Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience Product Development UX

Deceiving your customers: dark patterns or bad design?

(This post originally appeared on the carwow Product & Engineering blog on Medium)

You may find this hard to believe, but not all people behind your favourite websites have your best interests in mind. Some, you might even say, are out to squeeze every last penny from you before you leave.

Ads covering every spare pixel are tiring and overlays can be downright condescending, but at least they’re being upfront about their intentions. The sneaky ones, the ones you can’t easily see, the ones built into the design – the ‘dark patterns’ – perhaps they’re the worst of all.

What are Dark Patterns?

Sounds like some kind of conspiracy theory from the dimly lit corners of the web, but ‘dark patterns’ is the term coined for practices on the web that deceive users into doing something unintended. You expect one thing, you get another.

Darkpatterns.org, a site dedicated to educating people on the practices and naming and shaming offenders, describes it as:

“Normally when you think of “bad design”, you think of the creator as being sloppy or lazy but with no ill intent. This type of bad design is known as a “UI anti-pattern”. Dark Patterns are different?—?they are not mistakes, they are carefully crafted with a solid understanding of human psychology, and they do not have the user’s interests in mind.”

There are some great examples of this in the library on that site, but I want to share a possible dark pattern I personally encountered last week.

Colour me bad

Now on the grand scale of things, this one isn’t in the ‘Super-Evil’ category, more in the ‘Oh, that’s cheeky’ tier. And I feel a little bad naming them, as I liked the product and it was very helpful to me on a recent research project, but…

Informizely, formerly known as Insitez, offer a number of online survey tools?—?I’d used their very useful exit survey product to help understand why users were leaving a particular page on our website. It served it’s purpose, but I didn’t need it any more and didn’t want to keep on paying the monthly subscription fee.

So I logged into my account and opted to unsubscribe. This was the message I was presented with:

colour based dark patterns

It seemed so simple, but I hesitated. My brain went ___________. What had stopped me? It was only a fraction of a second and as soon as I realised I had to chuckle.

The colours were the wrong way round. Accepted norms in colour psychology say ‘red means stop, green means go’. If I want to proceed I click the green thing. Don’t I? Er, no.

Were they trying to trick me into keeping my subscription or could it just be ‘bad design’? The latter is possible, I suppose. A quick straw poll of a handful of designers in the office was met with laughter.

dark_patter_ragnar

I’m guessing they’re not convinced. I’m just not sure what the thought process could have been behind the innocent selection of those colours and labels.

We’ll never know. I cancelled anyway. Using the red button. (that was the right one, wasn’t it?)

Lesson Learned

What can we take away from this? To borrow from Google… ‘Don’t be evil’. If you’re charged with growing a business, employing dark patterns might deliver you short term gains, but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of your duped (/nearly duped) customers, serving only to build long term distrust in your brand.

**Bonus Dark Pattern**

In writing this I realised I encountered another potential dark pattern recently, buying trainers on the Sports Direct website. Darkpatterns.org has a category for this type?—?the rather descriptive ‘Sneaky into basket’.

I selected a pair of Astroturf trainers, went to the checkout to pay, only to do a double take when I realised a magazine had automatically been added to my basket. It was only £1, but I certainly had no interest in it and was peeved that it had been added.

I wonder what percentage of customers complete their purchase completely unaware of this surreptitious addition?

shopping basket dark patterns

Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience Product Development

Don’t let the HiPPO drive the bus

This article first appeared on the carwow blog on Medium.

Gut feel and opinion go a long way, but it can also take you down the wrong path if you don’t listen to your audience. At carwow, we’re strongly opinionated but it doesn’t rule our decision-making. We use data and user feedback to inform our opinions and decisions about product development and we’re better off for it.

Where do the Hippos come in?

‘HiPPO’ is a term I first heard 5 years ago. It an acronym for ‘Highest PaidPerson’s Opinion’ and was used to describe how many companies make decisions about their product development and marketing. When faced with a decision, the choice was made based on the opinion of a senior figure, with an absence of data or a conscious decision to ignore it.

My view of a HiPPO is less about the seniority and pay grade of an individual and more about the mindset. It’s very easy to believe we know best, or to assume “I could easily be our target customer” but it can be a dangerous habit. I’ve been working on websites since the last millennium (1999?—?yes, I’m that old!) and I’ve lost track of the number of conversion optimisation tests where I’ve guessed the wrong winner. You just don’t know. You need more information.

So if guessing is not an option…?

If you can accept that you don’t know all the solutions to your business problems, then the answer is very simple. You listen.

There are cryptic clues, hidden messages, explicit complaints, enthusiastic endorsements all over your business and from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes you just have to shut up and listen for them.

It’s a trait that’s strong in those who contribute to developing the product at carwow.

So how do we listen?

The information you seek comes in many forms and so you need to listen in different ways. This list isn’t extensive but does highlight a few of our methods.

Analytics

To see what is happening we use a variety of data reporting sources?—?primarily MixPanel, Google Analytics and our own internal customer data. We can see who is using our website, how they interact and convert, and identify bottlenecks that are hindering growth.

On a more granular level, we can review pages using clickmaps, heatmaps and (one of my favourites) video recordings of users interacting with specific functionality on the site.

Feedback methods

Analytics is great at the ‘what’ part, but pretty lacking when it comes to understanding the ‘why’Why are users bouncing from your homepage? Why are they dropping out on your signup form? Why are they unsubscribing from your beautifully crafted emails?

Listen. They’re telling you why.

User testing sessions

These are fun, try it. With user testing, you ask a participant to carry out tasks on your website, whilst you sit next to them and observe. They think out loud, telling you what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and how it makes them feel. All the while, you’re screaming inside your head:

“Click the big green button! It’s right there in front of you!!”

It’s an enlightening experience that really underlines the (potentially incorrect) assumptions you’ve made about how your product should function.

Don’t pass over this method thinking you don’t have the capability or experience to run these sessions. Instead, pick up a copy of Steve Krug’s book ‘Rocket Surgery Made Easy’. It’s a quick and immensely valuable read that will have you testing within the week.

