the sake of argument (and who doesn’t like a good argument) let’s look at two specific use cases where I think there are sufficiently different expectations:
    1. Generally: consumers know they should expect different experiences in an app vs. on desktop. Hopefully not better/worse just different.
    2. Craigslist: isn’t it the bodega of the internet?

  2. Good thoughts.

    I think you are right that the physical experience with all it’s visual, smell, and other hints sets the expectations right away. Something that is mostly lacking in anything digital.

    With Amazon in particular I’m almost always using 1-click, so I spend so little time purchasing something that it’s really boiled down to it’s bare minimum in terms of interactions.

    > 1. Generally: consumers know they should expect different experiences in an app vs. on desktop.

    I find that people tolerate slowness even more on mobile apps. With a desktop experience they may wait a sec or two, but with mobile anything over .5 sec feels like an eternity.

    > Craigslist: isn’t it the bodega of the internet?


  3. Well, I think that’s how the leading service leave their competitor behind: by spoiling them with abundant features constantly until it becomes a habit or standard, that make it so “costly” to change into another provider / vendor. πŸ™‚ I’ve thought about this for a while, but I just think maybe that’s only me. Nice article.

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