Great Customer Experience – Every Little Helps

It’s well established that a great experience can make all the difference in keeping a customer beyond their initial purchase. The best customer experience is when you can make their interaction with you so pain-free and simple that it becomes a no-brainer to return for more.

Healthy stock levels, useful product info, error-free payment processes, and prompt delivery – they’re all hygiene factors if your business is to provide a good customer experience. However, for a great customer experience, you need more. You need to think smarter.

Intelligent Shopping

Talking of smart, there are undeniably smart people at Tesco. Anyone familiar with the brand will know their Clubcard is a thing of CRM legend. Some very smart thinking went into that, understanding that utilising customer data to increase spending, whilst offering relevant discounts and additional rewards for being loyal, was going to be key to growth and market dominance.

That Clubcard has now arrived, to much acclaim, in the Apple iPhone App Store. Whilst its convenience is undeniably smart, it is the less heralded Tesco Finder App that caught my eye.

If the Clubcard App is the popular and attractive Prom Queen, the Tesco Finder App is the geeky Maths Club President who probably goes on to develop the next Google.

To be clear, this is not a sexy app. It doesn’t look spectacular and it undoubtedly has its flaws. It appears to be a work in progress, an experimental plaything of the Tesco R & D team. However, there is a smart idea behind it.

What they have done is to look at their internal tools and have asked themselves whether opening them up to their shoppers would improve the customer experience. In doing so, they realised that a tool they had built to speed up product selection for their Home Delivery Pickers, would in fact, make an ideal tool for those less familiar with store layout and content– such as their customers.

So now using the App, you can type in Green & Black’s Maya Gold Chocolate and you’ll be able to find it in-store in ‘Aisle 8 on the right side counting 15 units along then the 8th shelf up from the floor’. Simple, but very smart.

Your Hidden Gems

Now think about this for your own business. What internal tools or information do you have access to that make your life easier? And now what would happen if you put those in the hands of your customers?

In this digital world, we have an abundance of data. We probably only use a fraction of it. How could you use your data and tools to improve your customer experience?

Here are a few ideas to start you off:

Stock levels – how many items do you have left in stock? Can you save time and frustration for a customer who will discover their item can’t be delivered when they want it?

Expected delivery dates – internet retailing is about speed and convenience. Make this information clearly available to inform the buying decision

Best time and day to advertise – if you deal in classifieds (jobs, cars, dating, etc.) share this data to help your customer get the best response to their ads

Help guides / instructions – don’t make me ring a call centre to order a new copy of the instructions that were missing from my flat pack wardrobe, put them on the website for me to print off

Appointment availability – if you run a hair salon, doctors/dentist surgery, or MOT garage put your booking system online, so I can secure my appointment slot when it’s convenient for me, 24 hours a day

Hotel room selector – your may know which room overlooks the great sea/mountain view, but why not empower your future guests and let them select the vista they want? (Whilst you’re at it, add panoramic video views so I can really tell what it’s going to look like)

New product development list – you don’t want to give away all your plans, but why not make customer suggestions more freely available to others and collect votes to determine priority?

Think about how many of the above (or variations on the theme) could save your business money through reduced manual servicing, as well as producing happier, more satisfied customers.

You already have that ability in your hands; you just need to put it in someone else’s.

Odd Stuff

Cool Tip: How to capture screenshots on your iPhone

If you’re a blogger, tweeter or regular garden geek, you’ll like this little iPhone tip. It’s not an earth mover, but you will say “Oooo“.

As someone who blogs, but lacks design skills, I find the process of creating images – particularly screenshots (aka screen captures) – to use in my posts a little clunky. I don’t have Photoshop, so I bodge it using trusty old Paint. Results can be a little hit and miss.

That changes with the discovery on my iPhone of the screen capture feature. I found it by accident, after an image of a webpage I’d read earlier appeared in my Photo album. A little bit of digging revealed how my clumsy fingers had stumbled upon this niffy little tool.