Customer visits

Unlike user testing sessions which can be done in your office or in a testing lab, you can also learn a great deal by observing your customer in their own environment. carwow is a two-sided marketplace, matching car buyers with dealers, so we often visit the dealerships to see how our business customers incorporate our service into their working lives. You quickly spot the holes you can’t see from your desk.

Customer feedback loops

One of my favourite elements about the structure of carwow is that the Customer Service team are part of Product Development. If our goal is to build a product that enables the best car buying experience you’ll ever have, anyone needing to interact with Customer Service is evidence that we must continue to find ways to make it better. And if you’ve ever looked at the information handled by a Customer Service team then you’ll know it’s an embarrassment of riches for anyone looking to improve their service.

First places to look? Dive into your helpdesk enquiries, chat session data and your phone call transcripts. You’ll find problems, solutions, ideas and emotions.

Exit Surveys

When you look at analytics data, the most depressing moment is when a visitor leaves, task incomplete. Why? What put them off?

We’ll never know, is the natural assumption, they’ve gone. Well, true, but we can always ask them as they head out the door. Add an exit survey to your problematic page?—?a little slide-in single question survey box that appears as the user’s mouse moves perilously close to the browser menu bars?—?and ask them what’s wrong.

We did this on a signup form on carwow, asking:

What made you decide not to sign up today?

exit_survey_popup

The results were illuminating, giving us some quick-fix issues to address and food for thought for some conversion tests to run. Handily, they’re also a great tool for capturing the voice of the customer, so you can use the same terminology they use in your web and email copy and not the usual jargon-laden marketing babble.

Insights as far as the eye can see. Now what?

I think you’ll agree, if you’ve looked at your analytics, spoken with customers and observed their actions, then you’re in a better, much more informed place to make decisions.

At carwow, all this information feeds into our design and development process. Our product managers, UX designers and developers assimilate this knowledge into our designs and code.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, so we A/B test major changes with our audience, ensuring that the choices we made based on their feedback were the correct ones.

And if not, we go back to the information, we listen some more and we iterate.

Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience

Is Google’s No Captcha reCaptcha A Conversion Killer?

Spam is a pain in the arse. That’s pretty much something we all agree on. Some of it’s destructive; some malicious; most of it pointless; clogging up email; bloating CRM systems and messing up tracking and reporting.

reCAPTCHA, the most common counter measure, has long been a frustrating user experience, resulting in many an abandoned attempt to submit a web form. So when I heard about Google’s re-imagining of the reCAPTCHA I had to take a look.

So what is Google’s No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA?

In announcing the release on their online security blog, Google claim that their new API, which ‘radically simplifies the reCAPTCHA experience‘, will enable users ‘to securely and easily verify they’re human without actually having to solve a CAPTCHA. Instead, with just a single click, they’ll confirm they’re not a robot‘.

Sounds great. Check out their video, it’s worth it for context:

Sounds a little geeky, but I was genuinely excited to give this a try.

So does Google’s No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA reduce spam?

To test it, we implemented the reCAPTCHA on a lead generation form on our online accounting website.

Google reCAPTCHA on lead generation form

And the impact? Did it reduce spam?

Yes. It did, but it also had a rather painful unintended consequence – it killed genuine conversions.

In the interest of fairness, it’s worth saying this isn’t the most robust of evaluations – ideally tests should run longer, with more data. It ran for a full 24 hour period before we removed it. Given the numbers, I wasn’t prepared to keep it running.

So what happened?

If we compare the 24 hours with the reCAPTCHA versus the 24 hours prior without the reCAPTCHA, I can confirm it had the desired effect on the spam. Gone. Happy days.

Regarding conversions, lets take a look at some observations from studying the page and form data:

  • The pageviews for the two days were very similar
  • The percentages of unique users clicking the form submit button (‘Get started’) were practically identical over the two days

This suggests that the presence of the reCAPTCHA wasn’t off-putting to visitors. Those who wanted to sign up, would still try and do so regardless.

So far, so good.

The problem comes when you dig further into the conversion data. The number of successful form submissions FELL by 73% from one day to the next.

If we look at the number of unique users clicking on the form submit button and compare against the total number of clicks on the button we find our problem. Once the Google reCAPTCHA was added to the page the number of times the button was clicked DOUBLED – from an average of 1.7 times to 3.4 times.

Why? I can’t be sure, but I have a theory.

3 reasons why No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA kills conversions

1. The appearance isn’t customisable

As far as I can tell, the appearance of the reCAPTCHA is not customisable. It can only look like this:

Google's No CAPTCHA reCAPTCHA

As such, I don’t think it looks like part of the form. It looks more like a banner.

2. The checkbox is unconventional

I’m not convinced the ‘check box’ looks like a typical check box. It just looks like a square and as such a user may not be aware that they have to click it.

3. The copy is ambiguous

I have a concern about the ‘I’m not a robot‘ text. Does the average person know what a ‘robot’ actually is in this context? Considering you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a web marketer or pretty tech-savvy. You know what a robot is, but are you an ‘average’ user?

The text also doesn’t have any instruction. Nothing tells you to check the box, so you have to work it out. In the words of Steve Krug, don’t make me think.

As such, my suspicion is that the ‘banner’ is ignored. The user believes they have completed the form and clicks the submit button. When nothing happens, the user continues to click the submit button thinking something is wrong with the website. This causes the number of form button clicks to double.

After a few clicks with nothing happening, they abandon the form and leave the site. Reduced spam, reduced customers.

Good effort, must try harder

I think Google’s intentions here are good. Everyone hates those old reCAPTCHAs. I’d happily never have to squint and cock my head to try and figure out another blurry photo of a house number just to access an online account. The new one does provide a better experience. I love the idea that they’re looking at the user’s entire engagement with the process – especially the mapping of a human’s jerky mouse movements that a robot struggles to recreate – but I think the execution needs more thought.

Personally, I’d rather any solution completely takes the onus off the user and is dealt with in the background by the technology. Less friction is not as good as no friction.

So, to quote their headline, ‘Tough on bots, easy on humans‘… yeah not so much Google. There’s a little more work to be done yet.

Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing Customer Experience Innovation Product Development Search Engine Marketing

How to growth hack your business and achieve sustainable results

The first rule of Growth Hacking? Don’t talk about growth hacking.

