Why You Should Sell Dreams, Not Just Products

Editor’s Note: This story contains one of our 10 Best Business Lessons of 2013. For the full list, click here.

Shauna Mei isn’t your typical MIT grad.

After graduating with a degree in computer science and electrical engineering, Mei dabbled in finance before transitioning to the world of luxury retail and design. She now serves as the CEO of AHAlife, a luxury e-commerce website that gives customers the opportunity to discover high-end items not commonly available online. Mei believes that her willingness to take risks with bold, dream-worthy products sets AHAlife apart from the crowd.

Shauna Mei

“I think there are too many shopping sites that will only put up what they absolutely think will sell,” she says. “I think what we believe in is building an absolutely amazing customer experience.”

In the retail frenzy leading up to last Christmas, Mei launched the AHA100, a list of the most-sought-after–if slightly unorthodox–products in the world. Customers could, were they so inclined and deep enough of pocket, purchase a $20,000 treehouse. Or, if they were even deeper of pocket, a $19.9 million private island, featuring a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house on the property.

“Those are ideas that we just kind of threw on there because they are really cool,” she says. “We didn’t think anyone would buy them.”

Surprisingly, at the end end of the promotion, the treehouse had sold. “When you give people a dream or a product that’s amazing, there is that customer out there that will buy it.”


Bottom Line: Experimenting with your product offerings can draw in unlikely customers

[Video produced by Shalini Sharma // Camera & Edit by Tony Ditata]