Black Friday Sale

Black Friday is a great time to go treasure hunting online. But I wasn’t looking for deals this past Black Friday. Instead, I was searching for the new or unique ways websites were trying to get us to stick around for a bit longer. did something pretty interesting.

I went to their site, searched around for a bit, then moved my cursor to the back button of my Chrome browser to look at some other sites. Before I was able to click, a popup appeared:

Popup on exit

Let’s play a game. Can you spot the difference between that popup and the sale banner that appeared on the rest of the site (see below)?

Sale banner

Do you see it? The banner was only advertising the Black Friday weekend sale while the popup was doing that in addition to saying, “PLUS: Get A Bonus Cat Toy with Every Purchase.” For some shoppers, that added bonus may have been enough to keep them on the site. used Choreographed Experience by showing this popup only when I moved my cursor to exit the site. The unexpected popup grabbed my attention and, as a result, I saw a piece of compelling information. Have you considered doing something similar on your site? All it takes is a little bit of HTML or JavaScript.

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So, That Was Fast

On December 3rd I wrote a post titled Screw Automation. Interesting update on that. Chris (a long time reader) didn’t just agree with the post it’s how he is already running his email marketing. Chris sends out personalized emails. Granted, this is hard to scale but that’s precisely why Chris’ emails perform so well.

Chris was kind enough to let me share an example of his email and … performance metrics!

Email example:

Performance metrics: 24 hours after sending email above 44.6% open rate and 11% clickthrough rate (percentage of people who opened the email and clicked a link in the email). I don’t need to know industry averages to know this amazing.

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No Site Is Perfect. Can We Improve Conversions on Any Site in the World?

Hi there! My name is Preston and I work with Rishi at Frictionless Commerce as a conversion optimization specialist. I’ll be contributing a bit to Better Retail, so I just wanted to say it’s great to talk with you all and share some of what I’ve learned and worked on with Rishi. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned while at Frictionless Commerce is that there’s always room for improvement. In this post I’ll show you what I mean (just a heads up: this will be a lengthy post because there are a lot of moving parts that need explaining).

If you prefer video, click below (transcription below the video):


Sometimes when we look at websites we are intimidated. What do I mean when I say “intimidated”? Well, when we visit the websites of Fortune 500 companies, for example, it’s difficult to see where improvements can be made. These types of companies already have huge marketing and development teams at their disposal. So what measurable effect can we have on these sites as conversion optimization specialists? It’s easy to point out areas of friction on the sites of local mom-and-pop shops. But can we actually help companies like Nike, Comcast, or Best Buy increase conversions on their sites? If we can do that, then we can without a doubt improve conversions on any site in the world.

We’ve all heard the expression “less is more.” Sometimes, however, too little can be just that… too little. For websites, this means a number of things. One, this can be understood literally and mean that if your site isn’t giving your shoppers enough compelling information for simplicity’s sake, then you are offering too little and your conversion rates will suffer. On the other hand, this can mean that if your content isn’t easy to find, then for all intents and purposes your content is invisible to the user.

This is an issue that occurs on The Home Depot’s website. That’s right. The Home Depot, a Fortune 500 company (number 23 on the list, to be exact), has room for improvement. This is a company that has over 2,000 stores in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, over 400,000 employees, and over $100 billion in revenue in 2017. I must be crazy for thinking that their site can see better conversion rates. But I’m not crazy (at least as far as I know), and I’ll show you why.

For today’s video, I’m going to look at The Home Depot’s Fence Installation service, and the goal is to increase the number of people who sign up for in-home consultations and quotes. Here’s what their fence installation page looks like:

Fence Installation Page

To provide some context, this page is one that is visited by shoppers who are interested in having their fence installed by workers contracted by The Home Depot. So as we navigate the fence installation page on The Home Depot’s site, we need to make sure we’re looking at the page from the perspective of one of these shoppers. Here is a link to the page so you can follow along and navigate through the page:

The first thing many shoppers will be drawn to are the visual elements. That means they’ll see the background image at the top of the page, then read the heading and see the form on the right. But what do they know? Well, nothing really other than that they’re on the fence installation page. If anything, some shoppers are actually more confused. There is no copy that tells them what to do and the form—which is the focal point of the entire page—is poorly presented. What’s the form for? Is it to get an online quote? To be contacted by their team? All it says is “Check availability”. “Availability” of what?

All of this is either answered much lower on the page, while filling out the form, or after the form has been completed. Why provide these answers for shoppers who have already committed to filling out the form? They obviously don’t have these same questions. For the shoppers that are asking these questions, however, there needs to be visible information that provides answers up front.

