Traditional TV shopping is so inefficient, what with the need to jot down phone numbers and call to order the product that just dazzled the viewer in a deep state of couch potato stupor. The process might take all of … a couple minutes. Now, with the help of Facebook, cell phones, TV remotes, web videos—and, for some reason, Hulk Hogan and 50 Cent—buying stuff advertised on TV can be accomplished even more quickly, with less time to think things through.
Infomercial products are odd things. At first, a product that’s “not sold in stores” seems special—a little out reach, and therefore a little more desirable. But when you think about it, the main reason they’re not sold in stores is probably that the typical shopper wouldn’t buy them there. When seen on TV, in the moment of the cheesily excited pitch, the product seems almost as amazing as the people paid to be there claim. Studies have shown that these pitches actually raise dopamine levels in the brain, though the high wears off in few minutes—which is exactly why the ads inevitably end with enticements to “Call Now!”
But in a store, without the smiling, hyped-up pitchman, without the wide-eyed audience members testifying to the product’s capabilities with cult-like approval, and without the feeling that this is something you can’t buy just anywhere, the same product looks like yet another weird overpriced gizmo you can easily live without.
Despite all of the knocks infomercial products have against them, the truth is that the ads work. People buy this stuff. And now, they’ll be able to buy it more quickly, in the heart of those dazzling dopamine-tweaking pitches.
The folks who run the “As Seen on TV” line of products are developing all sorts of technologies to bring impulse shopping to all new impulsive levels, according to the NY Times. Here’s one of the developments, which has a fittingly creepy name, “audio fingerprinting”:
This fall, the company will roll out technology it calls audio fingerprinting, which will enable cellphones to decipher which infomercial a user is watching after the phone is held up to the television. The user will then be sent to a mobile Web site where the product can be bought through the cellphone.
The company also has plans to create a system in which ordinary TV remote controls could be used for one-click buying right off the screen, and to introduce Facebook pages where consumers can purchase products directly. It will also flood its hundreds of thousands of subscribers with web videos featuring pitchmen like wrestling legend Hulk Hogan and rapper 50 Cent hawking household cleaning products, high-end earphones, and the like. The Hulkster is a strong guy, and therefore he should know a thing or two about strong cleaning products, get it, brother?
But will speeding up the buying process really have much of an impact on sales? Are people really more likely to buy if they can do so in, say, four seconds, rather than the “old-fashioned” method that might require a phone call and, say, four minutes? Um, yes, according to insiders quoted by the Times:
“If we have the opportunity for them to see a commercial and to react that quickly, the chances for us to make a sale increase dramatically,” said Kevin Vick, a partner with Boston Ideas, which owns Bright Feet, a product that combines fuzzy house slippers with LED lights so people can see as they walk in the dark. “This takes several steps out. In our society today, we want it now, we want it faster.”
Well, one thing’s for sure: The businesses selling these products want consumers to be able to buy them now, and buy them faster. Giving the consumer time—any time whatsoever—to think before making a purchase is bad for business.
In any event, I want to see an infomercial for these light-up slippers. They sound pretty amazing.