You Can Want To Be As Fast As Usain Bolt, But You’ll Never Be As Fast As Usain Bolt

Following Part 1 of this series, the Successfulness Bias which discussed why businesses should not study the successes of others but rather their avoidable pitfalls, we now move on to why you might actually be misled by studying business’ successes which is the fault of Illusionary Perspectives.


The Art Of Marketing and eCommerce Part 2: Illusionary Perspectives

In short, an Illusionary Perspective is one where you see success and want to replicate it, but don’t understand or appreciate exactly why that success has occurred.

Leading you to take actions that may not have the results you expected. Let’s give an example that many people concern themselves with: body weight and image.No doubt, either you or someone you know, has begun an exercise routine because you have seen how other people appear and attempt similar exercises, assuming you will achieve the same results. Whether you’re running, biking, swimming, climbing, playing basketball, or doing cross-fit it doesn’t matter. You see how other people have achieved success, want similar results, so attempt to do the same. What might not be considered is that if someone has an ideal body for running, biking, swimming, or climbing it might not be due to the activity itself. An activity does not dictate your physique or appearance as much as your physique dictates your pre-disposition to certain activities.

People are born with different physical attributes, many of which make certain activities easier. These attributes can largely determine what physical activities are chosen because their bodies are more suited and apt to doing them. Of course, a person can train their body for nearly any activity. But, that does not mean it is optimal for it. This is all to say you would be falling for the Illusionary Perspective Fallacy if you believe that because someone was successful getting in shape through a certain routine that you will be able to find the same success doing the same activities.

We can even look at how this fallacy is frequently used in marketing advertisements for women’s makeup. These ads allude to the fact that if you use their product you will become more beautiful. To prove this they show their makeup “in-action” which is essentially models being done-up and displayed in posh poses looking glamorous. But what exactly are these advertisements proving? The makeup did not make these women attractive or beautiful, the women were already good-looking. However, as the viewer, you are led to believe that by using this product you will transform into a glamour-girl. This is a most effective illusionary Perspective at play.

Let’s look at one last example. Harvard is supposed to be one of the best schools in the U.S, and many of their students have become highly successful. However, are their students successful due to the education they received, or was their success dependent more upon the schools rigorous selection of its students? Many of whom were motivated, driven, and likely to succeed anyhow. They do attract the most talented students to begin with. If that is in fact the case, it wouldn’t matter (really) where these students went to school. They had the passion, vision, and work ethic to make it happen, Harvard or not. Yet, the high price tag for attending Harvard is largely based on the idea that by graduating their prestigious school, you will be given greater tools, knowledge, and contacts (this point is likely true) than you could find elsewhere.

Again though, you have to consider where success is derived.

In the eCommerce and online space, this means that businesses should not make assumptions as to why success was achieved by others. That is of course unless you accurately study their business and attempt to remain unbiased and firmly keep in mind that Illusionary Perspectives can skew how things are viewed. When business managers and marketers read case studies about successful businesses and how they got there, and scan through countless articles online and in magazines about “The Top Ten Ways To Do Whatever”, you have to be extremely careful of what information, and more importantly advice, you extract from these pieces. Let’s say you read a piece on “The Top Key Performance Indicators (KPI) That Fortune 500 Companies Use”. Do you believe, if you are a small or medium sized business, you should be studying the same metrics as Coca-Cola, Apple, and Exxon? Should you even want to worry over the same set of KPI’s? Likely the answer is no. It is even more probable that your particular market has its own specific measurements that would make for better Key Performance Indicators.

Looking at successful businesses is one thing, it’s always nice to be educated and aware of successful strategy and tactical application. This type of examination is always good, certainly it is inspiring. But studying successful businesses can get you into trouble as you can be led astray as to what useful and worthwhile actions are (which is why you should rather study failed or failing businesses to learn better what to avoid doing: Part One: Successfulness Bias). Viewing a successful business and attempting to achieve similar success by strictly mimicking their actions (Illusionary Perspective) is probably one of the quickest ways to give yourself a wake-up call through failure. Most businesses don’t have the budget, marketing team, brand exposure, or anything else that Fortune 500 Companies have. How do you expect to be like them when you are still worlds apart? It’s also import to remember that What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”, another great example of Illusionary Perspective, again focusing on bad habits to avoid.

