User Experience Design

Redesigning Your eCommerce Site?

 

New year 2013, new look, new horizons? If redesigning your site is on your roadmap this year to boost conversion and generate more sales, consider these examples from my latest review of Top 100 sites (top, because Internet Retailer, nominated them as such, as they seem to stand out in shoppers’ experience).

Yet, 100 is too many and chances are high that most might not apply to your site. Lucky you, as I selected 20 from that list and from my own recent online shopping as the nominees in the Golden Globes of eCommerce Design 2013, (if there were such an event), as the examples that can inspire your own team.

1) Best cart and checkout experiences 

Simple, sleek and easy checkout experience, goes to Bonobos.com and Speck.com. Both, carry minimal steps to complete a buy (3-step or 1-page), use auto-complete functionality and please shoppers with the clean UI.

  •    – with Bonobos, note the consistency in useful links and messaging throughout the checkout flow. Top features “Need help? Get a real person with a phone number”, while bottom – “feedback” only.  (They do the same in global navigation across home, search, product and cart pages with a free shipping message, account & help links, feedback and social (on/off)). Note, how it focuses us on 1 step a time, cleverly using tabs to display minimum info, while also showing the progress that indirectly motivates us to complete the process of checking out. 
cart page bonobos.com

cart page bonobos.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

  •  – with Speck, notice the integration of cart and checkout as the one page experience. I loved the way how, while I put my shipping info, the billing section autofills itself. I also enjoyed the non-intrusive suggestion box to create an account and an invitation to share the purchase joy on Facebook and other sites, or even make a video out of it. 
  • More importantly, when I return to the experience to buy again, all info is saved (besides the credit cart, of course) and there is even a secondary call to action button to reorder the same product again and again.
screenshot cart speck.com

speck.com cart and checkout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Best product pages 

When we are shopping for an item, product page content, functionality and design help us make the decision to buy or keep searching 50% of the time, if we think from the ballpark traffic volume for any given site. As a key page on a site, its goal is really to showcase well the product and yet not to overwhelm the potential buyer with all the qualities it has. Though, attribution to conversion by feature might vary for each site and only AB testing and site analytics can tell you the truth, yet, its key elements remain the same: well-positioned add-to-cart area, common sense recommendations with an element of surprise if needed, ratings and reviews that speak for themselves and images or videos that visually make a point.

- TigerDirect.com made its add to cart module follow the user as he scrolls down the page. So, at every point, when you are ready you know what to do.

floating add to cart on tigerdirect.com product page

floating add to cart on tigerdirect.com product page

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Rei.com has a clever design of find in store button, which likely drives equal if not higher number of orders as its electronic neighbor, add-to-cart.

clever design of find in store call to action button

clever design of find in store call to action button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Underarmour.com brings shoppers attention to key page elements with a use of yellow marker? Why not! As long as it does the job.

yellow marked key messages on product page underarmour.com

yellow marked key messages on product page underarmour.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Firebox.com strikes us with creativity and humor in recommendations modules.  Who can resist a laugh while seeing – “WTF” message for unique products suggested or “You gonna love these“, or “James Bond would be proud of..“.It is much easier to be that creative and spunky if you are a niche site, but it would be a challenge if you are a mass merchant with dozens of categories. Yet, you still can go creative with a voice in those messages and see to what your shoppers respond most. What language charms your customers most?

creative, humorous recommendations messages firebox.com

creative, humorous recommendations messages firebox.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Casa.com makes its recommendations go an extra mile and become part of the add-to-cart experience, you can add the suggested items right there with the main item – going beautifully into a cart. Way to increase AOS via smart design.

add to cart imbed of recommended items casa.com

add to cart imbed of recommended items casa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Amazon.com, Chacos.com, Modcloth.com use customer images well to add to the product page experience and boost its SEO. While the first two capture those within their own image area, the third embeds customer images in reviews. Better yet, the aforementioned Firebox folks also respond to customer reviews with comments, which makes you see they care about each distinct experience (way to differentiate a small site, could be not feasible for a mega site though).

email your photo prompt, chaco.com

email your photo prompt, chaco.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

customer image imbed in reviews, modcloth.com

customer image imbed in reviews, modcloth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

respond to reviews inline, firebox.com

respond to reviews inline, firebox.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 3) Best search pages

When search page is one of the top contributors to orders, and if backed up with a good back-end algorithm, you might want to make it hard to miss. How about making it floating and sticky? No matter how far you scroll, and especially if you have persistent scroll on, make search follow the searcher.

