December 2, 2012

Think Geek Retail Genius – Creating a community experience in online shopping

Online shopping has evolved to feature virtually every option and dimension known and unknow to man.  Customer reviews, targeted post-purchase surveys, targeted recommendations for accessories and upgrades… things that proved difficult to convey in a trustworthy way in an analog shopping experience.

As time progresses, however, these new and shiny features have become the norm. Worse than that, they’ve become downright annoying! The holiday season of 2011 actually created so many online customer surveys that customers began to complain back to the stores. It wasn’t enough that we’d given you our money, now retailers seem to think that every customer wants a deep meaningful relationship.  Especially right after the holidays… (when all we want to do is hide our credit card under a pile of gift-wrap and weep quietly about how much this year cost!) Customer reviews have also become mid-level obnoxious, exposing online shoppers to online personas such as trolls. Overall, the online experience is nowhere near “great”, much closer to “convenient.”

Except at ThinkGeek.  Growing in popularity over the past 10 years, ThinkGeek provides “Stuff for Smart Masses”. From cult classic fans to hard-science lovers, the website provides the most and least feasible, useful, practical, and embarrassing items for power-nerds and –geeks all in one place. It’s like a Spencer’s Gifts that you don’t feel dumber after leaving. That on its own would be enough to win my heart (kid in a candy shop does not begin to describe it). More than that, though, is the impressive element ThinkGeek brings to online shopping through actually creating a community.

Before you say “Hold up, there’s this thing called the ‘Online Community’. It’s literally named the community”, let’s look at this site logically. Any fan worth their salt knows that those who watch Star Wars are not normally Star Trek fans. Game of Thrones knowledge may indicate a love for the nerdier things in life, but they may not have the need for caffeinated soap like a programmer does. All in all, the distinct groupings of those-who-love-things make for a diverse marketplace that is hard to serve. Not only do fans insist on novelty, we also require accuracy. And we’re tech-savvy enough to get that message out there.

Through the ThinkGeek product page format, groups are equally represented, and everyone gets a turn to talk. Each product page includes a humorous and relatable description of the item and its uses, written by real people who don’t have to push this product like their life depended on it. There are also pictures and videos taken by those who have already purchased it, adding authenticity and interest to otherwise monotonous written reviews. Finally, the comments boards are written similar to Facebook comments: everyone has a face, almost everyone is positive, and most importantly the people writing on the product wall haven’t usually bought the product. The boards are actually used as a place for fans to gather together and talk about how much they want something. Let’s talk group-enforced decisions, shall we?!

The community interaction of ThinkGeek doesn’t end with browsing either. Rather than just sending surveys, the TG team awards you “Geek Points” for every purchase. Not only are all shoppers considered “geeks”, but now you can show off just how geeky your taste is! The thrill of someone on the street recognizing those caffeine-molecule earrings is great, but fleeting. Geek Points are forever (or at least until you spend them on more cool stuff!)

I lift a glass of caffeinated eggnog in a novelty mug to your retail savvy and holiday cheer, ThinkGeek!