It’s like seeing how fit Usain Bolt is, you recognize he’s a runner, so you attempt to start a similar exercise routine. But you are no where near the same athletic strength, stamina, endurance, or body proportion of the fastest runner in the world. You’ll likely find that not only can you not do Usain Bolts exercise routine, you will never actually be able to. He’s the fastest runner of ALL TIME. There’s a reason for that and it’s simply that very few people can compete with him. Furthermore his success, like all other greats (Einstein, Mozart, Jordan, etc.) is entirely unique to those individuals largely due to their natural born physical abilities. They are great because they were born that way. Couple their natural born abilities with years of study and practice, and you have what we remember them by. The greatest of all time.

When we think about Illusionary Perspectives in business, and especially eCommerce, we come to one simple conclusion: Don’t be arrogant! Don’t assume yourself to be capable of things you are likely not capable of. The ego is an extremely convincing and menacing companion we have to deal with on a daily basis. Just be aware of when statistically the odds are stacked against you. This is not meant to dissuade or discourage, but to make realistic. Never rely on hope, and especially never on luck. Luck is little more than the residue of design. Design it accordingly, and chance, not “luck”, will be in your favor.

You should also remember that successful people themselves can rarely accurately identify what made them successful. The same goes for businesses, consultants, trend watchers, forecasters, economists, and so on. There are far too many factors in play to ever truly be able to identify what the overall success of a business can be attributed to. But we are able to accurately identify what those factors of success online actually are, which all successful ecommerce businesses have in common. This is not saying these factors lead to their success, but they are a common theme which makes them worth understanding. Each successful business has utilized these factors individually and in accordance with their business model, culture, and ability. Sure their equations for success may seem similar to one another, but often enough they find, cultivate, and grow their success by their own means

So what we’ll end this piece on are what some of those exact factors to success are. The task will then fall onto owners and managers to figure out the best way to achieve them, more specifically, the best way to achieve them individually and uniquely. Now of course this list will not explain how to find success, simply where it can be unearthed. It cannot be stressed enough that no single factor is more important than any other and that every factor needs to be considered. There are no real and meaningful quick-fixes online, and don’t expect to receive anything for free. Success takes hard work, that perhaps is one thing all successful people can agree on.

Universal Factors To eCommerce Success

  • High Traffic
  • Conversion Rates
  • Acquisition Costs
  • High Average Purchase Values
  • High User Time on Site
  • High Number of Page Views Per User Visit
  • Positive User Engagement
  • Brand Exposure (How many people know of you)
  • Brand Identity (How many people can spot your logo or brand name)
  • Brand Perception (How your brand is viewed by the public)
  • Market/Industry Leader (Total authority of voice)
  • Social Media Reach (Both platforms and number of users/followers on each)
  • Optimized Paid For Advertising
  • Good Site Health (Does every aspect of your website function properly and problem free)
  • Quality, Updated, and Reoccurring Site Content (Content is King!)
  • Quality Inbound Links (Still a strong search rankings metric)
  • Intuitive Onsite Link Structure
  • Natural Referrals
  • Websites with both Breadth and Depth (Google likes to see a website with some meat to it)
  • Keyword Focus (Not Stuffing or Over-Optimizing)
  • Clear Value in Product or Service
  • Shipping Costs
  • Return Policies
  • Checkout Process
  • Customer Loyalty
  • Customer Referrals
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile Website Usability
  • Security
  • Data Collection, Analysis, and Reporting
  • Payment Options
  • Warehouse/Inventory Management
  • And of Course Marketing/SEO

By now what should be apparent is that there are, far exceeding this list, many options that provide real and meaningful value to users, who in turn, you hope will convert into customers. Small and medium sized businesses do not have the time nor resources available to tackle each of these points individually and completely. Conversely, and the root of the problem for Illusionary Perspectives, big and successful businesses do. Everything concerning a website can be continually improved upon indefinitely, which means marketers and managers have to figure out where they can best provide the most value to their users every month. Can you reduce the price of your products by decreasing the cost of your overhead through warehouse management? How about providing a solid return policy once you receive more sales through AdWords? Can you attract more loyal customers through a loyalty program? What does all of this cost and what can be gained? Hopefully it’s clear that rarely will two businesses be able to use the same model, strategy, or tactic and have it work seamlessly and flawlessly for both. So it makes little sense to follow anyone’s path but your own. Be a trail blazer. Study your data. Come up with your own conclusions about problems. Determine your best solutions based on your data and analytics. In this way the plans you devise will be custom fit for your business, keeping them realistic, targeted, and agile. That is how you fully avoid falling into the trap of Illusionary Perspectives.