So let’s start with the most important element on the page, the focal point, the “check availability” form. This is going to be where we place all of our attention because this one form determines who signs up for the installation service and who doesn’t. The first issue we need to tackle is making sure shoppers understand what the form is for. Once completing the form, you are taken to a confirmation page that contains this extremely important information:

Confirmation Page.png

Essentially, The Home Depot has placed all of their Narrative Control at the… end of the funnel? This means that shoppers who have already completed the form are seeing this Narrative Control (that they clearly didn’t need in the first place). What about the people who left the page entirely before filling out the form? Why did The Home Depot ignore them and their concerns?

What we’ve learned after going through the form is that the form exists to set up free in-home consultations with shoppers. That way they can get an accurate quote. So why doesn’t The Home Depot say that up front? Well, it’s simple really. People do not like the idea of strangers coming into their home. But this is why we have our Narrative Control tactic.

So what we’ve done in our concept is add intro copy to this page that assures shoppers that they will be working with licensed professionals that are backed by The Home Depot. We’ve also killed two birds with one stone by telling shoppers exactly what the form is for. Already we’ve likely increased the number of shoppers who at the very least begin the form. Take a look:

Zip Code.png

Now comes the difficult part: getting them to complete the form. Let’s look at our concept again. The first few steps in the form are the same. “Tell us your zip code”? Well that’s not personal enough to create pause in the shopper. “What type of fencing material do you want to install?” Easy peasy. “When do you want to start your project?” Done. “What’s your name?” Uh, well, I guess I’ll tell them that.

“What’s your address?” Hmm. Why do they need to know that? Are they going to send me annoying mail?

To combat this concern, we’ve added a little link that will lead the shopper to a full-screen overlay with plenty of Narrative Control:



Now shoppers know why their address is needed. A licensed professional will be sent to their home for a free in-home consultation. What we are doing here is taking the information that The Home Depot gave us at the end of their form and bringing it to the top of sign-up process. This way shoppers will feel more compelled to move forward with the form.

The next point of friction in the form occurs on the very next step: “Tell us how to contact you.” The shopper is then asked to enter their phone number and email address. Well, now the shopper may be asking themselves if The Home Depot is going to bombard them with deals, promotions, newsletters, etc. Again, to combat this concern we’ve added another full-screen overlay that provides Narrative Control:

Phone Number


For shoppers who clicked on both popup links, they will see the popup above (for shoppers who only clicked on the second one, they’ll see a mega popup that includes information from both). This popup lets shoppers know that they need their contact information just so a licensed professional can set up a consultation date with them. The popup also lets shoppers know why a consultation and quote cannot be done over the phone. Additionally, for those shoppers who are a bit more price sensitive, we’ve added information about The Home Depot’s Consumer Credit Card and Project Loan program.

At this point, shoppers will definitely feel more relaxed about The Home Depot’s fence installation service and feel assured that they will be receiving top quality. We are absolutely confident that these few changes can increase conversions for The Home Depot—again, a Fortune 500 company with a huge marketing team. So surely we can increase conversions on any site in the world. The trick is to walk through sites from the perspective of shoppers.

Again, my name is Preston and you’ll be hearing more from me in the near future. I look forward to talking with you all in the comments and sharing more of what I’ve learned!

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Screw Automation

96% of marketing emails are obviously templates (or is it 100%?).

I know why companies don’t send personalized messages; it’s too damn expensive.

If you think sending personalized emails is too expensive you’re asking the wrong question. The right question is:

How can we communicate with our mailing list of X thousand in a profitable way?

Just because no retailer is doing this doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Most companies are basing their marketing on what others are doing. The blind are following the blind.

I’m not saying this is easy. It’s definitely not, which is why no one is doing it.

But, if a retailer can find a creative way to have a profitable pen pal relationship with their customers it could would transform their business.

This isn’t for all types of businesses.

If you’re a business like LifeSource Water ( where people buy just once this idea might not be for you. Though I’d argue could still develop a strategy around my idea. But if you are a site like this idea is a slam dunk.

How does one operationalize such a strategy?

— First, let’s identify a pen pal size. I think 2 hours a day sending 10 personalized emails is doable. I’d recommend the business owner take the lead on this experiment. Once we calculate ROI you can have a junior employee do it.

— The next step is identifying conversation topics. Here are some templates:

>> You can create a welcome email to new buyers.

>> You can recommend item Y to a customer who previously bought X.

>> You can contact a customer who last purchased a year ago. To this person, you can talk about all the things that happened with the site in the last year.

>> You can contact a customer who just posted a review.

… you get the idea. Just identify a communication strategy that fits your brand.

— Do this for a month. The goal is to send out 200 emails. Make note of replies. Are people happy to receive your emails? Are people wanting to continue with the conversation?