Capturing a screen shot

It’s quite simple.

  1. Find the image / webpage you want to screen grab
  2. Hold the ‘home’ button at the base of the iPhone
  3. Press the ‘power/sleep’ on the top of the iPhone
  4. There will be a white ‘flare’ on the screen and an audible click as the image is captured
  5. That’s it! Open the Photo album on your iPhone to locate the image file

You now have a file on your iPhone you can upload to your blog / website or tweet to a friend.

Bonus Tip: If a friend foolishly leaves his iPhone unsecured in your presence, you can always screengrab a copy of his iPhone home screen and set it as Wallpaper. I’m not condoning this childish behaviour, but I’m just saying…

Business Performance Conversion Testing

How to increase landing page conversions by 100%

An inordinate amount of time, effort and money goes into optimising paid search accounts. If you’re good at it, you can either save a lot of money, or get a lot more bang for your buck.

Anyone that has done paid search advertising will know that you can make some big improvements quite quickly just by optimising your accounts (I say ‘just‘, there can be a lot of work involved and unless you’re blessed with such talents it usually involves getting in a specialist or search agency to help).

However, there comes a point where the changes you make result in smaller and smaller gains. It’s still getting better but you’re not getting as much return on your efforts as you once did. This leads to a belief that the only way to achieve more conversions is to increase the budget.

Wrong. There is in fact, a massive opportunity staring you right in the face. The problem is you can’t see it because you’re probably looking in the wrong place.

Chasing your tail

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You need to bring in traffic to your site, traffic that converts, buys your product or uses your service. You set up paid search accounts, organise your campaigns, ad groups, keywords and tracking URLs. You choose a page on your site to send them to (or knock up a bespoke one for that purpose, because that’s better right?) and start feeding Google the cash.

You check the reports, you make some tweaks, you fist pump when the conversions improve, you pour in more cash, report, tweak, fist pump, cash, report, tweak…until you reach the point when you run out of ideas to make it work better.

Enter, landing page optimisation.

Where did it all go wrong?

I say enter landing page optimisation, but to be perfectly honest, you should really be doing this right at the beginning of your campaigns, not when you’ve run out of ideas.

So how did we end up here?

There are basically two common mistakes with approaches to landing pages (or any website pages, in fact).

1. The ‘Build it and Leave it‘ approach – usually found in companies under-resourced or over capacity with ideas. There is so much going on and not enough time to do it. So the first page up there is staying up and don’t even think of slowing down the next project in the pipeline, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, there is a very high probability that this page is not the best it could be at converting your endless stream of – paid for – traffic. Whilst your company is quickly moving on to the next project to make money or improve efficiency, you’re busy pouring part of your marketing budget down the drain.

2. The ‘I Know Best‘ approach – is found everywhere experienced, enthusiastic, opinionated people are striving to make their company successful (it’s also found in companies where people couldn’t give a hoot for that matter).

Regardless of intention, sometimes that experience, enthusiasm and opinion can get in the way of making the right decision.

Avinash Kaushik, Google’s Analytics Evangelist and author of Web Analytics 2.0, describes this quite nicely when he talks of HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). In a room full of potential contributors to a solution, the HiPPO’s way is invariably the way that it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily the wrong solution, but it isn’t always right. It’s just human nature – in times of tricky decisions we tend to look toward authority first.

The MVT Generation

The answer to both problems can be found in data. Yes, I know, big yawn, but trust me, when you use it in the way I’m about to describe you’re actually going to get excited about data.

What you need to do is employ Multivariate Testing (MVT).

If you’ve never come across the term before, then essentially, multivariate testing is a process by which multiple components of a page (or pages) on a website are tested simultaneously in a live environment to determine the variant with the highest probability of achieving your goal.

In other words, test a whole bunch of variations of the same page to find out which version is more likely to get your visitor to convert (i.e. purchase / sign up / download, etc.).