- Shoplet.com approaches this right from the home page. No messing around!

 

persistent, floating search, home page, shoplet.com

persistent, floating search, home page, shoplet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Americanbridal.com combines the same strategy with promo messages, and boasts to have increased AOS by 24% within a year from $85 to $105.

persistent floating search bar with promo, americanbridal.com

persistent floating search bar with promo, americanbridal.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Macys.com integrates social into search experience with a floating sidebar. I am still deciding and if need a girlfriends’ feedback, there is a fast way to do so.

floating social shopping bar, macys.com

floating social shopping bar, macys.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Brookbrothers.com is smart to capture preferences discovered by shoppers via search with a “remember this” button. That is a much more scalable approach to collecting customer intelligence for personalization vs. relying on item pages interaction only to weigh in.

"remember this" - button on search, brookbrothers.com

“remember this” – button on search, brookbrothers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Fab.com shines with signaling number of items left in stock in search results already vs. item page as we are used to, to prompt making a choice.

"x" items left icon on search, fab.com

“x” items left icon on search, fab.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4) Best home pages

There is no place like home page that makes it or breaks for new business impressions or re-delighting return visitors. This is the place that gives each of us (hopefully with good targeting), what we want and becomes the reason why we come back…ideally!

- Cuttingedgeknives.co.uk steals this nomination by simply telling a new shopper what it is all about with vivid imagery, and yet ready to be explored as a potential buy if you like, right there without directing to a product page. You can hoover over the main POV and see item details for each peace in the spotlight.

item info on hoover, home page, cuttingknives.com

item info on hoover, home page, cuttingknives.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Casa.com welcomes home, no pun intended, with an inspirational discovery and promo within an interactive POV.

inspiring, interactive discovery POV, home page, casa.com

inspiring, interactive discovery POV, home page, casa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

- CVS.com wows with clean tabbed display of key information, playing up the rule of 4 things at a time. It does so well that clearly there is no reason for a left navigation – a “design element” from the past.

no left nav, tabs of 4, home page, cvs.com

no left nav, tabs of 4, home page, cvs.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Google play makes it tidy with icon segmented personalization modules, delivering similar peace and clarity when we shop in color coded retail stores for clothes – nothing is overwhelming then!

icon segmented home page, google play

icon segmented home page, google play

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Booksamillion.com achieves similar compactness within a home page slider, using tabs.

tabs in home page slider POV, booksamillion.com

tabs in home page slider POV, booksamillion.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

All in all, these are the sites that peaked my interest in page experience design. Hope you get inspired too and wow more shoppers on the way to buy.

View all screenshots and experiences in larger size and as one page.

Brain Studies Behind Conversion Behavior

Four weeks ago, I gave a speech at eCommerce Brazil 2012 in Sao Paulo, (which was a fun event, see a short coverage) on what drives conversion and brain studies behind this human behavior online.  I took my audience to a journey into a human brain and shared 3 principles of how to influence customer behavior through managing their attention.

These principles are universal since they are based on how our brain works and applicable to any human being and any site, well developed or evolving at any country.

In ecommerce, no matter which path brought each of us here, all we do is managing attention. Attention is indeed mental money. Yet, it is rather elusive and hard to keep. Unless, you get down the hood of human brain to understand all the magic that happens with attention, which drives our decisions.

After reviewing tons of articles and publications on how our brain works, and mapping against the behavior seen in online shopping, I funneled my findings into 3 strategies:

1) Be a magician. Control the experience of your shoppers.

