When trying to be a robot, remember to stay human

In an era where we have been hammered with the “truth” that the one that becomes most likeable by the computer technology’s crawlers and search tools will be the one that prevails, we sometimes forget that we need to be ourselves in order to compete. In fact, e-commerce is all about sales - which happens to be an ancient human art.

The old chinese proverb “A man without a smile should not open shop” rings true to this day. We are perfectly fine saying we would never return to a restaurant or shop that gave bad service, yet many modern e-commerce sites a lot of times don't even bother trying to be of service to their customers. Imagine going into a specialty store and being given a spec sheet from the manufacturer and nothing more to base your purchase decision on.

Seems rather ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet it’s more of a rule of thumb rather than exception when it comes to e-commerce. And this in turn makes you vulnerable - if you are not the one with the lowest price you will not win the customer, end of story. The solution to this is to become someone, basically the classic art of branding.

And yes, you could absolutely still sell Nike sneakers and “be someone”. The job required of you to achieve this is the one you would expect from any good shop salesman, and the tool you have at hand is your content, regardless whether the forms available to you is text, images, video or something else.  

Man vs Machine?

So, if you were to work with more editorial content, a lot of people would tell you that it will hurt your SEO. We would argue that it’s the contrary. Google is a tool for humans, and have been very frank about what they look for most of all is content that will resonate with the audience - other humans. In short - if people take a shine to your content, so will search engines.

And duplicating content that you will also find on other sites is therefore a big SEO no-no. As Google is working every day to become more human, you would make a mistake trying to be a robot.


Not quite there yet.

How to be human

And yes, it is absolutely possible to be human also in a machine context. There are of course many ways to do it, but here are four tips:

  • Be an advisor. Do a thorough customer journey work, and guide your visitors to what they should be looking for. Not only in terms of “related products”, but also to what people might be looking for instead. If you are selling running shoes you could (on a product page) ask: “Do you have low foot arches? If not, then this is not the shoe for you. Instead, have a look at these!”
  • Be brave. We love the example that premium Swedish/Danish audio retailer HIFI-klubben sets. They are confident in what they do and will not only give you pros of the product you are looking at, but will also tell you the cons. This does not only give them a possibility for upsales, but also to firmly establish them as an authority on their area of expertise.
  • Answer actual questions. The most common search behaviour is not to search for “Cars”. The search “What car has seven seats?” is probably a lot more common. And if you have site content trying to answer that question rather than focusing on generic specifications that others will have as well - it will do wonders for your search results.
  • Be your own. You have chosen to sell the products that you sell for a reason. You have chosen them from a wide selection of possible brands that you could sell, not the other way around. The products you sell are there to build your brand, not the opposite.


Being somebody

But in the end - it’s all about “being someone”, to establish your brand in the minds of your customers as offering more value than just being “the lowest bidder” on the price comparison sites. Don’t believe the old “truth” that there is no such thing as brand loyalty online. See it instead as an untapped possibility. Next time, the customer might just go to you first.