#IronSharpensIron: How B&H Builds Customer Relationships Beyond the Sale

Selling consumer electronics at retail (or online) is a tough business; customers are price-sensitive because they know that the product they want is the same no matter where they buy it from. Businesses with retail storefronts can try to work in the service angle, but regular consumers generally just want the product. Online, it’s even harder: a lower price is just one click away (aided by price-sorting search engines), and if a buyer doesn’t have any particular loyalty to your company, they’re often going to go where they can get the best price and free shipping. So how do sellers stand out from each other and compete on more than just price?

B&H, a New York-based company founded in 1973 and a stalwart of the NY camera scene, has found an interesting and unexpected way to differentiate itself. I bought a Nikon Z-6 camera from them a few months back, and I’d price shopped extensively before clicking buy. What initially drew me in was their Payboo credit card that would give me an instant refund for the sales tax. On a large purchase, that saved me hundreds of dollars. But wait, I said they differentiated themselves beyond just the price – what did they do that impressed me?

They did something I’ve never seen any other electronics retailer do: they told me how I could have a better experience with my purchase (and not with generic “tips and tricks” I never asked for). They sent an email that told me a software update for my camera was available and provided me with a direct link to get the update. This matters because digital cameras aren’t like phones that tell you when there’s a software update with improved features available; a non-connected device can’t alert the owner. Products rarely get registered with the manufacturer anymore – warranties don’t require it, generally – so the only company that knows what I own is the one I bought it from.

B&H is using that purchase knowledge to provide me with value beyond the purchase; this builds brand loyalty with customers and gives them something they didn’t even know they needed until they get the email. It’s another touchpoint that can lead to more sales. Between this experience and the Payboo card, I’m more loyal to B&H than ever before – I’ve purchased twice more since then and have more purchases planned.

Clearly this approach only works for a specific subset of products; software updates for cameras have gone from being obscure, geeky things that many owners never bothered doing to being exciting, news-worthy (in the camera world) events sparking the creation of beautiful splash pages. I’m sure there are other retailers that could leverage past purchase history to build more personalized communications with customers. Remember it’s much easier to keep a customer you already have than find a new one!

B&H is a great example of a company using data they have about a customer to extend and build upon the relationship with that customer – I hope more companies will take this approach. Have you seen other companies doing this? Let me know in the comments below.

Want more? Here are the other articles in my #IronSharpensIron digital marketing series.