We all think we are paying attention to the world around us, yet it is a delusion. We are wired to be selective with our mental currency and only focus on one mystery at a time.  We switch back and forth fast, yet only spotlighting the selected at any given moment.  This is due to the fact that our decision-making mechanism is limited in terms of space. When we are trying to make a decision, our mind works as a producer of a play, with a stage of a size of a children’s room, not a Theatro Municipal or Carnegie Hall, where the actors are the new information flowing in, and the audience is our past experience. Through that process we spotlight the play and do not see anything else that might be going on. Successful retailers help shoppers maintain the stage, reducing the number of interacting elements and making some guides implicit or automated via technology leading shoppers to buy faster…leading them to a great play finale!

Driving simplicity and helping your customer make a decision is how you control their stage, knowing that they can only spotlight a few actors – attributes, recommendations or featured selections. Sometimes, you will have to reduce features that you do not want people to use – hide elements or function to prevent usage or material properties. For example, Fab.com, while helping you become a member, asks only 1 question at a time, per screen to keep you focused on that action.  While, soap.com allows to have just 1 cart, in 6 sites.

So, think of each site page – having one explicit goal, that implicitly guides your shoppers to accomplish it or not. Remember, that no mater how much you would try to squeeze from a real estate of your page, your shoppers can only see in a spotlight or a tunnel, which is what you can help them do. There is a reason why conversion rate is higher in preset funnels. Guide their attention like a magician, where you want it to go, but be picky where.  If it is a search results page – make it super awesome for search, if it is a product page – make this act a decisive one for a great finale!  Now, it would be a perfect world if every visitor on your site came with one and only goal – to buy! Wouldn’t it?  But, that is not happening, whether it is your brain or their attention which is mental money, both could be going to other thoughts. To spring it back to action, you need to sprinkle some dopamine into the site experience!

2) Sprinkle some dopamine into the site experience.

Dopamine? What’s that? Dopamine is a chemical we generate in our brain and body that springs our thoughts and muscles in action once activated, it helps us focus or refocus! Without it, we cannot notice a potential mate and fall in love or get creative on demand. It is the oo-la-la feeling or eureka moment or a time you chuckle! Surprise, novelty, humor – do the trick! Or sometimes, simply meeting customer expectations of getting what they expect from shopping for your product and the exact way they are trained elsewhere online and wired through consistency, is enough.  Unique products, like Chicken poncho, on Etsy.com or hillarious reviews on Amazon.com or Gemvara’s weekly home page pick from customer Pinterest boards – all bring enough dopamine to bring attention back where it should be. Managing attention requires re-focus, realignment and naturally, a healthy dose of dopamine delivers just that! Variety is spice of life, and dopamine is a key ingredient of enjoyable site experience.

Once you got people in and run through your shopping process once, don’t you want them to come back for more?  To truly acquire a loyal customer who chooses to keep focused attention over and over again to your site is an art as well.  To make that customer come back for more, is done via oxytocin.

3) Pump up oxytocin into the shopping experience.

Multiple studies in social science evidence how fundamentally wired we are socially. To keep us happy and engaged for a long haul within our small village of close friends, family and coworkers is how nature designed us to be.  It is of no surprise that imprisonment, public humiliation or being ostracized are the worst stresses a human can intake and sometime not survive…The pain is similar to hunger or being physically endangered. In ecommerce, it translates into a more engaged and most converting customer, if he or she is socially tied into your site experience.  Sites, that imbed their products into their customer lives with all their needs to share and discuss, are rewarded by new growing traffic sources and more frequent purchases. Oxytocin makes it all nice, fuzzy and bubbly! It makes your once captured customer come back again and again and even bring his entire village with him. So, what are the examples? Zappos.com pumps up oxytocin by humanizing its shopping cart – “It is needy” as it says in its emails for abandoned shoppers, while Buy.com brings peoples’ stories on its home page to differentiate itself as a place you buy stuff from people not technology. People do things because of other people. Why this should be different in online shopping scenario?

Conversion is all about our ability to get attention from the potential customers, keep it focused for the right time to make a decision and keep that attention strategy alive for them to come back and repeat the action.

All brain studies are about how to influence people, which happen when we change their behavior from no action to an action.

Attention is a secret ingredient that powers that action.

Site experience is all about facilitating the right environment to bring to attention what shoppers came for, keep it focused for some time to solidify the decision and bring them back to repeat the same actions.

View the deck on slideshare.

Watch the video of the speech.

