Archive for Design and Usability

My experience using Google Checkout as a merchant

One thing that has changed is the new Google Checkout. We’ve been working with GC (Gbuy as it was known in beta) for a while now. I really like the UI for the customer experience. Checkout is easy and pretty much painless.

On our backend, it is pretty straightforward and foolproof. Just a series of XML passing back and forth between us and Google updating the order status and injecting orders into our backend.

It has a lot more legs than MS Passport and I think it will prove to be a value add for Ecommerce in general, and particularly the consumer.

Having said all that, here are my issues:
Once a customer places an order, there is no way to edit the order. If the customer requests expedited shipping after the order was placed, you have to either give it (expedited shipping) away at no additional charge, or cancel the order and reprocess it in your internal order management system.

When an order is placed by the customer, their credit card/debit card is authorized to ensure available funds, and to hold such available funds. If the order is not charged within 3 days, Google will re-authorize the card and then capture the funds, resulting in 2 auths and a capture. This presents problems for debit card owners over weekends and holidays. Google stated that they are working on this to extend the timeframe for re-auth.

Orders tend to get in a state of “reviewing”, meaning the funds have not been authorized and the merchant cannot process the order, quite often. It seems these orders are being subject to a manual review. Based on customer feedback, I think this happens more often when the original auth fails and the customer has to go back and edit the credit card information.

Google has a Payment Guarantee Policy that should cover fraud as Google performs the AVS and CVN matches and doesn’t give the merchant any additional billing information. Some orders have a full match on the AVS and CVN, but Google still denies their eligibility for the Payment Guarantee Policy.

From Google:

“Google relies on a variety of proprietary systems–including internal data sources and advanced risk modeling–to evaluate the risk levels associated with transactions. If the risk level for a particular transaction is too high, Google will not cover the transaction under the Payment Guarantee Policy.”

These orders are still covered under the Chargeback Resolution Policy, but that does not guarantee you will receive your funds back for chargebacks.

The last drawback I’ll talk about, and it is big, is that there is no way to persist your website metrics through checkout. We use Omniture analytics and there is no way to report that a visitor that used Google checkout completed a transaction. There’s not even a way to use Google adwords conversion tracking in Google checkout. This results in a low conversion rate whereby, we have to do manual ‘cipherin’ to figure out the true conversion. I hope Google allows us to place code on the “thank you” page in the near future as this is a real pain in the ass.

Overall though, I think the product is great. Although it may be in beta for the next 3-5 years, they’ve already made some strong improvements to the product. I have high hopes for the future.


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Top 10 Adcenter Fixes

Search Engine Watch forums has a great thread about the Top 10 Adcenter Fixes

Some of my favorites fixes extracted from the thread: 

#2 My top issue – Organize the site navigation according to a date or date range. None of the data presented on any page has any meaning if one has no idea of what timeframe it represents. Going to the report function is NOT a solution. We need to navigate from page to page according to a selected date or timeframe.. today, yesterday, last 7 days and so on. Even if the data lags by 24 hours we can work with it. Without this we can't manage campaigns at all.

6 Rejected keywords..there is no rhyme or reason to them. I have a keyword that is accepted and an obvious misspelling of it rejected. Landing page not relevant! The incorrectly spelled word, does not spell another meaningful word. How can this happen? Bankruptcy, Bankrupcy.

11. Better search functionality within Adcenter. If I don't know what campaign and order I'm looking for already, it's *really* hard to find it, because the search function doesn't seem to work properly. I get errors.

12. Add a "find" tool where we can find all ads that have a certain URL parameter, are at or above a certain CPC, etc. – and then give us a way to edit multiple CPCs on multiple orders on a mass basis. Bid management within the interface is an absolute nightmare right now.

14. Fix dynamic keyword insertion to allow for capitalization: {keyword}. {Keyword}, and {KeyWord}; and default copy if the keyword is too long.

I've been using adCenter since around September of last year, and it has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go. I give credit to Microsoft for having a presence on the thread and communicating with the users about their issues.

adCenter has been a very good tool for me in terms of ROI, but the interface is still not user friendly and I'd love to see the click and relative revenue volume pick up.

Jump to read the entire thread. 

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MSN adCenter targeting and conversion tracking

I've been beta testing MSN adCenter (PPC Search) for quite a while and have not been impressed with the application so far. They've made tremendous improvements to the UI now that it is out of beta, but it seems that every feature that should be a positive tick for MSN works out to be a negative for the advertiser. It seems they're putting revenue potential ahead of their customer's requirements and expectations.

