"As a new entrepreneur, doing everything alone can be pretty overwhelming and tedious. Working with Jane helped me develop personally and professionally. Jane taught me the importance of sitting down and having a structured plan written out of short and long-term goals, which helped me keep track of what needs to be done and that it's not a lot like I thought. Working with her was fun and refreshing; every meeting gave me valuable knowledge, like learning about pain points and customer's voices. But, what helped my business was when she helped establish the vision I have for the company and the mission statement."
- Isaiah Anderson, owner of Cosygaming
A high-level overview of problems identified and solutions we crafted.
It was extremely humbling to meet Isaiah. I was surprised to learn that he called into our meetings from the Middle East, where he is stationed as a U.S. Marine. In our first call, Isaiah told me he never saw himself in an office job. At the young age of 20, he founded Cosygaming while he was in the military. As an avid gamer, his store sells gaming chairs, gaming equipment and peripherals. Isaiah partners with local suppliers in the US and sells directly to customers from the supplier’s warehouse.
As a young entrepreneur, Isaiah had overcome many challenges of setting up his business. There were two hurdles he said he needed guidance on:
A behind-the-scenes look at how we work and all the insights we uncovered while working with the client. The process listed below is only a small glimpse into the insights we've discovered.
Isaiah was struggling to get sales. He ran ads and had traffic to his Shopify store, but was getting few sale conversions. There are various factors that could get in the way of a sale conversion, perhaps the checkout process isn’t functioning as it should or perhaps customers don’t have enough information about the product to commit to the purchase. Maybe customers found a better deal elsewhere with faster shipping. The list of reasons are endless. When I tackle the question of conversion, I always like to start at the root of the problem and ask this fundamental question: why do customers want to buy your products?
In general, we buy products that either relieve pains or create gains. Think about your own purchases in your life. You bought them because you needed them to help you look professional, to make you smarter, or maybe to save time. So, to reframe the original question, how can Isaiah relieve pain points or create gains for customers? Let’s take one step back: what are customer’s pain points?
When I looked at Isaiah’s Shopify store, I had a hard time understanding what his value proposition was. What does he offer other than products that I could easily buy on Amazon? Amazon has more credibility and wider selection of products. Why would a customer buy a chair from him instead of Amazon?
With little domain knowledge of gaming chairs, I went on Reddit to conduct social listening so I can get into the customer’s mindset. I discovered a community called r/gamingchairs where users post questions about products and ask for recommendations. It was rich with insight as users shared their honest opinions and pain points.
To help me sort through the data, I conducted a thematic analysis of 20 posts. The process for this analysis is to look at the individual posts line by line and code it. Coding means to assign a category. For example, one user commented that “[The] chair my father had broke super fast” would be categorized under durability. A user who posted a photo of their new chair with the caption “Just got the titan from secret lab!” would be categorized under showing off. Another user who asked “Does anyone here gave any experience with the cougar fusion?” is looking for advice from peers so this is categorized as peer authenticity. Finally, once I am done coding all the posts, I group them into themes.
Here are some of the insights we learned:
In general, the biggest pain point customers had was lack of information and trust. Customers would discover new products that had no reviews or information and need feedback. Even if reviews existed, customers wanted to hear firsthand experiences from their peers. Customers consider gaming chairs as an investment, and they do their research to be informed about their purchase.
Does Isaiah’s store provide information that educates customers about his products and does he establish credibility as an expert?
Based on the research conducted, I advised Isaiah to talk more about himself on the About page and present himself as a gamer. He will be more relatable this way and customers will more likely trust him. Another recommendation I made was for him to go into the r/gamingchairs community on Reddit and answer questions by users. It is a way for him to develop expertise in the field while helping him understand the problems customers face. I wish more merchants interacted with the community their customers hang out in because they will develop a customer centric mindset and provide products and services customers want.
Another aspect that I learned was that the market for gaming chairs is too large to navigate. Customers might spend a lot of time narrowing products they want to buy. Isaiah’s store offers a huge inventory of products, he needs to justify why they are in his store. For example, JetPens sells stationery from Asia and one of their big selling points is that they test all products before putting them on their store. They have been around since 2005, so they must be doing something right.
Based on the first insight, I recommended Isaiah to restructure his Shopify website so that he appeared as a peer. The copywriting on his former website felt cold and distant. Since Isaiah was a gamer himself, he should be presenting himself as one. Customers are more likely to form a connection with him because they can relate to him as a gamer.