Fix Error Messages Or Make Them Work For You

Error messages may run havoc on your customer engagement strategy whether you are running an ecommerce site or launching online promotions. You can lose leads and sales easily if you do not account for them. You can also try to improve your site performance or promotions’ numbers if you plan for the event of errors in advance. Or you can find ways to make them work for you by closely watching their occurrence and customer behavior that follows. 

There are 3 approaches that you can take to alleviate error message/sale loss ratio for your business:

1) Make user-induced error messages based on business rules clear and self-explanatory. Even if your audience is tech savvy and mostly has a high percentage of engineering degrees, error messages stating “Generic Error 407. Must be 77888888″ can puzzle anyone. Try to explain the reason of this message in a human language and communicate it succinctly. In all events, “Your account information and password do not match our records. Please do…[whatever you want them to do]..” sounds better than a numeric code that only a math genius in “Numbers” TV show can solve. Sometimes, I think those error messages were hastily cut and pasted by programming folks versus a UI/UX professional.  No offense to either, but the saved costs on making sure your error messages are clear in your application or on your site – are basically passed to future sales onto the customer base. 

Also, consider the context in which your customers will be incurring them: their attention span, possible stage of buying process, etc. One example of this error type, is an online shopper filling out a shipping address and payment information to only find out the error at the end after submitting the ” erroneous form” and having to retype all info again. I know I would give up at that point. Thus, construct your forms and functional errors accordingly – by making them appear inline with the filling out process, or adding interactive elements when possible. Linda Bustos, has a great post on inline validation within the shopping carts. Luke Wroblewski shared his insights on the same topic on his blog and even published a book.

2) Save the sale by tracking to who your errors were exposed to and follow up with compensation. You might not only save a customer, but delight him/her with a special attention that is capable to turn them into your product/brand evangelists. This happened to me a month ago. DSW ran an online promotion “Get Lucky. Participate in a draw of XYZ and win 50% off your next purchase by visiting this promo page.”  With sheer excitement, my mouse rushed to click on the link and the error message occurred “Site is unavailable” to my utter discouragement and quickly vanishing anticipation to make a purchase. But! DSW email marketing folks appeared to have planned for this contingency. After 2 days, I got a follow up email stating” Our apologies and $10 off. How lucky can you get if the site is down?” I was pleasantly surprised as a customer! My clicking the promo was acknowledged, my shopping decision was saved as if it were in a real store. I was happy to continue shopping at DSW and share the story with my friends. So, follow the DSW example of using web analytics to track your potential errors, especially if you know the limitations of your systems. Bravo, DSW!

3) Collect free feedback from the unpredicted error messages or 404, 500 types. Sometimes, it is what it is and you might not know all possible scenarios when your site or application starts “misbehaving”. Instead of simply accepting this reality, try to add a feedback link or box to the generic error page and your customers might feel compelled to share what happened. That way you will start discovering the reasons and causes of those mishaps. You will also make your customers feel listened to, heard and valued.  And, of course, you will actually gain something from those error messages. They will pay you with feedback! 

“Mistakes, obviously, show us what needs improving. Without mistakes, how would we know what we had to work on?” -Peter McWilliams.  So, do not fret if you find a few in your current app. Look at the ways to make them work for you and be the one with “an unequalled gift…of squeezing big mistakes into small opportunities,” Henry James.

4 Drivers of Merchandising Category Pages

Category pages are like aisles in the store – are to guide us through the shopping process. They help us decide on the product to buy. While, merchandising is the way you, as a retailer, provide key information to potential buyers to take time to consider a displayed product and get it eventually. But online shopping differs from the on-site experience: your shoppers can enter at any point on any page and there is no designated entrance to guide them through.

First time online shopping (on a particular site – i.e new visitors) can also be challenging.  Remember your confusion when you go to the same brand grocery store in a new city…even in your own city, but a different store: you will spend more time trying to locate the aisles first, let alone the products you have come for!