That was my paraphrased tweet quoting one of the speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference in London recently. It seems I’m not the only one who isn’t a fan of the name but feels the principles behind it are sound, if a little misunderstood.

Many people (maybe just us Brits?) roll their eyes when they hear the phrase ‘growth hacking’, thinking it’s a cheesy term applied to the processes of inflating numbers exceptionally quickly with a goal of reaching a ridiculous valuation figure that gets Mark Zuckerberg jingling his pocket change.

So it was refreshing to hear so many of the speakers at the conference talking about sustainable growth – yes, build a product that scales, but also one that provides value to its audience, not just for 3 days, 3 weeks weeks or 3 months, but on an ongoing basis. A product that would be missed if it were no longer there.

I scribbled a lot of notes throughout that day, so let me share a few of them here, along with the speaker slidedecks. If you want more, head over to the collaborative Google doc that was edited live throughout the event.

Find Product / Market Fit

The Father of Growthhacking (or at least the phrase coiner), Sean Ellis (@SeanEllis) hosted the event and shared his thoughts on the drivers of growth:

  1. Right product in the right market and
  2. Successful execution of ideas

Product / Market fit was a theme throughout the day. Ellis posits that without it, sustainable growth just isn’t possible. In fact, it’s critical for strong organic growth (Growthhackers are particularly keen on organic growth. Most argue the paid stuff should come once you have traction. That’s not to say you can’t scale a paid channel to achieve growth. You just need deeper pockets).

Ellis has a useful way of determining if a business has a strong product / market fit. He surveys the customer base and asks how many would be ‘very disappointed’ if they couldn’t use the product anymore. If you can hit 40%, then you have a strong product / market fit. Then you need to stack the odds in your favour by understanding what those people are getting from your product so you can reproduce it / scale it with others.

Hustle to find scaleable growth

Zack Onisko (@zack415), from Creative Market, talked of trying out creative, out-of-the-box ideas to get to your goal in the shortest possible time. He referred to it as the Hustle stage – trying out a variety of channels, potentially non-scaleable, to try and find one that could be unlocked and scale.

Gaining Early Traction by Doing Things that Don’t Scale (Hustling) from Zack Onisko

He gave 20 ways to hustle, of which my favourites were:

  • Speaking with customers to find out how to improve the product
  • Go above and beyond with customers – sending them surprise gifts, thank-you messages, building brand loyalty
  • Give something away for signing up – asking for info is high friction, so do an exchange. They give you their email address, you give them something of value to them (i.e. a book, free service, money)
  • Forge partnerships with other likeminded businesses – help each other
  • ‘Eat your own dog food’ – make sure you use the product yourself. Understand it, know its weaknesses and improve them

Build a positive Net Promoter Score

NPS Driven Growth or How to grow your startup w from Nilan Peiris

Net Promoter Score (NPS), was discussed several times, particularly by Nilan Peiris (@nilanp) of TransferWise, as an effective tool for measuring how your audience views your brand or product. NPS asks a single question:

How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague?

Customers answer on a 0-10 scale and labelled Detractors (0-6), Passives (7-8) or Promoters (9-10). To calculate your company’s NPS, take the percentage of customers who are Promoters and subtract the percentage who are Detractors.

Clearly you want as many Promoters and as few Detractors as possible. How do you do that? Build a ‘must-have’ product, provide great service and exceed expectations.

Be aware though that a large number of Passives isn’t ideal either as those people are indifferent to your product, meaning they’d have less resistance switching if an attractive alternative product was available.

Study your successes

It’s very easy to get caught up trying to figure out how you can persuade the disinterested to buy your product. An alternative approach was suggested by Dr Karl Blanks from Conversion Rate Experts. He suggests it’s more productive to focus on those that did buy. He recommends asking customers immediately after they have purchased this question:

What was the one thing that nearly made you not buy from us today?

Whatever their one thing was, it wasn’t enough to dissuade them, but it could be putting off many others who are dithering over their purchases also. If you can identify those issues and fix them, you’ll win those ‘almost-in-reach’ customers. That has got to be easier than trying to convert someone not interested in buying.

A bonus tip from Blanks: reverse engineer success by creating a custom segment in Google Analytics for those that bought from you. Then look at their behaviour and the content they looked at and try and figure out why those were successful.

Find your customer’s voice

SEO Tactics to Love vs. Leave from Rand Fishkin

Moz‘s Rand Fishkin (@randfishkin) and his legendary coiffed hair adorned the stage to speak about organic SEO growth. His slides were full of great nuggets but if I’m only to pick one, I found his thoughts on using the customer’s language thought provoking. He discussed ‘intent keywords’ and how to build a list of them to target with content. Keyword suggestion tools have their limits, so he recommended these three activities to generate them:

  1. Look at your competitors activity – see what they rank for
  2. Talk to customers directly (and your sales people) – what words are used in the conversations
  3. Look for conversations online in forums and places like Reddit – what is the language used?

It’s surprising how often businesses make assumptions about the words to target for SEO and content. The gap between assumption and reality is often a chasm. Locate the words used by the customer, not you.

Other Awesome Speaker Decks

There were so many great speakers at the Growth Hacking Conference, it would take quite a lengthy post just to summarise the main takeaways. So instead I’ve rounded up the remaining slidedecks I could find and included them here.

Hands-on Hacks – A Flipbook of Inspirational Growth Wins from Marie Steinthaler

The 3 Ugly Ducklings of Growth. from Geckoboard

 A Growth Checklist

As the day closed, I tried to summarise the main takeaways in a list to take back to the office. So in my newly educated opinion, If you want to build sustainable growth for your business I would suggest:

  • Build an awesome product (find Product/Market match)
  • Develop a strong Customer Value Proposition (i.e. why you’re relevent, what you offer, why you’re better)
  • Provide great customer service
  • Build in feedback loops to your product (and act on it)
  • Find likeminded partners to promote
  • Ensure data / measurement are baked in to your product and processes
  • Optimise the journeys (using conversion rate optimisation testing, i.e A/B or MVT)
  • Delight your customers (and measure with NPS)
  • Find smart people to advise you (and to ground you when you fall in love with your product and can’t see when you’re wrong).