The other piece to the puzzle of why Isaiah isn’t getting sales is understanding his brand positioning. This means we need to understand how he fares among his competitors. I asked Isaiah what he thought his advantage over Amazon was? He said:
"My weapon is customer service”
As a seller, you will have different levels of competitors. In Isaiah’s product category, he needs think to think about how he differentiates from the following:
I asked Isaiah to do his own research the competitors and analyze how they present themselves as a brand. It was fascinating to hear him talk about his findings. This exercise completely transformed him and he was thinking differently about business. This was so important to me because at The Better Melon, we aren’t here to just do the job and move on. We are here to teach entrepreneurs to think long-term. This exercise allowed him to see his competitors as a customer and it gave him insight to the customer’s mindset
“It gave me an idea of how customers see companies. I was visiting their site as a customer and it gave me an idea of what these brands were striving for”
His findings when analyzing Amazon:
“When I was going through Amazon’s website, I didn’t know what Amazon was going for previous to doing the research. I found that they are a very ambitious company. Essentially, they want to be the number one company in the world. They want to be the best Earth’s employer and the safest place to work at. They just want to be everywhere.”
As a consumer, we don’t think too much about what companies are doing behind the scene. As an entrepreneur, you start to pick up on things that are usually invisible to consumers. If you ask any Amazon customer what Amazon’s vision statement is, they probably don't know it. The fact that Isaiah was starting to see what a typical consumer wouldn’t was amazing growth.
Isaiah gained new inspiration on how he should move forward with his brand.
“It gave me inspiration on how to further build my brand and build my image. Right now when customers go to Cosygaming, they just see a site that just sells gaming chairs, but I don’t provide enough information about my company to tell them who we are and what we strive for.”
He was starting to see that it’s not about products. It’s about the things around it. It’s about what brand stands for.
“The one I least liked was Chairs4gaming. They don’t give enough information about their company…it just feels like they are a store that just sells chairs. They say they strive for the best customer service, but when I actually look at their site, it’s mostly just focused on selling the product…they don’t reach out to their customers…it seems as they don’t try to segment to their customers. It gave me a way to understand what not to do on my site.”
“Herman Miller focuses a lot on design, the one thing they have over me is they can manufacture their own chair and design specific chairs for customers, while I can only sell chairs my suppliers sell. They’re very community based, they want to make a difference in their community. That’s their strength. They incorporate community into their products. So they might say they use design to unite people in the community, and I felt this was interesting because they used a broad idea of uniting the world as the focal point of their products and content. So they make customers feel wanted or needed. It feels like this company is trying to speak to me at a personal level. I find it interesting that a company that started out selling furniture has grew to a company that is involved in a variety of things outside of just selling furniture. They’re involved in community activities, building a better world, and a better future. At the same time, they also sell to customers that I sell to.”
Overall, our analysis of his competitors helped us identify his strengths:
To get more sales, Isaiah would need to focus on building direct relationships with customers to gain their trust. He also needs to think about how he could build a community around his brand.
Another suggestion I made to Isaiah was for him to actively develop expertise in his product category. One way to do this simply is to go on the forums where customers hang out and just answer questions. There are a lot users on Reddit who need recommendations for their next chair investment. Even if he didn't have the answers on-hand, he could do the research and answer questions to the best of his ability. Building expertise makes him more valuable to his customers. Another way he could do this is to offer consultations for customers. He has a lot of products in his store and he could help his customers narrow it down while getting to know about their needs, maybe he could help customers piece together the ultimate gaming setup. When I bought my Aeron chair from Herman Miller, I was interacting with a sales consultant who answered my questions and helped me customize my chair as needed. I met her in-person at the showroom to try the chair. This relationship helped me feel assured that if I had an issues in the future, I knew I would be taken care of. Having expertise as a merchant makes you more than a seller, you become a consultant with knowledge that is extremely valuable to customers.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear how ambitious Isaiah was when I asked him what his vision was:
“My vision is to create a platform for gamers to come to”.
Isaiah’s passion for gaming drives his desire to help other gamers to focus on the game and not be distracted by poor equipment. One of the challenges he had was not having a clarity on what his strategy was. A strategy always starts with the brand. I worked with Isaiah to build this foundation.
First, we start with brand values. Here is the condensed list we came up with:
Isaiah’s vision was formed early on in our meetings. I wanted to push him to go beyond selling products, be a place that’s more for your customers. I encouraged him to think about content that isn’t about the chairs, but on helping gamers grow. How could he help gamers who want to learn how build a career as a Twitch streamer? Or help those who want to enter e-sports competitively? Maybe his content could feature other gamers and tell their stories. What about interviewing Twitch streamers and asking them about their setup? I think this type of direction is a lot more promising for Isaiah. Isaiah was excited about this new development:
I feel excited and overwhelmed. What I like to do is envision my future of when I succeed. I saw myself as a moderator that [people] can come to, an expert in the gaming community, with a wide variety of knowledge regarding e-sports gaming. So anytime someone comes to me for a question, I can answer it.
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