Why do consumers buy into niche brands? Is it because they can’t get the product anywhere else? Is it the cost – usually higher than the high street – that makes it feel exclusive? Or is it the personal touch? It’s the middle of the credit crunch and according to the news, consumers are tightening their belts. So why the increased interest in handmade, artisanal, personal products despite the expense involved?
Etsy is probably the greatest internet success story when it comes to the power of personal. Launched in 2005, hundreds of thousands of products are bought through the store each month. Handmade goods coupled with a fun shopping interface are a marriage made in heaven – it’s no wonder it’s been called the most ‘feel-good way to shop’.
The devil is in the detail, and the detail keeps consumers coming back. Etsy sellers enthuse about their products; they write their own descriptions and take their own pictures; they package their creations in tissue paper and shiny boxes; they write little thank you notes for you to read; they make each customer feel like a friend. Etsy is a fantastic platform, but it’s the interaction with sellers that makes each purchase special – that feeling is something you can’t get on the high street.
Abel & Cole
It’s not just the world of handicrafts where personal gives you an edge – niche brands have made inroads into food shopping too. Abel & Cole sell organic vegetable boxes and other organic goods – they’re not cheap and you can get organic food anywhere, so why are they successful? Is it because they know people work and hide the box in your garden, or because they include a recipe sheet each week, or because they tell you about the farmers? The whole buying experience is personal and that’s what gives it a feel-good factor.
Over the last few weeks discount codes for Graze boxes have appeared on Twitter – just like Abel & Cole this product is organic and expensive, yet it seems to have really taken off. You can choose which foods go into your box and create your own product, but that’s not the really personal bit. By marketing through Twitter Graze have utilised people you know – an endorsement from a trusted friend makes a product more personal than an endorsement from a shiny celebrity. The handmade look, the pictures of fields, the Twitter friends saying they love it – it doesn’t get much more personal than that.
What can the high street learn?
The high street can always compete on price but for many consumers that’s not the deciding factor. A handmade, special product and a personal, friendly shopping experience make those extra few pounds worthwhile. It’s funny to think that 50 years ago a personal service was the only service – we should take a leaf out of history’s book and try to recapture that connection. Whether it’s a human on the end of the phone, a way to customise your product or an endorsement from a friend, the power of personal is here to stay.