So, all in all a great conference, one of the best I’ve attended. There aren’t too many events you can attend where you can discuss product, data, conversion rate optimisation, customer service, partnerships, entrepreneurship, with smart people who are equally happy to talk about their mistakes as well as their successes. If its on again next year, I’d recommend you attend. I’ll see you there.

Awesome photo courtesy of Dan Barker, ecommerce & online marketing expert and dab hand with a camera. Worth a follow on Twitter @danbarker

Categories
Business Performance Videos

Watch what happens to your web traffic when your TV ad airs

Have you ever wondered what impact a TV ad has on a website when it airs?

I don’t mean overall impact, such as an increase in brand awareness or revenue. I mean the IMMEDIATE impact.

As in, if my advert appears on TV right now, what happens on the website?

Let’s find out

The introduction of Realtime into Google Analytics was a wondrous thing for digital marketers. It provides an opportunity to get a feeling for what is happening right now on a website, without having to rely on day old data. It can be very exciting (and a little mesmerising).

When Jobsite.co.uk, my previous employer, ran a new TV campaign in January 2013 it presented a perfect opportunity to answer my question of ‘what happens next?

At 9.45 pm on Sunday 6th January, one of our adverts appeared in the commercial break of the popular drama, Mr Selfridge, on ITV1 (SouthEast & Midwest regions only). Using video capture software, I recorded the Realtime page of our Google Analytics account as the TV ad played and for the 4.5 minutes afterwards.

TV ad impact on web traffic

So what happened?

As the TV advert aired

TV impact on web traffic - at the start

When the advert started there were 1,574 people on the website at that very moment. 51% of these visitors were New and 49% were Returning (had used the site before).

Within seconds of the brand name being mentioned and the website URL appearing at the end of the advertisement, the number of people on the site started to rise.

1 minute after

TV impact on web traffic - after 1 minute

After a little over 1 minute the number really started to climb. I suspect that is how long it takes people to reach for their mobile devices or laptops and type in the URL or conduct a search. At the same time, the split had shifted to 55% New visitors versus 45% Returning visitors.

2 minutes after

TV impact on web traffic - after 2 minutes

About 2 minutes after the ad finished the number of active visitors had increased about 1/3 on the starting figure to 2,084. At that point the split had shifted to 57% New visitors versus 43% Returning visitors.

3 minutes after

TV impact on web traffic - after 3 minutes

The visitor numbers peaked at about 3 minutes after the ad ended, hitting 2,143 active visitors. The visitor split was 58% New visitors versus 42% Returning visitors. By this point the programme was back on and numbers started to settle back down again.

Observations

It’s worth mentioning that this was just one ad slot on a Sunday night early in the campaign and isn’t necessarily reflective of the campaign as a whole. However, it does provide some interesting observations:

  • TV advertising drives people to your website. A no brainer really, but nice to see it works.
  • The speed at which people started visiting the site supports the notion of increased adoption of ‘dual screening’ – people using their mobile devices (or laptops) whilst watching TV.
  • TV advertising attracts new users to your site (evidenced by the New/Returning split change), as well as bringing back previous users.

The campaign itself was a great success, breaking records across a range of metrics including visitors and job applications. It also massively helped shift awareness of the Jobsite brand. When we started TV advertising in 2008, awareness levels amongst jobseekers was only 31%, but rose to 68% by the end of the January 2013 campaign. It was equally as impressive with the recruiter audience, rising from 35% to 67%.

As a digital marketer, it’s rare to get an opportunity to do brand focused activity on such a large scale. It also takes some getting used to the ‘measurement’ systems used, such as TVRs, brand consideration, empathy and awareness,  so it’s great to be able to make use of our digital tools to make sense of the impact that offline activity can have.

;)

I originally wrote this post for the corporate blog of Evenbase, the parent company of Jobsite. Following the closure of Evenbase, the article has been reproduced and updated here on my own blog – don’t want a good post go to waste 

Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing Email Marketing

How to recover 52% of your abandoned shopping carts using email remarketing

When the subject of conversion optimisation comes up, most of the talk is about on-page optimisation – utilising A/B or multi-variant tests to determine which headlines, calls to action, images or page layout persuades your visitor to take the necessary steps to reach their goal (and yours).

It’s not the only way, mind you. There are ways to increase your conversions using channels outside of your website.

Let me paint you a picture.

Your company sells car insurance and I’m shopping around for a new policy. I dread this point every year and in fact it’s often the reason why I just renew my policy even though I could get a better deal elsewhere. But this year is different. I’m going to find the best deal and it just so happens I’ve found it on your website. 

I’m pretty pleased, that didn’t take long. So I start to fill out your online application form. The smile on my face slowly begins to fade. Within five minutes it’s a full on scowl. So many questions! You’re asking for dates for this, policy numbers for that and… oh my word, is this really worth it to save £40???

Thing is, I know that every insurance website will ask me this. If I want the saving, I’m just going to have to go dig out the old paperwork so I can answer the questions. But I don’t have time right now, I’ll do it tomorrow…

Or not, as so often is the case.

It’s not just insurance, it happens everywhere on the web where some kind of transaction is occurring. It’s typically referred to as an abandoned shopping cart, but it equally applies to non-ecommerce processes, such as lead generation forms, job applications and account registrations, for instance.

As optimisers, this pains us. It’s our job to convert as many visitors to customers as possible. We could just accept these as lost or we could figure out how to get them back.

Bringing them back

Remarketing, as the name suggests, is the activity of re-engaging with visitors who did not convert first time round. The most popular form of remarketing is via display advertising. A cookie is set when a user visits a site and if they do not convert then personalised display ads are targeted at them on their subsequent travels around the web. Major players of this technology include Struq, Criteo and Google.

That kind of remarketing can be very effective, but I want to talk to you about another type of remarketing that can do wonders for your conversion rate. Email remarketing.

Urgh, email marketing. Boring. With all the sexy new technology available, people would rather not talk about email. But you know what? It’s still one of the most effective marketing channels you can use.