So what are the ways to display your products effectively? There are 4 common practices that are easily observable, used mostly as a mix of all or some:

1) Navigation, as the 1st approach is focused on user experience.  Hence the main goal for you as a site manager, is to provide clues to your shoppers to locate the products, group them into sets and narrow down by various product variables. The narrowing down part is the most crucial functionality of category pages – not the amount of information on the page. My favorite sites that do a great job in helping shoppers decide are: bluenile.com with its diamond search tool, bestbuy.com with its lifestyle categories for products (that give shoppers frames of reference) and hotels.com with its star/ratings/reviews/price/location options. The trick is to make the process as efficient and fast to help us decide which one of those items to spend our hard or smart earned money on!

2) Promotional method is the 2nd driver to decide how and what products to display. You also want to make more money and display your hottest or most profitable items, don’t you? Showcasing your best selling products or seasonal “must-haves” is still customer-friendly approach. Not only it provides shoppers with shortcuts, but also shifts the inventory based on demand. The trick of this approach is not to allow promotion get ahead of navigation and allow your shoppers control their search without much “virtual car sales people ( i.e your banners or always the same prominent products”) on the way!

3) Inventory management can play out its role as the 3rd driver which products to display and how often to change them. You can sell only what you have in stock, thus there must be some automation to your online store to alert you about the “backorder situation” and possibly trade the valuable web space with an alternative product. At the minimum, your product page with an “out-of-stock item’ should suggest comparable products for the shopper to consider. Do not let them give up on you and move to another store!

4) Taking a personal touch is my favorite approach, which marks personalization technology as the 4th driver in online merchandising. How much easier and more enjoyable it is to shop on the site that learns about your preferences, taste and tailors its category/product pages accordingly? Amazon.com and Bidz.com do it with flair. So if you have a chance to add extra value to your customers’ experience with a personal shopper through product recommendations based on user search and buying behavior, sprinkled with cross-selling functionality – by all means utilize it to the fullest. Personalized product recommendations consistently increase revenue, conversion rates, average order value and impact customer loyalty significantly.

Overall, in online retail, the working formula of strong merchandising includes a mix of insights from web analytics, product seasonality, price adjustments, promotional practices for a given category/industry, and user experience considerations. And this is not an exhausted list either. Online merchandising is truly a very valuable expertise not taught in schools, or books, but experienced through actual site management and application of holistic thinking.

I only covered four methods in this post, which should only prompt you to add your own value from other information pools for your site to truly evolve your merchandising strategy into a strong working system.

10 Commandments of Quality Shopping Cart and Its Checkout

When tasked with optimizing ecommerce site, many of efforts will be included in the entire project. At the same time, if we start with the main objective of the site, which is to sell, it pays off to start with laying the foundation – optimizing the shopping cart and checkout flow. So what are the basics to adhere to or run a diagnostics on?

While sifting through abundant expert advice available online, these 10 principles stuck in my mind and became a valuable framework:

1. Shopping cart as an icon - must be visible at all times to help users go smoothly throughout the shopping experience. It should provide the customers with options to make a decision at any moment they are ready, at a search page, at a product page and more.

2. Action to add to cart – must be visible too. But make sure that action will not send your customer away from the current page (be that search or other), you want them be “on the same journey”. Usually, AJAX allows that to happen. It also helps to somehow visibly note that the addition just took place and it was successful. The more the experience resembles in-store shopping the better your users’ online shopping experience.

3. Always disclose costs – as those are the key information a shopper needs throughout the evaluation process of other items to add. If not shown, you cart might trigger confusion and proclivity to be abandoned. You do not want that, do you? This one especially relates to shipping costs and tax details that might very much change the shoppers’ desire to have the item.

4. Provide control to your online shoppers, with tools for “save for later”, “wishlist”, “email a friend”, “share’ and “print” to prevent the abandonment caused by the total high price or unexpected shipping costs (# 1 reason of abandonment) or some other reason. You can even add options of color change, functionality upgrade right at that moment. It would also pay off if you enable them with multiple shipping and billing functions, email the order confirmation themselves, split the order into multiple shipment groups and on.

5. Show any loyalty programs benefits and build the relationship. Re-assure your shoppers on the future benefits they will get while buying from you. Who would ever want to leave your cart after that?

