Gradually, Then Suddenly

Big changes happen gradually, then suddenly.

And because they happen gradually we underestimate the sudden part.

That’s what I see with mobile commerce.

6 years ago we noticed web mobile traffic starting to grow exponentially. But web conversion rates grew by a tiny amount. So mobile as a whole was ignored.

Cut to 2019 and we’re seeing a serious spike in mobile purchase intent. But because mobile users are still bucketed as “multi-taskers in research mode” the mobile experience isn’t designed around commercial intent.

This phenomena is coming for you.

What the mobile experience is not:

— It’s not a shrunk down version of your desktop site.

— It’s not simply a research tool.

— Only good for getting email signups and call ins.

When was the last time you placed a test order on your mobile site? I’m guessing it was a long time ago. To improve your mobile experience live and breathe what your mobile visitor sees. Create a rule that says anytime an internal employee is visiting your site they need to do it on their phone. You’ll be amazed at how many little ideas reach your desk.

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System 1 vs. System 2

As far as I’m concerned the key to developing an edge in marketing lies in our understanding of the subtle differences between System 1 and System 2.

These are states of mind.

System 1 is the default state. It’s what activates when you encounter anything. It’s emotional and irrational.

System 2 is the analytical state. You want to believe you bought your home using System 2 (even though you likely did it with System 1). System 2 is lazy as hell, which is partly why we use it so little even though we have every intention to do so.

And System 1 and 2 can fool even the most well-prepared individual.

Here is my story from this morning.

I used to use my wife’s Starbucks app for points. Last week I created my own account.

Starbucks app uses the heck out of gamification. The message states I’m x points to Gold status:

Starbucks app gamification

I don’t really know what all that means but one benefit of gold status is that Starbucks waives the $0.52 fee when you get a refill on standard coffee. System 2 would scoff at this deal because I get a refill once every 60 days (2 months). At that rate I’ll be saving $3.12 a year.

But let’s look at my actual behavior: this morning I was planning to make a run and asked my wife what she wanted. She wasn’t sure so I nudged her to get a fancy drink. Why? Because my subconscious is dying to get to the magical 300. I’m wiling to waste money over coffee I would not normally get so I can get 20 points closer to a made up number. And I’ve been behaving this way ever since I downloaded the app.

What is going on? System 1 has taken over the asylum.

Don’t laugh. It’s taken over your head too.

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Private: LinkedIn Post

Reading your responses it’s clear we all looked at the images in the search result. We completely ignored the top 4 paid search result spots. This is both a problem for the advertiser (who is spending top dollar for these spots) and a testament to the power of visuals (our remarkable human processes visuals 58,000x faster than text).

What’s also interesting is that most of us first noticed the non-traditional fan images on the extreme right column. The one I fixated on was extreme right image in middle row:

What’s relevant to this discussion is that the non-traditional fan images we focused on are NOT Big Ass Fans. Even though I was doing a targeted branded search term (Big Ass Fans) once the search results appeared the brand name didn’t matter, the search intent did (air circulation fans). This is a big detail.

Our brain’s fascination with unexpected things (in this case the two strange shaped fans) is incredible. For me, the sway was so strong I didn’t notice anything else.

The mistake marketers make is that if the sales of those 2 odd shaped fans are low they will be dropped from this placement. I think that’s a bad call. These eye-catching items are called anchor products and their job is the pull the curious browsers in (in this case It’s unlikely buyers will ultimately buy these oddly shaped fans (Big Ass Fans doesn’t make these shapes) but once they’re on it’s 20% more likely they’ll stay on (and likely buy some product there).

So instead of looking at the # of units of anchor products sold the metric I’d look at how many $$ dollars in overall sales they generated on my site (irrespective of what was ultimately purchased, which will likely be a more traditional fan). The key goal for is to take someone looking for Big Ass Fans, apply a Jedi mind trick, and make them forget all about Big Ass Fans. And to do this without marketing a discount tag.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my thesis. Comment below LinkedIn friends.