Why? Because there’s infinitely less competition for attention within the private walls of their inbox than there is out there on the wide open web. Especially if the message is one to one, relevant and of value. For instance…

Hi Gary,

It looks like you weren’t able to complete your insurance application today, so we’ve saved the information you entered. When you’re ready, just click the link below to pick up where you left off and you’ll be insured in just a few minutes.

How I recovered 52% of abandoned shopping carts

Lets look at a real example. In a previous role I worked for Jobsite.co.uk, a leading job board in the UK. Advertising recruiters have a choice of buying job ad credits over the phone from a salesperson or they can do self-service via an ecommerce system, complete with shopping basket.

Tasked with increasing revenue, I analysed the performance data to identify optimisation opportunities. I spotted one in the basket abandonment data. These people were interested enough to place a product in the shopping basket and start to fill out their billing details… but for some reason just couldn’t bring themselves to hit the ‘Buy’ button. Whilst there were plenty of on-page optimisations to do, I felt these people were so very close to a conversion that we had to try something a little different.

So what did we do?

We decided to utilise the Conversion Manager product from SeeWhy, which provides real time personalised messages to visitors that abandon shopping carts. With the software integrated with our system we were able to send triggered emails based on the behaviour of the visitor and the information they provided on the site.

Each visitor could receive up to 3 emails depending on their actions, or inaction, all written in a non-sales tone and featuring a link to their shopping basket, containing their partially completed data.

The result? 52% of those visitors who received a remarketing email from us returned to the shopping basket and completed their purchase.

So, a little more about the emails…

The first email needs to be sent immediately. There are 2 reasons – 1) not all abandonments are deliberate, sometimes people get kicked out of systems or lose internet connectivity and 2) the visitor is in a buying frame of mind if they were in your checkout, so now is a great time to reinforce your message and offering.

If the customer does not purchase (or register, or download, etc.) within 23 hours then send the 2nd email. People are creatures of habit and your visitors are likely to be back online the same time next day (i.e. lunch break). Why 23 hours and not 24? Well, that allows for any delay in the ISP delivering the email and for it to be ready waiting for them when they next login in.

If they’ve still not purchased after 6 days and 23 hours send them the 3rd and final email. Any more than this and it starts getting spammy. You might want to trial a discount voucher code in this final email (we did), as one last attempt to get them to complete their order.

Be careful of offering the discount any earlier than this. If your promotion occurs in the first email, you’ll train your visitors to abandon the shopping cart immediately, just to get the discount email. It’s a very patient customer who will wait a week to get their third email just to game the system.

The tone of the emails is important. A friendly customer service tone is what you’re after. An overly aggressive sales message will come across as spam – and remember, some of the abandonments may be because of genuine difficulties completing the process.

Make sure you capture the contents of a field as the data is entered. This makes it possible to return the user to the point they left off when they click the link in the email. This is a big win for the visitor – tell them in the email copy that they can pick right up where they left off. This’ll increase the likelihood of them finishing the transaction.

One of the advantages of using a product like SeeWhy is that it synchronises with your purchase data in realtime. This ensures that you don’t send out a remarketing email if the visitor has recently returned to the site and made a purchase. Failure to stop the scheduled email would result in a confusing experience for the customer – and a frustrating one if you’ve sent them a discount code moments after they purchased the product at full price.

So how did each email perform?

EmailTimingShared of Recovered Baskets
Email 1Immediate78%
Email 223 hours later16%
Email 36 days 23 hours later6%

As you can see, the vast majority of recovered shopping carts came from the first email. If need be, you could just implement a single email if you have limited resources and you’ll still likely experience an uplift. However, you may feel that it’s worth the additional work to recover the additional 22% from emails 2 and 3. It’s also worth noting that you can experiment with the timing of the emails. The ideal phasing of the three emails could be different for your product and audience.

So, if you’re looking to optimise your shopping basket (or your lead generation form, your sign-up process, or download page), think about all the channels at your disposal. To encourage visitors through the buying funnel, you could A/B or multi-variant test the content of your web pages. To pull browsing visitors who did not convert back to the site try remarketing via display adverting. But to get those people who were so close to buying that they almost completed your shopping basket process, give email remarketing a go. Guessing a 52% recovery would look pretty nice on your stats sheet?

Categories
Business Performance Conversion Testing

What a 3 year old can teach you about conversion rate optimisation

We do like to make things complicated.

We see something simple and feel like its missing something. It’s been a while since we launched this, we should probably do an upgrade; customers expect new features; some bells and whistles would be nice.

Tell me, what couldn’t be improved with some extra bells and whistles??

Turns out an awful lot. If you’re in the business of driving action online, of increasing revenue or sign ups or downloads, then you should care a lot about providing a simple path to conversion.

Done well, changes to overly complicated pages and processes will help your conversions improve. Mess them up and you’ll find the arrow pointing in the wrong direction.

So how do you ‘de-bell’ and ‘anti-whistle’ your cluttered webpages?

It’s simple. Watch a small child playing with a jigsaw puzzle.

Er, say what?

Yep, close your laptop, leave your desk and watch how a child plays.

I can’t claim to know how they think. I was one once, but sadly can’t recall anything of the thought process of my 3 year old self. What I can see, however, is that their actions are not encumbered by complex thought, scenario planning, or indecision, yet their play is incredibly efficient.

Sounds like a recipe for conversion rate optimization to me.

Let’s take a look at four jigsaw puzzle takeaways:

Appearance counts

Children can be fickle creatures. With plenty of exciting toys to choose from, it’s pretty hard for the humble jigsaw puzzle to stand out from the crowd. The child will scan the room and make instant decisions on objects. So what makes the child pick a puzzle? What makes it stand out?

The picture on the box.

The child is drawn to the image – the bright colors, the composition and of course, the appealing familiar characters. A dull, featureless image just won’t cut it.

Takeaway: Know your audience and make sure your website design appeals to that group. Making your site credible is important, whatever your industry. That doesn’t have to mean formal or corporate, just appropriately designed for your audience.

When someone lands on your site, they’ll make a split second judgement based on appearance. Get it right and they’ll pick your site from amongst all the other sites in the Internet toy room.