6. Make customer help obvious, prominent, and usable – if you have a “click to chat” option – make sure it works flawlessly and there is someone there to be for the customer 24/7. Show other alternatives to answer last minute questions that could be so minor, but so influential to contribute to your sale. Explain within the UI (ability to hover over as an example) the shipping charges and return policies. Be generous with service and information upfront.

7. Throughout the checkout experience, make sure your customers know at all times where they are – make sure the visual cues are consistent in the main navigation and in the checkout pages. Imagine yourself in the real store, where top signs say “Bedding” and you find yourself clearly in the “Cleaning Supplies” aisle.

8. Provide “smart” links, popups with clear messaging on free shipping, gift cards, coupons and ways to save before shoppers confirm the order. Make the online experience thrilling and enjoyable when users see that they can save and get a deal. Promotions are highly effective in driving order completion. Place those properly at various points. Make them easily visible (above the fold).  Make sure that users can also go back and change the coupon codes. Do not deactivate that option once they added one coupon and it appeared incorrect. This pet peeve of mine sent me away from the sale so many times!

9. Use conventional user-friendly icons and nomenclature – make it easy for us to shop. Do not teach us a new way of online shopping even if you have the coolest site built on the latest technology.

10. Welcome new users without getting personal upfront – if you able to fulfill the sales without registration, please do so. First time and casual shoppers will be more inclined to complete a sale if you make it fast and low commitment for them right there. You can still capture their email (openly) by communicating future incentives if the cart was abandoned.

Wish to go beyond the top 10? Check out these great publications “eCommerce Roadmap” by Palmer Web Marketing and “20 Surefire Ways to Increase Sales Using Zen Cart” by Eric Leuenberger. Both are very worthwhile reads!

“Common Mistakes That Drive Customers Away” from the Online Market World, Day Two

Day Two for the e-commerce conference brought new ideas (from starting my own online business after watching all those people making a living while selling anything!) to confirming new directions that I would like to take in my career: CRM and web analytics that affect conversion rates (multivariate testing and behavioral targeting). Social media, viral marketing and online advertising became close chapters: I can still do that, I get it and know it well, but passion is moved to something new and more challenging – database marketing and behavioral targeting. At the same time, user experience design concepts still get mixed into the equation as they affect the entire consumer experience and the bottom line.

To that extent, one of the most interesting sessions today was on “Most Common Mistakes That Drive Customers Away” with Thanh Nguyen from Business OnLine, Jeff Shulman with (X+1) and Mark Wachen with Optimost sharing simple nuggets that are worth keeping in mind while optimizing your online communications or sales process. So, the most common mistakes include:

1. Mismatched Offer – when a user comes back in a week and sees the same offer for a lesser price? Ha? It does happen very often and can turn off your customers in seconds.
2. Mismatched Content – happens when “cookies” get on the way and mixed up, or randomly – an example of this can bring a scenario of a college student that stays up all night and frequents MySpace while he is presented with an offer for a Mercedes. Very mismatched content!
3. Multiple Choice – too many choices make it difficult for users to make a choice – a book was referenced in the speech by Jeff “The Paradox of Choice” - that provides a good overview on buyer’s behavior and how people make their decisions.
4. Promoting Benefits That Are Not Benefits – happens all the time. As an example, in the final action step when you ask your visitor share his/her email address and add a “no-spam” disclaimer – it can only hurt you as people start thinking about it. Studies show that if you do not mention too much info or negative info, your conversion rate is much higher – as it makes sense. Do not clutter the user’s mind when there are already ready to take an action with extra info.
5. Continuing To Sell When The Sale Is Made - can prevent your customers to take the final step – as an example, removing FAQ info that was placed together with an offer – increased the conversation rate again – too much info (TMI) – something most of use marketers suffer from.
6. Asking A Lot Of Unnecessary Questions - making your users fill out long forms – turns everyone off – minimize your forms to 3-5 questions.
7. Treating Customers Equally - Segmenting by search keywords does bring more qualified traffic that converts into dollars as opposing to throwing out the same copy to the entire audience.
8. Not Allowing Your Users To Check Out Fast And Easy - according to the studies that a user experience analyst, Thanh Nguyen, conducted, people get frustrated when a bunch of forms or barriers are presented before they can enjoy a product or complete a purchase. ” I do not want to fill out forms to buy a purse. They do not ask me to do that at the counter”, – says right away what your users want.
9. Not Giving Clear Indications For The Shopping Process – makes your customers wonder “How long is it going to take?” – and the way to avoid this pitfall is to offer a visual path to your users, as an example, see the checkout path that Amazon cart has that starts with a “sign-in”, continues to “shipping”, “gift wrap” and finishes with “place an order”.
10. Not Capitalizing On Abandoned Carts – represents a lost opportunity that is not utilized by some online merchants. How many times did I go through the process and did not complete the shopping? Sometimes, I lost the card – as the merchant provided me with no history or some indicator where it was, or sometimes I got distracted. By providing the history, save the cart option and reminding via email with a discount offer can significantly recover the abandoned customer.
11. Not Cross-Selling By Displaying Products Without Recommendations – “Imagine four products displayed and 6 out of 6 visitors did not click through?” – no case studies or testimonials are used – and your users do not trust online content but other users. Make your users recommend and cross-sell for you. Use the user’s browsing history from items searched to tasks accomplished during the session, connect him/her to other users who did the same and purchased – and recommended your product – cross-sell.