The great thing about multivariate testing is that it removes ego and opinion from the process. It relies entirely on data from real activity on your site. This is true customer led design. Who better to determine how your site should work than the people who actually use your site?

And for this small concession, this release on decision-making, you get better conversion rates. In other words, you get the greater return on investment you were looking for.

CASE STUDY: increase registration sign-ups by 103%

In the not too distant past, Jobsite were sending PPC traffic through to a site registration form, with a goal of increasing volume and lowering cost per registration. It wasn’t a particular pretty page – a clunky two column design made it unreasonably long, despite the minimal number of questions.

Start Simple – A/B testing

We started our experiment with a simple A/B test (one version versus another). As ever, you need a default design (A) to compare against the new version (B). In this instance, A was the single page form and B was the same form split over two pages.

Variant A – Single Page

Variant B – Two Pages

There is a web convention that says you should minimise your user journey to increase the likelihood of the task being completed. It’s not unreasonable to view this as a recommendation to minimise the number of pages.

Well, in this case, it didn’t work out that way. Sometimes conventions just have to fall by the wayside.

Our visitors preferred to complete the process over two pages, as we experienced 30% uplift on Variant B over Variant A.

Whilst unconfirmed, it could be surmised that breaking the form into two chunks made it a less daunting task for the visitor.

Step it up a gear – multivariate testing

Next, we moved to testing the elements on the two pages – titles, text, buttons, colours and positioning.

Multivariate testing page elements

How this works technically will vary depending on the MVT product you use. Essentially, you get to slice the page up into element boxes and the software will create variations of your original page using different combinations of these elements. This could result in 5 pages, 50 pages or 500 pages, depending on the number of elements involved.

The software will then serve these variations to visitors in a live environment. You do need a reasonable amount of traffic to the page to run a test; otherwise the sample size will not be sufficiently robust to make an accurate assessment.

As visitors interact with the test pages, the software will identify page combinations that are converting higher than the default page. More traffic will then be diverted to those pages to test the indication. The test will continue until a point where a page (or pages) has established a clear higher probability of outperforming the default page.

Depending on traffic levels, this could take a few days or several weeks.

At the end of the Jobsite test, the winning combination of elements produced a page that increased registrations by an incredible 103% over the original page.

Looks like hard work – do I need it?

If a significant proportion of your marketing budget each month is spent on PPC to buy in new business, then you need to be doing multivariate testing.

What do you think the reaction would be in your company if you reported a 100% increase in conversions?

Let’s make up an example and do some sums:

PPC spend of £10,000 – gets 15,000 visits – converting at 5% = 750 new customers

Average spend per customer = £20
Revenue = £15,000

50% higher conversion following A/B test (1125 new customers)
Revenue = £22,500

100% higher conversion following multivariate testing (1500 new customers)
Revenue = £30,000

Now I’m not saying multivariate testing is guaranteed to get you a 100% increase in your own key metrics, but it is possible. The important thing to remember is that every site, every page and every audience is different. What works for one site does not necessarily work for another. You have to test it for yourself.

A few landing page tips

To get you started, here are some pointers on good practice for designing landing pages. Remember, your site is different to my site, so experiment.

  • Streamline to one objective on the page.
  • Minimise on-page distractions and means to navigate elsewhere.
  • If you’ve pushed visitors to the page (e.g. via PPC), ensure the page meets their expectations. If you’ve promised a free whitepaper, do not dump them on your homepage and expect them to go find it.
  • Minimise the work of the visitor – keep it simple and collect only the data you need.
  • Experiment with differing headlines, buttons, images and calls to action.
  • Consider adding examples of social proof – e.g. testimonials or statistics – to demonstrate why the users should be following the wisdom of the crowd and signing up to your service.

