Archive for January, 2006

Disrupting the Buy Path

Ecommerce sites live and breathe conversion rate (or at least they should), or the rate at which visitors convert to buyers (orders/visits). Once you spend good dollars driving a visitor to your site, your main objective is to guide them to add an item to their cart and then complete checkout. There is no “average site”, but oftentimes the industry states that average conversion rates are around 2% – 4%.

Your navigation, item attributes and checkout path should be clear and free of obstructions to optimize the conversion potential for every visitor to your website.
In this example, the website offers a good product description for a Nikon Coolpix 7600 digital Camera, a good image with multiple shots, detailed specifications, many support options and an overrall conversion friendly design.

One Call product page
Product Page

However, I find it odd that when the visitor mouses over the “add to cart” button that they would popup a small window re-iterating the same price that is on the product page. The user has already made the conscious decision to add it to their cart. One of biggest barriers to conversion has been overcome so why disrupt the visitor’s commitment at this point?

One Call product page mouseover
On Mouse-Over View

Perhap’s it’s an A/B test where some visitors see the popup and others don’t. In that case I fully support the decision as you can’t improve if you don’t test. My gut is that the popup will convert at a lower rate than without a popup though.


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Good news, bad news for traditional email marketing

The good news is that 68% of consumers dealt with increased Holiday email by just deleting the email, bad news is that 34% of the consumers said they report it as spam to their ISPs, and that is up from 23.4% the previous year.

So if you are CAN-SPAM compliant, what are you to do? “60% of the consumers surveyed said that knowing and trusting the sender was a key factor in determining if they would open an e-mail. Also, 48% of those surveyed said they opened mail from companies that had previously sent e-mails they found valuable. ” says the study from Return Path.

If you provide valuable, relevant and timely email content, your open rates, click-through rates, customers and ultimately your revenue will all appreciate it. After the the high of the Christmas rush, it’s hard to settle into the post-holiday slow period. Resist the temptation to increase email frequency – ensure your email content is relevant to your consumers. Use this slow time to evaluate, test, measure and improve your site relevancy and conversion rate with A/B testing and usability analysis. Set short term and long term goals not only for your website, but for yourself as well.

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Psychology of “Expensive=good”

I just started reading a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. So far it looks to be a great read. I thought the following story was great. It shows how a creative marketer can influence a consumer with the perception of a great bargain.

Two brothers, Sid and Harry Drubeck, owned a tailor shop back in the 30s.

“Whenever the salesman, Sid, had a new customer trying on suits in front of the shop’s three-sided mirror, he would admit to a hearing problem, and, as they talked, he would repeatedly request that the man speak more loudly to him. Once the customer had found the suit he liked and had asked for the price, Side, would call to his brother, the head tailor, at the back of the room, “Harry, how much for this suit?” Looking up from his work and greatly exaggerating the suit’s true price – Harry would call back, “For that beautiful all-wool suit, forty-two dollars.” Pretending not to have heard and cupping his hand to his ear, Sid would ask again. Once more Harry would reply, “Forty-two dollars.” At this point, Sid would turn to the customer and report, “He says twenty two dollars.” Many a man would hurry to buy the suit and scramble out of the shop with his “Expensive=good” bargain before Poor Sid discovered the mistake.”

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FedEx Follies

I recently needed to fax a single page Word document to someone that didn’t have a computer or fax machine. I know, they need to get with the times, but they’re grandparents and they just don’t get that Internet thing. Anyway, I looked at my available options and found that FedEx/Kinkos offers a Word plugin where you can print directly to any FedEx/Kinkos location from your PC. That sounded great. My grandparents could just go to the local FedEx/Kinkos and pick up the document.

First step was to download the application at The file was actually 11 megabytes and it required me to reboot my computer after install. Made me wonder what I was actually installing at that point and I didn’t have a good feeling that they could manage my security, especially after reading about Sony’s rootkit debacle.

Once my computer rebooted, I opened my Word document and noticed I had a new FedEx icon in my toolbar. Clicking the icon launched the FedEx application where I was able to select the document to print and which Fedex/Kinkos location I wanted to print to.

This is where it got ugly. FedEx Kinkos has a minimum charge to use the service. The charge was acceptably low for my purpose, but my 1 page document failed to meet the minimum $ requirement. There was no option to send the page and just charge me the minumum. I had to create a new Word document with 3 blank pages to see if it met the requirement. Nope. I tried 5 pages. Nope. I tried 6 pages and the system finally let me continue. Once I got past that it went fairly well; however, I wasn’t entirely confident that the FedEx/Kinkos location would receive the document and know what to do with it.

The first 2 trips to the Fedex/Kinkos resulted in a dumbfounded rep that had no idea what my grandfather was asking for. Once I called the location and gave the order number and explained that they have an online print tool called File, Print, FedEx, Kinkos, they still couldn’t find the document, but said they would call me back. I received a call within about 10 minutes saying they located the files but wondered why 6 out of the 7 pages were blank.

I can imagine the developer’s conversation during the development cycle. “who would print a one page document? We don’t need to write code for that.”

On another note . . . I just tried installing the application on another computer and found the following error message.
FedEx error message
An error message like that just means “I didn’t want to use that program anyway.”

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Time to Sell, Sell, Sell YHOO stock

How can you hope to compete in a market with this attitude? This from the CFO of Yahoo.

“We don’t think it’s reasonable to assume we’re going to gain a lot of share from Google,” Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. “It’s not our goal to be No. 1 in Internet search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share.” Article at the Seattle PI

I feel for those that work in a company with such an attitude. If you can’t strive to be number 1 in your industry, then just get out.

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Personalized recommendations

Now that I have satellite TV and 3 kids I’ve cancelled Netflix, but I’ve always respected their attention to usability and the way movies are rated and recommended. The NY Times has a great article about the success of their rating system and their recommendation engine, but also Wal-Mart’s dismal failure in providing recommendations. When user’s viewed movies such as a box set about Martin Luther King, Jr. they were recommended “Planet of the Apes” among other embarrasing titles. They had to remove all recommendations and control the PR Spin.

“The most reliable prediction for how much a customer will like a movie is what they thought of other movies,” Mr. Hunt said. The company credits the system’s ability to make automated yet accurate recommendations as a major factor in its growth from 600,000 subscribers in 2002 to nearly 4 million today. NY Times article (free registration required)

Not only are the recommendations useful to the subscribers, but it also helps move back-inventory of older movies, relieving some of the pressure (cost) to keep up with massive quantities of new releases.

At NetFlix, the online DVD rental company, for example, roughly two-thirds of the films rented were recommended to subscribers by the site – movies the customers might never have thought to consider otherwise, the company says. As a result, between 70 and 80 percent of NetFlix rentals come from the company’s back catalog of 38,000 films rather than recent releases.

One last note… Recommendation engines are not useful if they are not kept updated. The recommendation engine at was built in 2004, but has not been updated since. The engine is run off of a static file because the products rarely change and it was based on about 20 years of purchase history. I know because I architected the site and the engine:)

I haven’t done any work for Community Coffee since early 2005, but since I’ve been gone, they’ve changed the SKU numbers for many of the products, of which the engine is based. This item, French Vanilla coffee, should recommend another flavored coffee (featured products in the right margin), such as Hazelnut, but it is defaulting to the most popular SKU numbers on the site.

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Gmail RSS feeds

Now that Gmail offers “clips”, or RSS feeds, that are driven by the content of the email in your inbox, it’s interesting to see the clips that show up when viewing your spam folder. Here’s a screenshot. Note the feed right below the search box for “French Fry Spam Casserole.”
Gmail Spam folder

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