MSN has a great set of ad targeting options, at least they could be. One example is the demographics targeting or, "Incremental Pricing for targeting" as they call it. This sounds great. I'm in the golf industry so I would like to target the "Males" "35+" demographic.

At issue here is that AdCenter only allows a "positive bid increase" in multiples of 10%. Doesn't sound that bad at first until you think about the 10-100 or so keywords I'm bidding on within the same "order" (an order is the same as an adgroup on Google), all at varying levels of CPC. If I already know the maximum CPC I'm willing to pay for the keyword phrase "Titleist Pro V1", how do I determine what percentage to increase my bids for males only? For the 35-50 demographic? For the 50-65 demographic?

If I assume I can increase my bids 30% for the term "Titleist Pro V1" for those given demographics, how does that affect the keyword phrase "Titleist golf ball" that is also within the same adgroup and subject to the same increase? So if I increase bids by a percentage for a given demographic, then my individual keyword bids should be lowered to maintain my target CPC. What happens when MSN can't determine the demographics of the searcher? I assume I'll get outbid because my base CPC bid is too low.

It would be easy for MSN to offer "negative bid percentages" rather than forcing me to place positive bid percentages for the demographic options. This way, I could maintain my set Max CPC on the keyword level and decrease my bids by 70% for women and 18-25 year olds. No offense to women or young people… you get my drift.

Naturally that would seem to decrease my adspend on adCenter, but it would actually play in the inverse as the more optimal my campaign is running, the more money I'll throw at it. That's why Google commands over 50% of my Search budget and second tier engines get 0%.

One way to get to the true ROAS is to use adCenter's conversion tracking tool in addition to the Omniture Analytics package I currently use. This way, I could manipulate the incremental pricing and keyword CPC until I hit my target ROAS. Again, great in theory, but adCenter does not track conversion on the keyword level, but on the Campaign level. If you're not familiar with adCenter's heirarchy, it's: Campaign>Order>Keyword. So adCenter tracks at the most macro level it possibly can which is of little to no use to the advertiser, but good for MSN's short-term revenue.

MSN conversion tracking also advertises their adCenter services on all checkout confirmation pages, regardless of how the customer was referred.

So I won't be using MSN's new targeting options or their conversion tracking. Google will continue to dominate my adspend and I'll hope that MSN gets it together and builds their applications for their advertisers and consumers and not primarily their pocketbook, because when advertisers and consumers win, their pocketbook will follow.

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Eye Tracking with Heat Maps

I love these things. Marketing Sherpa released a study (pdf link) today with a heat map. What's a heat map you say? The detailed technology is beyond me, but users wear special goggles or glasses while viewing a web page and a computer records where their eyes focus and what they click on.

Users on the Internet usually follow the same patterns of either a triangle or "F" pattern. What that means is that most of the content on the right side of the page and content below the fold might as well not even exist. Less is more. heat map from Marketing Sherpa:
Wal Mart Heat Map

Google Search Page heat map from Yes, they have a goofy and annoying home page, but that's another topic:
Google heat map

Take a look at the Ecommerce Benchmark Guide 2006 (pdf link) from Marketing Sherpa, it looks like a great deal of valuable information.

Also of particular interest is that "fewer than 50% of merchants we surveyed said they track loyalty, lifetime value, or retention costs." If we all know that it's cheaper to retain a customer than to acquire a customer, then why is the ecom industry so far behind in using the proven segmentation models that catalog marketers have used for decades? More than likely, small to mid sized Ecommerce companies lack the statistical or catalog industry background to implement even the simplest database segmentation methodology. The ecom industry is currently focused on analytics, conversion rates and multivariate testing, and I only hope that evolves into customer segmentation and retention, at least for the companies I work for and not the competition.

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Google Finance goes live

Google launched Google Finance. I really like the way the graph operates. Mousing over a point in history highlights the day you are on and dynamically refreshes a snapshot of the days metrics.

If you scroll the graph to the past, the news section also scrolls to show relevant news. clicking on a news story scrolls the graph to the point where the release occurred and highlights the day's trading.

If you mouseover the names of the management, a window blows out to show more details and a photo of that person. To not be so Google oriented, I linked to Costco's (COST) financials rather than Google's. 🙂
Google Finance: Costco Wholesale Corp.

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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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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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