Think about your use of colour, headline, imagery, layout and trust marks, but overall make it clear that it delivers on their need.

Speed & simplicity

Kids have a short attention span, so toys need to peak their interest immediately. If they’re too complex or confusing they’ll quickly lose interest. A child will do several simple puzzles, excited by the achievement of completing each of them, but will balk at a larger, more complex puzzle that requires greater concentration and effort.

Takeaway: Steve Krug wrote a great usability book called ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, the title of which should be a mantra for anyone tasked with building processes. If your webpage makes me stop and ask “What do I do next?” or “How do I buy this?” then something has gone horribly wrong.

Cut out the unnecessary stuff and just focus on letting the user complete the process as quickly as possible. Filling your customer database with a wealth of ‘enriching’ data is unlikely to be worth the trade-off of losing potential customers through poor process design.

Visual Clues

How does a three year old start a puzzle?

Scatter puzzle pieces on the floor and watch which piece they reach for first. Invariably it will be a face – Mickey Mouse’s big eyes or Bob the Builder’s bright yellow hat. They’ll latch on to these visual clues to give them a bearing. They’ll repeat this process until they can join pieces together.

Where they struggle is when they try to match pieces with indistinct imagery – green grass or blue sky – it just becomes a process of trial and error to see which pieces fit.

Takeaway: You can’t always afford to be subtle in your design. If you want your visitor to click a button to move into your purchase funnel, then make sure that button stands out from the rest of the page elements.

It’s all very well having a colour palette to adhere to in your Brand Guidelines, but if your button blends in it won’t do much for your conversion rate. Repeat after me: It’s okay to be different.

Don’t stop at colour, experiment with size, shape and location too.

Remove obstacles

A quick way to lose a child’s attention is to present them with an obstacle, such as a piece of the puzzle missing from the box. They won’t go looking for it. They’ll give up and go play with something else.

Takeaway: The same applies to your website. If your landing page or process has unnecessary obstacles – such as poor process flow, clumsy navigation, broken functionality or unnecessary actions then your users will give up early and go find your competitors. Remove the obstacles and your conversions will increase.

Two things to watch out for on your site:

  1. If you’re running an ecommerce site then trust is essential. If any part of your process breaks or behaves in an unconventional way then it will introduce doubt into your visitor’s mind. This could result in an abandoned shopping cart.
  2. Fix your form errors. As a user, it’s so frustrating to complete a form and then be presented with angry red error messages saying you’ve made a mistake. If you want my password to be 8 characters, containing at least 1 numerical character, then tell me upfront. If my telephone number has to have a space after the area code then tell me (actually, just figure it out in your code, you’re smart enough). And don’t you dare remove the info I’ve already typed in other fields when you’re busy presenting me with error messages. Test your form over and over again and try and break it. Don’t rely on your users having infinite patience.

The conversion payoff

Have you ever seen the look on a child’s face when they click that last piece of puzzle into place? They’re so proud of what they’ve done, they’ll probably want to do it again.

The same goes for your customers. If you make it easy for them to get the product or service they need, to make it a pleasurable experience not a painful one, then they’ll come back time and time again.

What other conversion lessons could you take from how a child views the world? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

Categories
Business Performance Natural Search Marketing Paid Search Marketing Search Engine Marketing

Looking for a RBYes Mortgage or Rabies? RBS Campaign Fail

https://youtu.be/YpQYgCxCF5c

In my previous post, I talked about how Natwest’s new ad campaign fell short because TV and digital were not integrated. The TV advert creative contained the call to action ‘Search NatYes‘ yet NatWest did not have a listing in the organic results for that search phrase. They effectively paid twice by running PPC ads to try convert the visitor.

The post generated a lot of shares, comments on the blog and some twitter conversations. Whilst reading further around the subject I discovered a couple of interesting things.

Firstly, Natwest are owned by RBS and it transpires that the same advert has been shot twice – once for NatWest and once for RBS – with different accented boy actors to cater for different regional markets.

Both use a similar call to action in the TV ads – either ‘search NatYes‘ or ‘Search RBYes‘.

Secondly, as you’d expect given the same marketers & agency, both campaigns experience similar digital integration problems. However, to compound it, the RBYes campaign has encountered another unfortunate issue.

When you type in ‘RBYes‘ to Google, the search engine has tried to helpfully correct what it believes to be a misspelling. So instead of information on RBS mortgages you get…

Rabies.

I’m guessing this isn’t what the bank wants prospective customers to see.

There is another link that says ‘search instead for rbyes‘ but it is below the adjusted search term and much smaller. By this point the searcher has already noticed the links to rabies information and the YouTube video thumbnails of unfortunate canines.

To RBS’ credit, they do have a PPC ad present in the top slot, albeit surrounded by less appealing links.

In my Natwest NatYes post I was critical regarding the lack of a listing atop the organic results. In that instance it would have strengthened their position, reduced their dependency on a 24/7 PPC presence and protected against guerrilla shenanigans by competitors. With the RBYes campaign, an optimised landing page in the organic listings is again a necessity but it wouldn’t help one bit with this particular issue.

Now, you could defend RBS by saying who could have predicted this? And that may well be a fair comment. However, I can’t help but feel this could have been discovered a lot earlier in the planning and preparation stage – before the ads and tag lines were signed off. Surely someone typed it into Google when the idea was to proposed to include ‘search RBYes’ in the TV advert?

Though tangential, this brings to mind the classic mistakes companies have experienced when trying to launch products into foreign markets without doing thorough research into the local translation of the brand name. Whilst amusing to read, it can be embarrassing for the business and costly to remedy.

So what happens if you click the ‘search instead for rbyes‘ link?

Thankfully a RBYes mortgage page appears near the top of the organic listings (as well as a PPC ad). Over the course of the past couple of days I’ve watched it move up from the bottom of page one to the number two position behind a Youtube video. I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before it takes the top slot, as the algorithm adjusts.

Incidentally, I performed the same search for ‘rbyes‘ on Youtube to find the TV advert video to embed in this post and the same unfortunate substitution occurs:

So what are the lessons to take from this for your own campaigns?