Multivariate Testing Tools

I have experience of using Maxymiser and Google Web Optimizer and both have done an excellent job. Maxymiser is the more advanced offering of the two and they can provide an account team to minimise your workload (they’ll help set up the test, design the page elements and provide you with reporting), but obviously this comes at a price.

Conversely, Google Web Optimiser is a free service, and hence you don’t get all the bells and whistles, but it is a very good piece of software and is perfectly capable of doing the tests most people need.

Other multivariate testing providers include:

Web Trends

Next up

As you can see, multivariate testing can be a game changer for you and your company. On a personal level, it’s a great opportunity for you to make a substantial difference in your own performance. Big improvements at no extra cost tend to get you noticed.

I for one will be doing a lot of testing in 2010. I have a very exciting test underway, as I look to understand how above the line TV advertising impacts online conversion metrics. I’ll share the results at a later date.

I’d be very interested in hearing your own multivariate testing stories. Either leave comments here or share them with me on Twitter.

Odd Stuff

Social Media 2009: In Doodles

Okay, so I’m really late on this one. There was snow and…well, snow really.  It’s 2010 and it’s really time to put finger to keyboard again.

You’d have to have been in a dark hole for a fortnight not to have seen the deluge of 2009 reviews across the web. There are some really great ones out there, but after a while repetition sets in and you’d rather tackle that mountain of paperwork than look at another one. However, when I saw the video below I had to sit up and take notice due to the novel approach taken to illustrate (pun intended) the key events of the year.

The video and sketches are by a guy called Rob Cottingham, who I have to admit I’d never heard of before this (though his 3,000 Twitter followers are looking smugly on). Rob has a great sense of humour and is very adept at finding the giggles and snorts in technology.

Check out his Noise to Signal blog here. I’ve added the blog to my Google Reader and followed him on Twitter, so I’ll no doubt be sharing more of his stuff throughout 2010.


Personal Development

2010 Resolution: Read One Book a Fortnight

Last week I read, and was inspired by, Julien Smith’s article ‘How To Read a Book a Week in 2010‘. Take a read, maybe you will be too.

In a nutshell, Julien set himself a challenge last year to read a book a week, 52 books a year. He read 54.

Why, you might wonder?

In his words, “It feels awesome. It gives you an amazing amount of ideas. It helps you think more thoroughly. It’s better than TV and even the internet. It makes you understand the world more. It is a building block towards a habit of completion. Did I mention it feels awesome?

Double use of awesome; this man is passionate about books. Me, I love books too. Or at least I did, before the internet came along and I let it spoil my infatuation. There never seems to be time anymore. True, I’m married with a small child, own a house, have a busy job and half a dozen side projects on the go. Somewhere along the way, it became more convenient – and perhaps more instantly gratifying – to reserve my sporadic reading for the internet (and yes, I’m looking at you too, Mr iPhone).

Julien’s article made me remember how much I used to read when I was a kid and up into my 20s – and specifically, how much I used to get out of it. Not just the learning but the joy of entering other people’s heads.

So I set myself a resolution – I will read a book every fortnight throughout 2010.

I shall keep a log on here to keep track of the books I read. I’m rather intrigued to see what that list will look like come January 2011. Please feel free to comment on the books I list, I’m happy to discuss or debate opinions on any of them.

Rather fittingly, the first book I’m reading is Trust Agents, co-authored by none other than Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Laptop is shutting down now, off to read a book.

You can follow Julien Smith on Twitter.

Business Performance Innovation Search Engine Marketing Social Media

Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing Posts of 2009

And that was 2009.

Hopefully yours was a good one, it certainly was for me.  On reflection, much happened in 2009 – both from a personal and web perspective. So much, in fact, it’s hard to imagine it all happened in just 365 days.

I felt like I learnt a lot this year. Much of which, I can say was due to Twitter. On the 5th of January 2009, I wrote my first blog post, entitled ‘What’s the point of Twitter?‘. I’d heard about it, wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, but thought it was worth a go for a month. I never looked back and now check it at least a trillion times a day via my laptop or iPhone.

