Anatomy of a web solution: the case of the golden converter.

In our search for a better use of the web we can fall for the usual obstacles of fancy technology, nice design or popularity; but real solutions with an impact on our bottom line need a business anchor like the one illustrated by the case of the golden converter.

Platinum "cool" fountain pen
Platinum “cool” fountain pen

While looking for his next fountain pen, our consumer stumbles upon the Platinum Cool, a clear or “demonstrator” fountain pen made by Platinum of Japan. While researching other consumers’  experience with this pen he forms an opinion on its performance (nib, flow, ergonomics), design, desirability and accessibility (price).

Platinum converter
Platinum converter

He uses his pens with converters, as opposed to cartridges, but then finds a problem: the only converter Platinum apparently sells has a golden part which he intensely dislikes, and would show through the transparent pen. In the old economy, this would be the end of the story, our consumer loses interest and Platinum loses a sale.

Goulet Pens sanded converter
Platinum Cool with Goulet Pens sanded converter

In the new economy our customer searches for “platinum converter silver” and lo and behold, finds an answer from a Platinum distributor (with whom TheGreatVine has no relation), in the form of a web page with a video and text which explains how the converter can be disassembled and the annoying golden bit sanded; he even mentions the material that can be used.

The result is that the brand recovers potential sales, the distributor earns the gratitude of potential customers and thus potential sales, even if the price elsewhere is lower.

The lessons from this case are:

  • Breadth of the experience: Our consumer’s experience begins way before he sets foot in a physical pen shop (if he ever does), and ends much later (all those who have the pen but were unhappy about the golden converter and ask related questions, all those who try the solution and say whether it works or not).
  • Depth of the experience: our consumer now knows that the product can be customized to his needs.
  • Someone from the brand or distribution channels must know enough about consumers and their tribulations, about the product, and have the right incentives to be able to offer a solution.
  • The web solution itself has two parts: (a) it needs to be found, in this case through the keywords consumers are using (platinum converter silver), and (b) it needs to be easy to understand (both in text and during the video), in other words we value ease of use much higher than fancy technology. The solution proposed (website and video) must also be easy and cheap to produce.
  • In this case the brand is out of the loop, while it should be giving its distributors the incentives to generate this type of solution.