Preparation and detail. The planning stage of a campaign is crucial, especially when you need to account for customer journeys across multiple channels and platforms. You have to map out exactly where you need to be, with which assets and with a clear, consistent message. All that requires an eye for detail. The big themes, the messaging, the story, all are obviously essential for a campaign, but it’s the little details that hold it together and influence the outcome.

Categories
Business Performance Customer Experience Search Engine Marketing

NatYes or NatLess: NatWest Campaign Lacking TV & Digital Integration

https://youtu.be/jiN-cNJxvN0

From personal experience, I know TV campaigns cost a lot. Digital campaigns can be no small change either. But regardless of the size of your budget you need to be smart about getting maximum return on your spend.

This requires joined up thinking across your campaigns (or preferably your single integrated campaign) and plenty of forward planning.

With this in mind it’s disappointing to see the latest campaign from NatWest.

Check the video below of the new TV advert and watch out for the call to action in the penultimate ‘frame’.

Did you catch it? ‘Search NatYes‘.

Go search for NatYes – what do you find?

Nothing. Well, except for that paid adwords ad at the top of the page. Absolutely nothing about NatYes in the free listings.

This is a missed opportunity for NatWest – and an opportunity for a competitor to jump in and steal some traffic.

  1. If you’re going to ask your prospective customers to search for a keyword, then you need to make sure your website or landing page appears if someone searches on it. This requires preparation. You need to create your landing pages in advance of your campaign and given the gap between storyboarding a TV advert and the ad going live you have plenty of time to get this sorted.
  2. The advantage of using a phrase like ‘NatYes’ is that it is a unique word that no one is using – see the above search results as a case in point. Therefore, it should be easy to optimise for your chosen term(s)and get a top listing quickly.
  3. You might also want to go grab the URLs – natyes.co.uk, natyes.com, etc. Customers will likely just search for the phrase, but you never know if some cheeky competitor or affiliate marketer might jump in and secure a higher listing than your page
  4. At the very least NatWest have sponsored the term on Adwords. This is essential if you have no organic listings. Even if you do you’ll need to be prepared to spend some money on PPC to support the campaign just in case any of your competitors decide to sponsor the term too.

Where NatWest have done well is the landing page. Whilst you can only get to it from the paid ad, there are a couple of things they’ve got right:

  1. Firstly they have scent. They have continued the visual design from the ad onto the landing page, using the image of the boy actor in the Indian headdress. This gives the user confidence that they have arrived in the right place. Removing doubt in the customer’s mind is a key objective of every landing page.
  2. They have reused the slogan ‘NatYes’ from the TV ad on the landing page. The only thing I’d suggest is using it a little higher up the page. Currently it is beneath the fold and not visible in that crucial first second when the user scans the page.
natwest_lp

In summary, think about the customer journey from end to end. Everything must be consistent and flow. At no point do you want the flow to be interrupted – those are the moments you lose your customers. Even worse, is if you lose the customer to a competitor who was smart enough to optimise their activity around your campaign.

Say Yes to smart, joined up thinking.

Update 10/06/13:

The story doesn’t stop there. NatWest’s sister brand RBS are using the same approach, with a call to action of ‘Search RBYes’ in their TV advert. This time though there is a rather unfortunate run-in with Google spelling auto-correct feature that renders quite different results…

Categories
Business Performance Customer Experience Mobile Product Development Social Media

3 principles of realtime interaction in an Always-On culture

It’s remarkable how quickly the Always On culture has established. It’s insinuated itself within our lives to the point people often remark they cannot remember what they did or how they coped before it. Social and Mobile are, of course, at the heart of its meteoric rise. The adoption of both as ‘must-haves’ in our lives has changed the way we, as individuals, behave.

As a consequence it has also changed our expectations. Urgency and immediacy are the expected norm. Like much in modern life we want things now. The big difference is that the new channels have given the consumer a voice. The relationship between brands and people has changed. The message – controlled by the brand – has now become a conversation, with the individual exerting more influence than perhaps is comfortable for brands. Brands need the individual. They must work together in collaboration. And that’s not the future, that’s now.

Shifting the approach

So, if the behaviour of the comsumer has changed, has your brand adapted and followed suit? Sadly, brands are often hippos to the consumers’ gazelle when it comes to changing behaviour. Look at mobile: consumer use has reached a hygiene level and many brands are still discussing the need for a mobile-friendly site.

What’s needed is a shift in thinking from top to bottom through your organisation. We can’t keep doing things the old way.

Here are three principles to consider…

1. Understand the moments that matter for your audience

Success in business stems from having a clear idea of who is your intended audience and what need your product or service fulfils. That concept extends throughout your company whether it’s Sales, Marketing, product development or customer service.

Regardless of your department, you need to answer the questions: Who, what, where and when? Who is your customer? What do they need/want? Where will you find them and when do they need you?

To be particularly effective in this ‘Always-On’ culture, you have to understand the moments that matter for your audience – when is it they need your product or service (or those of your competition)? If you can deliver at that time, you’ll develop / strengthen the relationship between the customer and your brand. Likewise, fail at that moment and the customer will be gone.

Let’s consider Product. In this case, for an insurance company. As the brand I may think that I should simply replicate my desktop site onto a mobile site, complete with its homepage sales messages. However, as a consumer visiting via my phone, am I there to buy a new insurance policy? Maybe, but unlikely – it doesn’t strike me that that is something I’d want to research on a small phone screen.

So as a brand setting it’s mobile strategy, I need to think about what my customers are likely to want in the moments that matter and prioritise the appearance and functionality accordingly.

If I’m already a customer, the moment that matters to me would be an emergency situation, such as a burst pipe, where I want to be able to use my phone to quickly find your telephone number, be able to access my policy details and maybe even a simple way to file a claim or record the damage. I don’t want to find a site unoptimised for mobile that requires me to hunt for a support number and with no help information easily available.

2. Anticipate & Prepare: Realtime is too slow

Real time is too slow. Your response is a reaction to something happening and this can take time. The gap between the event and your response can often determine the success of your activity. This applies to responding to a comment in social media, content marketing, your promotional mix or product functionality. So it becomes more about anticipating what your audience wants  – and when – and then being ready to answer the call when the moment that matters arrives.

