In a traditional brick-and-mortar store sense, the only direct interactions that companies had with people were limited to when they chose to come into the store. And, certainly, that is often not convenient or easy. People typically go into a store to make a purchase or research a purchase. It takes time and a proactive decision to do. And it is on that basis that what people are purchasing is framed. We still think of buying LeBron James athletic apparel as being limited to the apparel itself. However, we can re-define what is being purchased. Imagine if everyone who pre-ordered new LeBron James sneakers on the Internet also received or had access to these types of extras:
* Short, periodic emails from LeBron talking about his preparation for professional basketball
* Entry into a contest to be flown to Cleveland (where LeBron plays basketball) and have front row seats on opening night of his first game
* Access to a protected online multimedia experience of LeBron’s process of working with shoe designers, touring Nike’s facilities and otherwise being engaged in the process of helping Nike to produce his signature products (could also be a DVD that is shipped to each purchaser)
* Limited series of trading cards exclusive to the pre-orders of the sneakers
* Some sort of special, visible “smile” on the product (specially colored laces?) that delineate it as being a first-purchase Internet product
And these are just a small sample. But the point is that it would be painfully easy to build so many different facets into the experience. In so doing, they are deepening the Nike brand while making the very most of the LeBron brand. Even though this could theoretically happen in a traditional context as well – pre-order with the distributor, give them your information, they pass it on to Nike – it is more difficult from an infrastructure perspective. And besides, traditional stores aren’t thinking that way nor are they incentivized to do so. That level of experience needs to happen at the manufacturer level, and the volume of interactions that I am proposing above – a volume that truly can change behavior and make people look at what it is they are purchasing in an entirely different way – is optimized for a virtual business model.
Getting back to the issue of immediate gratification, it is the most immediate possible. The moment an interested purchaser first hears of a new, upcoming line of LeBron James apparel, they could go straight to the Nike website and make a pre-order. Then, immediately, they are taken to the video of LeBron working with designers, or sent an email from LeBron, or some other bit of immediate gratification that completely re-defines what is being purchased and is uniquely digital in its ability to gratify.