Surprisingly, Most people do not know the difference between features and benefits. Although they may seem similar, they are actually quite different.
What is the Difference Between a Feature and a Benefit?
A feature pertains to the attributes of a product or brand. But a benefit answers the question “What’s in it for me?” In other words, a benefit is what- or how a feature provides the customer with some sort of value. This understanding of a feature’s value to them is what attracts him or her to a particular product, service, or brand.
The 4 Types of Features
Feature #1: Style
It’s no secret that we are visual creatures. We like things to look a certain way–analyzing form, symmetry, color, lines, and size.
This particular feature is nearly exclusively used when marketing products. I say ‘nearly,’ because there are a few services where their style makes up a great portion of their individuality as a brand, and functions as a key feature.
A good example of this is when Hurt’s Donuts sent “Cupid” to deliver donuts to various offices for Valentine’s Day. (Warning: the link may not be appropriate for work–but it’s hilarious). In this scenario, while the shop sells donuts, their eccentric style of service earned them a viral video–not the style of the donuts themselves.
For the most part, however, ‘style’ is mainly used with product advertising. It allows products to catch consumers’ eyes and serves as the first impression of whether or not a particular product might meet their needs.
You know the saying, “first impressions matter?” Well, if you place two products in front of consumers with identical functions and price tags, consumers will choose the “prettier” option nearly every time. This is also where color psychology comes in, but that’s a topic for another post.
I recently purchased a Shark vacuum cleaner. As far as style went, I didn’t really have many requirements for something that was going to spend most of its days in my closet. All I wanted was a small brush to reach under furniture and a few hose attachments. Both of these features were part of the vacuum’s form, rather than its function, experience, or quality–although the form would lead to benefits via all of those features!
Feature #2: Function
One of the main concepts that drive people to start the sales process is when they realize they have a need to be met. This, in turn, makes them question exactly what is required to fulfill their needs–essentially, what functions a certain product must have.
For example, when purchasing my vacuum cleaner, a unit that was self-propelled, easy-to-clean, and could be used to clean a variety of places/objects were all features I considered necessities. I wanted
the hassle of cleaning to be as simple as possible.
While the attachments and smaller brush of said cleaner would both be considered styles, how the styles could be utilized are functions. In this case, the style easily allowed the vacuum to reach underneath furniture and switch between cleaning modes with the push of a button.
Feature #3: Experience
The ease or frustration when using a product is considered the consumer’s experience. After a consumer purchases a product, how well or poorly it can be utilized will certainly be shared with those in their sphere of influence. This feature is most iconically used when realtors show a house with freshly baked cookies. The fragrant aroma paints a pleasant experience in prospective homeowners’ eyes of what it could be like if they make this house their home.
But, experiences are subjective and sometimes even fickle.
When I purchased my vacuum, I was in love with how much lighter it was than the one I remembered using at my mother’s house. It was easier to push, had stronger self-propulsion, and made going between vacuuming carpet to tile so much more streamlined.
However, when my mother used it for the first time, she had much a different perspective. The style of the vacuum, to allow for the smaller brush, put most of the parts and weight of the vacuum in the handle, versus the wheels (like hers). This made it lighter to push and functionally-easier to reach tighter areas, but with her arthritis, she had a hard time maintaining her grip.
Differences made to style and function can have major impacts on user experience. This is why it is so critical to understand the demographics of your customers before you market certain styles or products.
Feature #4: Quality
A product can be the prettiest in the market, do the most activities, and be the easiest to use, but unless it’s very inexpensive/disposable, none of those features matter if it falls apart or stops working within a short timeframe.
A brief history on quality:
As lifestyles became more mobile, technologically-dependent, and nontraditional within the last few decades, companies started catering this change by producing disposable products with a cheaper price tag. Since everything was meant to simply be thrown away after the season or a few years, quality was the main feature to suffer. For those of us who try to be more frugal with our money and use products for an extended period of time, we found our devices breaking easier, clothes and shoes falling apart sooner, and products in general not being as durable.
In recent years, however, we have seen a big shift to try to limit our carbon footprint as much as possible and reduce our waste. This means reusable shopping bags, waterbottles, and even straws. This change has, thankfully, also forced companies to reconsider how quality plays a part in customer experience.
Durability and tangible aspects, however, aren’t the only quality features that play a part in customer experience. Intangible aspects such as taste and health effects also play vital roles.
The 5 Types of Benefits
- To save money
- To make money
- To provide security
- To provide convenience
- To save time
Benefit #1: To Save Money
One of the most common marketing strategies is to advertise how much you can save if you purchase one product versus a competitor’s. This can be done as directly as calling out the other brand/product or as indirectly as adjacent gas stations lowering their prices by a penny or two.
If a product or service is identical in all features and benefits except price, the cheaper option will be selected nearly every time.
Benefit #2: To Make Money
On the other hand, some products or services let you make money.
Investments, affiliate/influencer programs, and direct-selling companies all require consumers to put some money down for products and/or a future promise of getting back what they invested plus interest.
Benefit #3: To Provide Security
Some products or services like alarm systems or insurance have the sole purpose of protecting consumers’ property, interests, investments, or even themselves.
With this benefit, consumers will normally go as expensive as they can afford, as safety and peace of mind are usually considered priceless.
Benefit #4: To Provide Convenience
As lifestyles have become more mobile, products that allow consumers to communicate, learn, and work while on-the-go have become a necessity.
No one wants to be tied down anymore to a desk, an office, or even a city.
Benefit #5: To Save Time
Ironically, though we live in a time where technology is supposed to help us save time, we end up spending most of our time on technology.
Just as no one wants to be tied to a single location, no one wants to have to wait very long for a product to turn on, load, or even work. Products that are autonomous are rising in popularity.
Why Does the Difference Matter?
If a product (or salesperson) only touts features, it leaves all the work up to the potential customer to figure out the benefits. Making this connection for the potential client will help them make an educated decision and will also greatly increase conversion rates.