To sum it up, it seems like keeping the sales process easy, straight-forward and consistent brings the best results: higher conversion rates, user satisfaction and referred business.

Three Useful Models for Web Copywriting

Three Useful Models for Web Copywriting

Writing a web copy? It has been a while since you did any highly visible writing? Or do you simply wish to refresh your copywriting skills and use those for quality check review of your contracted writers? Maria Veloso, a 27-year expert in copywriting and direct marketing, shares her experience in the book “Web Copy That Sells”- a highly recommended reference that is worth taking a place in your marketing library. Here are three useful models to shape up and sharpen the web writing skills:

I. Conceptual Web Copy Blueprint
II. Five Guidelines to Make Your Copy Sell
III. Priceless Techniques to Use While Constructing Web Copy

So, you have a vision for your site and you think that you have the content necessary to deploy for the copy. Well, the truth is that your content is not your web copy. All the information that you compiled while talking to various groups within your company is just information. You still have a job to translate it into a “sellable” web copy – a copy that delivers – empathizes with your customers, persuades them and generates sales. Thus, the initial step for you as a writer would be to step into the shoes of your audience and get their perspective on the user experience that they would have while visiting your site. What would they do and what path would you lead them to? The five key questions to answer while going through this exercise is:

1. What is the Problem?
(Diagnose the problem or pain point for your audience. Sometimes, they do not even know that they have a problem – educate them.)
2. Why Hasn’t the Problem Been Solved?
(Check the history of the solutions that failed or succeeded).
3. What is Possible?
(Use “possibility thinking” and paint a picture for your audience of what is possible for them to do and enjoy while the problem is solved (by your service/product.))
4. What is Different Now?
(Explain how your product can help them and what is different about it.)
5. What Should I Do Now?
(State clearly what you want your prospects to do.)

This is your conceptual blueprint!
What do you do to make your copy live and actionable? Sprinkle your blueprint with the basic design and psychology guidelines:

1. Inject Emotion
2. Add Bullet Points, Bonuses, Guarantee and Close
3. Add Credibility-Building Elements
4. Add Psychological Devices
5. Replace Rational Words with Emotional

This is your five guidelines to follow while writing the copy!

What are the priceless techniques to keep for reference in the process of writing the copy?

• Use AIDA Principle (Capture audience’s attention, get its interest, build desire and induce action).
• State The Unique Selling Proposition (competitive advantage of your product).
• Make the Impression in the First Paragraph
• Write the Offer You Cannot Refuse
• Use Testimonials: “It Can Happen to You”
• Use Your Headline to Sell
• Introduce the Price Through (Daily-Cost Technique and Minor-Purchase Technique)
• Keep On Selling: Craft The Order Form Thoroughly
• Infuse Your Copy with a Money-Back Guarantee: Make a Deal
• Plan the Close For Potential Sale
– Provide a Free Gift
– Use a Time Limit Offer Technique
– Use a Limited Supply Technique
• Spell Out Your Call To Action
• Use an Opt-In Mechanism
• Use Attention-Grabbing Words
• Avoid Jargon and Corporate Speak
• Use Multiple Pricing/Benefits Offers

This is a good checklist to have while crafting the copy.