— Wait 6 months and compare the productivity of these 200 contacts against your larger list. Don’t look at the cost of sending out the emails at this point. The reason we’re ignoring the input cost is that over time it will go down 70%. You’ll get more efficient. At this point, we’re only interested in seeing if personalized communications drive profitable action.

Update: After writing this post I received this amazing comment from Chris:

This has made a big impact on me. This is precisely how I send emails to my mailing list. I believe the results speak for themselves. My average open rate is right at 50% (quite a bit better than the 10-11% industry average.) The click rate varies depending on the subject and just how much emphasis I put on it but I have seen click rates of over 40%. And if I send a strong recommendation for something to the list I’d BETTER put a bunch of it in stock because they are going to buy.

In the body of my emails I ask questions of my readers and encourage them to reply. When they do reply they will get a personal reply from me. I certainly don’t spend quite as much time as your suggestion implies but the time I do spend is richly rewarded.

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Designing for Distracted Shoppers

Are you easily distracted? No? Go check your browser history over the last 2 hours.

I thought I was super disciplined, methodical, and task oriented. Turns out, my browsing history betrays this self-image.

Checked your browser history over the last 2 hours?

Are you a little shocked??

If this is how distracted we are (and it’s scary to see) why would our site visitors be any different? Truth is, they aren’t.

Here is the bigger problem: This chronic issue of depleted attention has been on the rise for the last 10 years. What did irresponsible marketers do when they learned visitors who normally spend 5 minutes were now spending 3? They started cramming more on the page. The strategy was simple: cram down 5 minutes of content in 3 minutes.

This is stupid and there is a better way. Persuade the shopper to spend 5 minutes. Give them a good reason to spend 5 minutes. Minimize distractions so their 5-minute session is high quality.

Assignment for today. Identify an important page where visitors don’t spend enough time and answer this question, “How can we improve the quality time on this page by 20%?”

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Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) + CRO

I’ll never forget the first time I understood the connection between site visitor data and conversion optimization (CRO). That was 11 years ago.

On November 15th, 2018 life took another turn. I attended a 2-day workshop by Bob Moesta for Jobs to Be Done (JTBD).

Jobs thinking isn’t exactly new. I read Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma in 2005. The book describes the famous McDonald’s milkshake insight. Watch this video:

It’s also not the first time I’ve heard Bob Moesta speak. I often share Bob’s condo story where he increased condo prices, added free storage + moving service, and ended up driving by condo sales 17%. Bob achieved this outcome by understanding the job condo buyers were trying to do. But it is the first time I fully acknowledged that conversion optimization without Jobs thinking is mostly meaningless.

I’m starting a new journey to fully understand Jobs-to-Be-Done from every angle. I’ll be reading a lot. I’ll be writing a lot. I’ll be thinking a lot.

What prompted me to look beyond A/B testing?

Trouble. Clients paid us to identify and fix site friction. A/B testing is a great program to make an existing page as good as it can be. We unearthed amazing counter-intuitive lessons about buyer psychology. Insights that gave clients an edge over the competition. But when I consider our impact beyond A/B testing I’m left disappointed. We haven’t been able to transform clients’ businesses inside out.

Hey, A/B testing isn’t bad. It’s an inexpensive way to start making scientific changes. It’s 100x better than not testing. But it can exclude the end customer from the process. Jobs thinking moves the spotlight to the actual buyer. In fact, Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) thinking doesn’t care about the product the business is trying to sell, it also doesn’t give a damn about the A/B tester (me). It only cares about the end buyer.

I still love A/B testing. I’ll still continue doing it. But I’m going to add JTBD thinking to our process.

I suspect everything is going to change, just like it did in 2007. If you’re interested in following our journey post a comment below and come along for the ride.

Have a great week.

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My Problem with Amazon

Everyone is saying Amazon will gobble up independent retailers. But Amazon isn’t perfect. There are too many vendors listing the same product on its platform, which creates a poor buyer experience.

Here is my story:

Here is the Amazon listing page:


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Have You Complimented Your Top Customers Lately?

Got this email from Google Maps. I felt great. Flattery works:

Google Photos.png

Have you considered sending a flattering email to your top customers? You don’t have to give a discount, the email could simply be a personal “we appreciate you” note.

People remember unexpected kind gestures way longer than coupon codes.

Also, don’t just contact top customers. You can get creative. For example:

— You may have a customer who placed the one and only order from a particular city.
— Or you might have a customer who is the first buyer of a particular item.
— Or you might have a customer who had the longest gap between their first and second purchase.

Everyone is #1 in a specific way. For example, I’m the World’s best India-born, Michigan-based conversion strategist.

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