Twitter gave me access to the minds of brilliant people. Particular favourites being Chris BroganBrent PayneBrian ClarkLisa BaroneScott Stratten and Steve Rubel. I’ve learnt a tremendous amount from them all (many thanks!), impacting my day job and the handful of personal endeavours that have spawned over the year. It’s been an incredibly enriching experience.

It makes me very excited about the prospect of 2010 – what on earth will we learn and acheive this year?

As we close the book on 2009, I’d like to thank everyone that has read my blog this year (or at the very least, come looking for images to re-use). It’s been a very enjoyable experience – one that I need to dedicate much more time to this year.

For one final look at 2009, I’d like to share with you the Top 10 It’s Digital Marketing posts this year. Enjoy!

1. Twitter Statistics: UK traffic increased 22-fold in a year (24th June)

2. Google Profiles to take on in job market? (7th May)

3. 10 Insider Tips to win a Search Agency pitch (2nd March)

4. Ryanair: Cheap flights and cheap service (24th Feb)

5. Building an App for Twitter (2nd July)

6. 10 Signs you’re addicted to Twitter (25th March)

7. Social Proof: The wisdom of crowds (15th Sept)

8. To find a job think like a SEO (13th Feb)

9. Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll: Google Maps Mashup Style (23rd Nov)

10. Social Media Innovation (9th Oct)

Have a happy and prosperous 2010 everybody!


Innovation Social Media

Social Media Innovation

Now is the time to innovate, not stick your head in the sand and wait for the storm to pass by.

That is the theme of my article on social media innovation in this quarter’s edition of Figaro Digital Magazine.

The takeaway thought from the article was that whilst budgets are being cut left, right and centre, that doesn’t mean that you should just bide your time and wait for the sales figures to look a little rosier before you start being creative again.

In fact, if you do that it will probably be too late. At least one of your competitors would have had the gumption to use this difficult time wisely by experimenting. As soon as the market picks up they will be able to break into a full stride whilst you’re still crouching to tie your laces.

You may be thinking that you can’t afford to experiment when your budgets are so low, but who said anything about spending big? You don’t even have to take big risks. You just need to do something different.

For instance, look at where you spend you budgets right now. Like the majority of marketers you’ve probably had to reduce budgets over this past year. What did you cut? Did you look at your activities and wonder what their return was? Did you keep some things because ‘we’ve always done that’?

It might be worth having a look again. It’s very easy to keep doing the same old things, but as the saying goes you can’t really expect a different outcome if you keep putting the same stuff in.

As noted in the article, you can do something very different for your company – and at little expense – if you can get involved in social media. It’s a wild frontier land at the moment, where the rules are fluid and the pitfalls and rewards are as diverse as the possibilities.

In essence, it’s an opportunity. You can shape, innovate or change. You can influence your company’s reputation, your can engage with a new breed of customer and you can discover incredible new ways to do business.

And you can do that without spending a penny.

Search Engine Marketing

For Google size is everything

You probably didn’t notice the subtle change that occured on the Google homepage yesterday. I’m guessing that at a glance you still wouldn’t know if I held up before and after shots of the page.

As reported by Mashable, Google have said they have increased the size of their search box to remind us that their focus is on search.

I don’t know about you, but I appreciate the timely reminder, because I’ve been finding myself staring at the slightly smaller box on the big white page recently and wondering “what’s this all about?”.

Image borrowed from Mashable – click for their article

Forgive me for being skeptical about the message Google have put out, but they rarely do something to their core product ‘just to remind us’ of something (in this case, the blatently obvious).

It’s more likely they’ve tested the varying boxes lengths and discovered the longer one performs better than the shorter one. Who said size doesn’t matter?

