Running an online store in WordPress? Embrace the commitment curve and pave a pathway to ecommerce success

I know we’ve just had an 8-week election campaign and are settling in for an 8-week vote counting and coalition-forming period, and my colleague, Mark, used the election to highlight marketing messaging, but there is something else invaluable from the political process that can help you master ecommerce success with your online store.

It’s called the commitment curve.

US politicians seem to use it a lot more effectively than their Australian counterparts and Barack Obama’s team will probably go down in history as the pioneers in using the commitment curve theory for world-changing success.

So let’s take a quick look at what it means and then consider how you might use it to achieve ecommerce success.

What is the commitment curve model?

The commitment curve model was developed by Daryl Conner in the 1980s through his work in understanding and managing organisational change theory.

He noticed how we all are at different points along the pathway to commitment and at each of the main stages we face new challenges, obstacles, and questions that can either be answered or send us back to a less ‘committed’ level.

Daryl Connors' commitment curve diagram

As you can see in his diagram, at different points along our journey, such as ‘awareness’ we can be thrown off course by ‘confusion’, and so on and so forth.

The political world in the US has embraced this insight well by understanding that if you get people to take VERY SMALL STEPS at a time in understanding, then adopting, then supporting and then advocating for a candidate or party, you are going to be much more successful than by just asking people to take a massive step to your desired end goal.

In Daryl Conners’ diagram, this makes sense. Objections early on like confusion can be mitigated by clear explanations and listening to nuanced questions.

But if we try to ask people to jump into the deep end with us, we risk rejection and termination.

So let’s see how we might adapt these insights for your online store.

 Applying the commitment curve model for ecommerce success

Imagine you have a store that sells great quality products but they are pricey.

It is going to be hard to ask people to pay a premium right off the bat.

Instead, they will need to be guided along a pathway from awareness to understanding the quality and the reason for the higher pricing (the value proposition) and then to an option for buying a small amount (a sample or variety pack) before being ready to make a big ticket purchase with confidence.

Along the way, there will be questions and our job (well, yours actually with our help if you’d like it) is to anticipate and respond to those questions through the content marketing plan and customer/public engagement systems you have in place.

For example, if you are selling perishable goods, people might be keen to buy but nervous about what happens if your delivery is left out of refrigeration for a few hours or most of the day.

Or if you are selling a course or a set of therapy sessions, people might wonder what the experience is like, will the materials or interactions suit their style and needs.

By becoming clear about your customers’ journeys, you can map out the points along your own commitment curve and create resources and content (and preparation for when you deal with living, breathing humans) to be ready with a clear, safe and compelling pathway for them to progress to becoming your customers or clients and then powerful advocates.

Perhaps this week you might find a moment to think about what will be at the bottom of those red, downward arrows on Daryl’s diagram, for your business and your customers.

And after that, start paving!


Image: Stepping Stones by Lindz Graham via Flickr. CC BY 2.0