Another good source of short articles on effective web copy is available at excess voice site.
The third source for web copy intelligence that I would recommend to subscribe to for weekly updates – is Brian Clark’ blog – Copyblogger.

What are your best sources, tips and examples of effective copywriting?

Expanding Marketing Tool Set With User Experience Design Model

Mingling with the UI (User Interface/User Experience) folks brought a number of eureka moments. I think User Experience Design should be more openly introduced to the marketing crowd as it helps to expand and reiterate powerful models that both professionals use – like storytelling.

Narratives are used by UI designers to generate and validate design ideas. Marketers use the power of a story to create a brand and help the audience visualize its character. Stories help us get connected with the products as if they were humans. Our social nature contributed to our overall evolution, so it is not as surprising that if we keep it in mind – we would design better products and we devise effective marketing campaigns.

Digging deeper, the personas seem to be another useful model that marketers can contribute to first and benefit from later. Personas are not market segments, but the former can be better constructed thanks to the latter. Marketing segments add demographic and relational framework to the persona development, filtering the research stage of the user design process. The difference between the two is that: marketing segments reveal demographics, sales and distribution processes, while design personas describe user behaviors, goals and motivations that represent a particular user group. At the same time, using the final personas developed in the process can be a great technique to develop effective promotional materials and sales training documentation. Imagine how useful it could be for the new product launch!

Marketers, mostly generalists, are fortunate to incorporate ideas and techniques while working with a number of other professionals, thus making it a constantly rewarding career.

P.S. To learn more about the User Experience Design, check out the site for Clear Sky Interactive that explains very well what the process entails.

Why We Marketers Should Adopt Another Segmentation Tool – Personas from User Experience Design

The best discovery from last week was stumbling upon Steve Mudler’s session at Webvisions on personas . It almost feels like the more I learn, the more is out there still awaiting for discovery. Two weeks ago, I was rambling on the database marketing and its behavioristic approach to segmenting. I was thrilled and motivated to learn as much as I can about it. Last week, my attention radar caught the concept from the user design (scenario design) field – creating “personas” to segment potential customers and be able to communicate better with them, while resonating with their specific challenges. “Personas”, as a market segmentation tool does bring: focus, empathy, consensus, better designs and communications.

If I narrow down to the two major benefits of this technique, I would mention its flexibility and applicability to real life situations we marketers face and its fundamental psychological truth about discrepancies of people’s words and actions.

The greatest part about creating “personas” is that it allows segmenting your market while you engage into the limited market research initiatives. Let’s face it – most of the time, we (marketers) have limited budget and resources (people and time) and there is so much that we could do but we cannot afford….How do you find out what your potential customers will want and to what they would respond to if you only have 4 weeks, 4 people and no budget? You can only interview a small number of people, you can do so much as opposing to engaging in the ideal long and steady market research process that we learnt from the books or that is feasible if a specialized agency does it for us for a good sum.

Well, we have “personas”! Steve Mudler actually shares his expertise on it in his book ” The User is Always Right”, As an example, creating personas becomes a good segmentation alternative in the real life situation where you are developing a channel for a newly developed product or a “newly-is-still-in-development- product-that-is-has-to-sell-in-6-months”. There are three primary approaches, based on the type of research, scope and analysis performed:

• Qualitative personas (based on interviews, as an example)
• Qualitative personas with quantitative validation (interviews and surveys)
• Quantitative personas (surveys, data from the CRM systems, etc.)

Thus, it allows you to apply this technique to any scope of research that you are doing. Flexibility makes it a good model.

Another useful disclaimer that all of us – marketers performing research should always keep in mind is that what people say is not what they necessarily do. What they say is important as it reflects their goals and attitudes as well as perceptions and aspirations of being seen in a certain light. What people do is just as important, since actual behavior can reveal more about people than what they say. Behavior reveals patterns around which you can design your product or communication strategy. Again, the perfect combination of promise and action, if those are consistent – you got your answer and you are on the right track, if those are conflicting, you have to test your hypothesis again or change it completely.

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