My hunch is that it may have something to do with the increase in popularity of long tail searching by the masses. According to Hitwise, the length of search queries is increasing. Longer queries, averaging searches of five to more than eight words in length, have increased 7 percent between April 2008 and April 2009 alone. Perhaps the longer box encourages the searcher to enter more keywords, resulting in a more relevant set of returned search results. End game, one happy searcher = increased loyalty, more visits, more ads to click.

I would be interested to know if they used their own Web Optimizer tool to test the two variants. If you’re not familiar with Web Optimizer, check the description from the product page:

“Website Optimizer, Google’s free website testing and optimization tool, allows you to increase the value of your existing websites and traffic without spending a cent. Using Website Optimizer to test and optimize site content and design, you can quickly and easily increase revenue and ROI whether you’re new to marketing or an expert.”

(The bolding is mine)

I’m in the process of using the tool myself in my work capacity – partly as an inquistive test drive and partly to tweak out a better return on some revenue generating processes. Small fry compared to changing the design of perhaps the most viewed web page in the world, but important nonetheless.

It will be interesting to see if Google make any further changes to the page over the coming weeks.

Innovation Odd Stuff

Space for hire

Would you pay a guy $1 (or £0.60p at today’s exchange rate) to wear your branded t-shirt for a day?

Seems an odd question, but hundred’s of companies are apparently doing it.

Jason Sadler of has made $70,000 this year by selling ad space on the tshirts he wears, according to Mashable. Prices start at $1 for January 1st, $2 for January 2nd and so on until you get to $365 for December 31st. It’s working so well that he has sold out all of 2009 and the first four months of 2010. From next year the prices have doubled (outrageous price hike!), but you do get the benefit of his friend Evan wearing your t-shirt too.

Aside from the people he meets during the day, your t-shirt will get exposure on his blog, his Twitter and Facebook accounts, plus photos and a video show.

So is it worth it?

Well, the daily video blog runs on, which reports his videos have been viewed over 129,000 times since 16th December 2008. He also distributes the video content to Youtube, Vimeo, Dailymotion among others. The top video on Youtube (below) was watched over 9000 times, though most sit around the 150-350 mark.

So there is plenty of exposure as a whole, but it’s debatable whether your single day of exposure and subsequent viewings will have much impact for you. But then we are only talking $1…

As an advertiser, I’m not convinced I would do it. Yes, it would be pretty easy to get a ROI, it would probably only take one person to visit your site or purchase your product to make the investment back. But in that scenario, it’s almost not worth the time to process the paperwork (unless of course you sell high price products). You probably have other more pressing projects that need your attention.

Where it would work, is if you could make the video of him wearing your t-shirt the one that reaches 9,000+ views and get it to prompt a whole series of purchases. For that to happen you’d probably need to have an extremely clever idea or giveaway, and utlise it as part of a larger campaign.

What really impresses me about this though, is the fact that it’s a great idea. Kudos to Jason for making this work. He’s come up with a really simple idea and found a way to make it work. And did I mention he made $70,000 wearing t-shirts? I do that for free. Actually no, I pay brands to wear their tshirts. I’m a mug.

Paid Search Marketing

Local Links appearing in PPC ads

Updated 12:52 pm 23/07/09: Apparently the mysterious link is a ‘Adwords Local PlusBox‘. Yeah, I’d never heard to them either. Well apparently they were launched in December 2007, but as none of the search team had seen them before, I’m guess they’re a little under utilised.

Reading the blurb on them, they only appear for companies with ads running in the top position PPC slots. It’s an interesting idea, very useful for local business with a ‘shopfront’, but not so sure in the case of Reed, a web based business with multiple offices nationwide.


I noticed an extra link is appearing in some PPC ads this morning.

A search for the term ‘jobsite’ bought up the search results below. If you look at the second listing, Reed have an extra link in their ad – clicking it opens up a map of their offices from their Local listing.

Has anyone else noticed this on other brands? Is this something Google are trialing? With Reed or randomly selecting ads from brands utilising Local?