For instance, if content marketing is part of your strategy you’ll want to be aware of and prepared for the conversations you know will be happening – Oreo’s set up for the Superbowl is a great example of the big pay-off of anticipation and preparation. You’ll need to determine which of those conversations are relevent for your brand to participate in. However, more importantly, you need to be prepared for the conversations you don’t know are going to happen. They will be the true test of your planning, structure and resources. Can you react in time?

An example:

Within minutes of the Pope resigning earlier this year, Jobsite.co.uk (my employer) began to see tweets linking the brand to the news (i.e. jokingly wondering if the job would be advertised on Jobsite).

Firstly, it was great to see our brand-building work paying off by being mentioned, but also it presented us with three opportunities:

1) to engage with our existing social community

2) to produce sharable content that’ll reach a wider audience

3) an opportunity to generate valuable social signals for the search engines to help our rankings

With the help of our agency iProspect, our team produced a spoof job ad advertising for the role, but using modern business language (i.e. ability to build a global strategy, whilst recognising local differences, strong negotiation skills, office with a view, use of a company car, etc.).

From the news breaking to posting the ad on our blog was about 3 hours. It would’ve been quicker if I hadn’t had to deliberate over whether it was right for the brand to have a little fun with a religious subject. Which illustrates a key point about being prepared – yes, you need ideas people, creatives to produce assets, a clear and responsive sign-off process, but you also need to have a clear idea of what you’re comfortable doing with your brand. How do you want to behave and how you want to be perceived?

To answer my Pope question I referred back to one of my own principles: I won’t take advantage of or mock someone else’s misfortune, particularly when someone has lost a job. However, in this case, the outgoing Pope resigned by choice and we weren’t ripping religion, so I was comfortable to sign off the creative.

The response to that post was fantastic. We had more shares of that post in the first few days then we had for all blog posts over the previous 12 months. To top it off, 77% of the traffic to the blog post came from new visitors to the site, so we’d succeeded in reaching in the new audience.

Awesome Reactive Content from @jobsiteuk – Seeking New Pope For Immediate State #contentmarketing bit.ly/14NKRTL

— Chelsea Blacker (@ChelseaBlacker) February 11, 2013

The principle of anticipate and prepare also extends to your advertising mix. Are you prepared for what happens after your audience see your advertising?

Take TV advertising for example. Your ad appears on screen – what happens next?

Whilst TV is often used as a tool to raise brand awareness, it can prompt realtime action.Depending on what you’re selling this can be difficult in the space of an ad break.

So you have to anticipate and prepare.

1) Can your audience find you? Make sure your web address is in your advert for starters. Bear in mind though, people don’t always type in the URL directly. Sometimes they will do a brand, product of keyword search. With competitor bidding allowed on Pay-per-click you can’t just rely on being no.1 in the organic listings for your brand name. You also need to be in the first paid slot. So make sure you’re using day parting on brand term campaigns, giving you 100% visibility for a period after your ad airs.

2) Once the visitor lands on your website, do you make it easy for them to achieve their goal or have a process in place to capture their details for future activity?

3) Is your site mobile friendly? Increasingly consumers will be visiting via mobile devices – what will they see? Is it usable?

4) Anticipate they won’t have time to purchase / sign up to your site before their programme re-starts, so deploy behavioural retargeting to reach those that did not convert first time around.

3. Bring value to a customer at a receptive moment

Value = answering a question, providing a service, providing escapism (i.e. a game or humour)

Receptive moment = at the right time rather than realtime

The absence of value for the customer makes your interaction spam, noise or frustrating, and doing it at the wrong time can be instrusive.

Providing customer service via social media is considered a best practice no-brainer, even if its still not actively happening in many companies. However, according to a consumer privacy study by Netbase and JD Power there is perhaps a disconnect between what businesses think should happen and what the consumer wants. The conclusion of the study was:

Consumers find social listening intrusive…except when they don’t.

It’s obvious when you drill down that us consumers are fickle creatures, who clearly want things our own way – in part, a result of the empowering nature of social.

The study showed:

  • 51% of consumers want to talk about brands without the company listening in
  • 48% want companies to just listen in to improve products
  • 64% want brands to respond to social comments only when spoken to

So you’re kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That’s why it’s important to understand what your audience needs and provide value at the right time.

Another Jobsite example. We monitor and engage via a product called Radian6. One Easter I’m standing in line at Starbucks playing with my phone as I wait. I open Radian6 and see a jobseeker venting on Twitter about our service. There are several tweets getting progressively worse about the jobs we’re sending her aren’t in the right location and she’s ticked off.

On a normal day our customer service team would respond and fix the problem. But its Easter and I don’t want to leave it, so I respond back to her, calm her down and promise we’ll fix it when the office opens on Tuesday. She was appreciative and said something that stayed with me “thank you, I just wanted someone to listen“.

As it turns out, she hadn’t actually told us where she wanted to work, so it was easy fix to remedy the situation. This became a win for us because we’d anticipated the need to monitor, we engaged at the moment that mattered and we provided value by listening and delivering on a promise.

Away from social listening, another good example would be National Rail Enquiries.

They know that travel can be frustrating – customers are sensitive to delays, cancellations etc.  – so they’ve developed a number of realtime services that are there at the right time to make the experience better. This includes a mobile app, a text service, a phone line and social media updates.

Personally, I use the mobile app to plan journeys – even when sat in front of my PC – it’s just quick and simple. I use it on trains and on stations – it can be quicker and more informative than the departure boards.

National Rail Tunnel Damage

Interestingly, they even share photos of damage to tracks and tunnels with customers via Facebook. Brands usually prefer to hid defects in their service, but in this instance I believe it’s done to make the delay more tangible for customers. If you can see why a train is late, you may be more understanding of the situation. Whilst National Rail Enquiries can’t make the trains run on time they can at least keep their audience informed in the moments that matter to them.

Your happy customer

Times are a-changing. You can’t just rely on your advertising budget to win new customers. The one way broadcast is on the decline. You’re now part of a conversation. Are you ready for it?

Remember, know who your customers are and what is important to them. Know how you can help. Be ready for that time. Look for the moment they need you and then deliver.