If a pack of Pokemon cards cost under $7 new, how much do you think an unopened pack would go for on e-bay?
What if the seller told an amusing story about that particular pack of Pokemon cards in the product description – would you bid more based on that? Do you think others might?
Sounds silly, but based on a real-life incident, one mother collected $103.50 from the top bid (out of 44 other bids) on her pack of Pokemon cards simply because people fell in love with the story she told about how she came to own the cards in the first place. Nothing changed about this under-7$ pack of cards except for the story.
And now, one of the coolest web projects I’ve seen in a while is attempting to recreate a similar phenomenon with a variety of objects but with a really cool twist – they want the buyer to know that the story behind the object is fake! Here’s how the project website describes the process:
“The project’s curators purchase objects — for no more than a few dollars — from thrift stores and garage sales.
A participating writer is paired with an object. He or she then writes a fictional story, in any style or voice, about the object. Voila! An unremarkable, castoff thingamajig has suddenly become a “significant” object!
Each significant object is listed for sale on eBay. The s.o. is pictured, but instead of a factual description the s.o.’s newly written fictional story is used. However, care is taken to avoid the impression that the story is a true one; the intent of the project is not to hoax eBay customers. (Doing so would void our test.) The author’s byline will appear with his or her story.
The winning bidder is mailed the significant object, along with a printout of the object’s fictional story. Net proceeds from the sale are given to the respective author. Authors retain all rights to their stories.
The test’s results — photos, original prices and final sale prices, stories — are cataloged on this website. The project’s curators retain the right to use these materials in other venues and media. For example: Maybe we’ll publish a book.” [emphasis mine]
Go ahead and treat yourself to a few of the objects’ stories, you’ll get sucked in, I promise you. And what’ll you want to bet that these items end up selling for far more than the “few dollars” paid for them?
There is a dangerous assumption that because the public demands more straightforward or honest copy, that the best bet is to simply provide little factoid like bullet points rather than actual, detail-rich product copy. Here’s an example of bullets vs. copy taken from a flip-flop manufacturers website:
So focus in on the first, fourth, and final bullet points, if you would. What you’ll find are the following facts:
So here’s the question: do you think a little storytelling on the reasoning behind and development of the 2-piece bottom and Crosslite topsole might help increase the perceived value of these flip flops?
Just as an example, here’s what the bottom of the shoe looks like (courtesy of Zappos):
Now, do you think the two piece design might allow the shoe to flex more easily with your foot? Do you think that might improve the comfort and possibly even eliminate or minimize the annoying flapping sound generated by most flop flops?
What if the company told you that this 2-piece sole was born of extensive gate-testing of 100s of flip-flop designs?
Would you pay more for the flip flop knowing that?
Same thing with Crosslite. I’m betting a good story about it’s odor fighting properties, especially regarding how and why crosslite can fight foot odor, would also up the sandals perceived value.
As of now, the flip flops go for $35 on the company’s website, and slightly more than that from Zappos. That’s about $15 cheaper than a pair of Reef Fannings. Now, I don’t own a pair of Ocean Minded Sea Weeds, but I’d bet they’re roughly comparable to the Reef Fannings in terms of construction, fit, comfort, etc. And I’d also bet that much of the Fanning’s popularity is tied up in the story behind:
Yes, I’m probably simplifying things a bit. I realize Reef is a bigger brand name than Ocean Minded and that the Fanning flip flops also have Nike-like air cushioning in the heal. But from where I’m sitting, a good origin’s story just might account for the majority of that 42% increase in asking price.
Will you always be able to charge more because of a good story or great product description? No.
Sometimes you’ll just sell the item more easily, which usually translates into selling more of that item. If I’m trying to decide on a pair of flip-flops to buy, there’s a chance that I simply won’t pay the same for a no-name brand than I will for a pair of reefs. But that I might buy a brand like Ocean Minded’s at a discount as long as I had a reason to trust their quality. And that’s where the product development stories come in: the stories would increase the sandal’s saleability, if not the actual selling price.
So, rather than only 1 visitor in 50 pulling the trigger on a pair, the right storyline might cause 1 in 5 browsers to buy. You didn’t increase margins, but you did boost your volume and conversion rate, which is a lot more than industry-standard bullet points can ever claim.