Build It, And They Will Come
A good online experience is a good brand experience.
An acquaintance said this to me during a conversation about the advantages of investing in user experience versus investing in marketing. We had touched on a column by Mark Hurst, who writes about Amazon's strategy of foregoing marketing in favor of improving the customer experience in order to build the brand and increase revenue. Says Bezos:
We don't do any television advertising, and we take all of the money that we would put into television advertising, and instead put it into things like free SuperSaver shipping [free shipping on most orders over $25], lower product prices, category expansion, and invention of new features. We take those funds that might otherwise be used to shout about our service, and put those funds instead into improving the service. That's the philosophy we've taken from the beginning. If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.
Hurst continues in a follow-up column with another Bezos quote:
If the successful recipe [today] is spending 70% of your money shouting about your service and 30% producing a better service, over the next 20 years that will reverse.
So, where the heck am I going with this, you ask?
Well, some of you have noticed the three photos in the left columns, with the little "powered by Flickr" link. Flickr is a tremendously cool photo-sharing application that I signed up to use on Sunday. The thing about it is that it's so damn easy to use, and costs only about $3.50 a month, and provides so much storage space, that it's practically a no-brainer to sign up for if you ever want to share photos with anybody.
Sujal, in turn, has extolled the virtues of Flickr to a buddy at work who is currently a PBase user, and who is thinking of switching.
You can bet that if the experience I had on Sunday was average, I wouldn't have pushed Flickr so hard--it's my reputation on the line with these guys. I have experimented with home-grown solutions and other sites before, and Flickr made the pain go away. They've done it right, and they've done it extremely well.
So now you know about Flickr, and about the power of building a quality, easy to use product that is marketed by the power of word of mouth. Maybe this Bezos guy is on to something, eh?
(By the way, if you're interested, check out my Flickr photos!)