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Need Your Input

This is you: you do a Google search for a branded keyword (Big Ass Fans).

Where do your eyes focus on in this screenshot? I have a theory I’m exploring. Will reveal my answer after collecting a few comments:

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6 Ways Amazon Sucks

Amazon is the biggest threat to online retailers in, well, ever. But Amazon isn’t perfect. In many ways shopping on Amazon is terrible. Here are some of the things I’ve noted (as a buyer) over the years:

— Amazon product page layout sucks. There is one Amazon formula and no matter what product you’re looking at (off brand $12 baby diapers [link] or a $15,615 bracelet [link]) the experience is the same. In school, I remember reading how in communist Soviet Union schools didn’t have names. They had numbers, like School 12229. This was done so a school with a catchy name wouldn’t stand out. Amazon is a little bit like that. It’s the communist version of capitalism.

— Brand search on Amazon sucks:

— Search results on Amazon are all about lowest prices.

— If you are in research mode Amazon isn’t the best method:

— Some of the products on Amazon are extremely low quality. I purchased and then quickly donated a video studio setup built using items from Amazon. They were totally low quality and packing and sending them back would cost me more in lost productivity than the items themselves. Granted, the price was rock bottom but it also made me want to throw a rock at the sellers.

— One of the biggest benefits of Amazon for buyers was that checkout was easy peasy since all your details were stored. Have you seen the new Google Express checkout experience (link to article)?

What Amazon does great is customer service. But, that’s pillar has an Achilles heel too because once the market starts putting the squeeze on Amazon their “we’ll take things back no questions asked” policy will change. I know it.

10 years ago Apple customer service was beyond amazing. At the time Apple market share was big, but not too big. Their growth rate was healthy and so they had the chance to build their team with quality people. Every person I interacted with Apple customer service was a genuine fan of Apple products. They would look forward to challenging service calls because they wanted to find a solution. In the last 4 years, every time I call someone at Apple I have a terrible experience. It’s clear the agent has a quota to fill. Look, I get it. All I’m saying is that Amazon will have the same challenges. Oh, and speaking to crappy customer service, Google has got to be the worst.

Moral of the story? Don’t be intimidated by Amazon or any competitor. When I feel stress it helps to look at this image:

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Category Page Idea

There are things we want to tell our shoppers (like how our product is the best, or our easy return policy, or the fact that we only carry organic food items). But it’s hard to know when to interrupt the shopper experience to show this message.

— Should we show it moment they land? Wouldn’t that be too in the face?

— Should we be patient and show it once the user is engaged with the site? How do we define engagement?

— Should we show it during checkout? has identified a clever was to solve this. They want to let users know they can try their frames at home for free. Once you get to their category listing page and scan the frame options one of the tiles that would normally be saved for a product image has been used to show their sales message. This is great for a few reasons:

— Users on category pages are trained to visually inspect each listing because this is how they decide which product page they’ll want to ultimately visit.

— Because the user was expecting to see a frame design on that tile location not seeing it catches their attention: Frames

If you really want to be smart you could craft a Choreographed Experience around this. The rule would be: If, in this session, the user has already interacted with our free home try-on kit message then use this location to show our Questions about vision insurance? message. This both helps conserve the use of marketing real estate and prevents the user from seeing a message they have already interacted with (free home try-on kit).

Users who have already interacted with free home try-on kit message (anywhere on the site) will now see this:

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Case Against Marketing Automation in 2019

Automation is everywhere. And there is this insane rush to automate more and more of marketing.

The big promise: if we automate marketing money will roll in and we’ll sip Pina Coladas in Hawaii.

I can see why this has become such a promising mantra:

A: It really would be amazing if we could automate marketing and sit back and relax. But why stop there, why not just automate life and take a permanent high end vacation? Both are just as likely.

B: Software vendors are buzzing about the power of marketing automation message. I can see why they’re doing it: software has a 70% margin.

I don’t care about the people hawking the software, I care about you, the brave ecommerce entrepreneur.

My reasons for why marketing automation is a mostly terrible idea:

1: When was the last time you tweaked an aspect of your business (like pricing, bundling, paid campaign, or email blast)? If the answer is “in the last 12 days” then automation may not be for you. The point is that if your business is evolving then automation can lead to all sorts of unintended consequences because each change could most definitely will impact some aspect of your automation. That could range from a coupon code that doesn’t work anymore (I saw this last week) to a promo that’s actually eating all your margins. If you are Coca Cola, with a marketing template that’s been stable for a 100 years, then sure, automation makes a whole lot of sense.

2: As a leader it’s really hard to audit automation because tentacles of automated campaigns spread far and deep. And with conditional aspect of automation ( if – then type scenarios) you might never be able to recreate a user path to see if it’s broken.

3: The fact that you are even thinking about automating marketing should be a red flag to consider a deeper issue. Maybe you’ve realized that there are bigger issues with the business? Are you using automation as a way to avoid the truth? If you’re an online business you should love marketing, you shouldn’t be thinking about getting it out of the way. I doubt very much if this ad was the outcome of automated processes:

In my mind this Rolls Royce ad where David Ogilvy draws attention to the noice of the clock in the car is such a great example of visualization.

4: Like cheap leather your customers can smell automated experiences a mile away. It’s damn hard to make automated experiences authentic. One of the most common aspects of marketing automation are automated emails. Nearly all retailers have some sort of automated drip campaigns set up. Most feel like talking to the automated prompt when I frantically call my bank. I’m not saying the voice assistant doesn’t get the job done, she does, but she ain’t no match to an actual human. Maybe I’m saying this because I’m a marketer, maybe the average user wouldn’t catch on, but I know instantly when I receive an automated email. And ignore them 100% of the time (are you listening Tommy Bahama email team?). You know my rule, if it’s automated, it’s craparoo.

5: Prevents you from getting your hands dirty. Prevents you from getting to the truth. By definition, the whole point of automation is to create something and then forget it. But learnings happen when we revisit things every day, when we look at data, when we make micro adjustments to our strategy. When you send personal emails to actual customers you’ll gain priceless insights into their thinking. You’ll be able to get a pulse on the business. With automation, the truth may remain buried, until it’s too late.

Now, if you absolutely are knee deep in automation and if the cost of turning it off is exorbitant my advice is to create a simple listing of all aspects of automation with a listing of the trigger and content related each trigger. And then do a manual audit once a quarter. And as the leader of the business, you need to lead this audit process.

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Small Changes Work Too

There are 2 things we know for sure about online browsers:

1: They’re in a mad rush.

2: 98% of the time they are driven by System 1 (irrational/emotional/quick mode of the brain). More details about System 1.

If you want them to notice something we need to slow them down. And you don’t have to have a big bold design choice to slow them. A small subtle tweak can work just as well. For example, for the close button on the only change is that they’ve tweaked the design of their email signup close button (notice the X looks like its hand drawn):

Small design change, big impact

It was unexpected, so it slowed me down, which got me out of my default System 1 mode (where I’m navigating the world, making decisions, with very little thought), which made me reconsider WIN A PENDLETON CRATER LAKE BLANKET prize.

And all it took were a few pixels of design work.

These small changes will work on your site too.

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Making Facebook Ads Stand Out

This is a pretty clever ad from Taboola. In the ad copy they use the keyword “skyrocket”. And in the graphic below they show a graph. But did you notice the subliminal bit? The slanted cap on the pug is positioned just right so it looks like the graph on the left is continuing outside of the table to the right.

This is intentional. The unexpected design makes you slow down, which brings the ad message into focus. In Facebook news feeds where users are scrolling super fast, any slowdown can have a dramatic impact on ad clickthrough rates.

Clever Facebook ad.

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Crazy Amazon Pricing Page

Can anyone explain if a reseller on Amazon can set any price they want for a book that was never listed at $399?

Super High Price on Amazon

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