9 Year Journey: 3 Lessons

Mobile V.s Desktop Traffic

I’ve spent the last 2 months reflecting on everything I’ve thought about buyer psychology as it applies to ecommerce.

There is just too much information out there. Too many shiny items to chase down.

Too little time to do things.

Fortunately, there are a few principles that immediately come to mind.

So if you simply don’t have the time to test and experiment with every new idea don’t be disheartened.

We’ll distill the 3 big ideas that will help you see 20% growth.

Strategy 1: Focus on Mobile

There is one secular trend I’ve seen over the last 5 years that applies to the 40+ completely different ecommerce sites I’ve studied. And that’s this: the percentage of overall mobile traffic is growing (whether you like or not) every quarter. And it’s going to continue rising. But mobile revenue as a percentage of overall revenue is still garbage.

Mobile Traffic:

Graph showing mobile traffic vs desktop traffic

Mobile Conversion Rates:

Graph showing mobile conversion rates vs desktop conversion rates

We used to believe mobile visitors were in research mode. They did research on their phone and then completed a purchase on their desktop/laptop. That’s not true anymore. It was true for a long time but not any more. Shoppers take a long time to change their behavior, but once the spark is lit it spreads like wild fire.

Simple trick to know if you are thinking mobile first? In the last 30 days how many times did you see the mobile version of your site versus the desktop version?

To maximize conversions you need to see what your visitors see. Walk in their shoes. It will unlock amazing growth opportunities.

Strategy 2: Focus on First Time Buyers

Stop looking at monthly revenue numbers, they hide the truth. Instead, focus on first time purchases. Here are some questions worth thinking about:

— How much time are new users spending on the site? Is it going up or down?

— How many pages are new users seeing?

— Am I getting new orders for cities we’ve never shipped to? Is there an opportunity here?

— How many chat/calls are we getting from new users? Up or down? What could it mean?

— How many product reviews are we getting from first time buyers? Up or down? What could this mean?

— What’s the #1 reason why new users are exiting without buying?

First-time buyers are a crystal ball through which you can see the future of your business. Obsess over them.

Strategy 3: Leverage Your Strengths, Exploit Competitor Weaknesses

My favorite image:

Every disadvantage has a hidden advantage. Exploit that.

Some examples:

— You are a really small etailer. Your competitor is 10x the size. Let first-time buyers know how much harder you work. Learn from Avis’ genius marketing:

— If you are the leader of the space with the largest supplier base and warehouse talk about the number of customers you’ve served all over the country.

— If you don’t have a deep product line your messaging should be focused on your specialized focus on a narrow product line.

— If you are brand new talk about your vision to challenge the old guard.

— If you are a 2 person company focus on your origin story. What motivated you to start this business? Let me know why you decided to stay small (to keep the service personal).

— If your product is a low cost leader talk about how your goal is creating a product that’s accessible by all.

— If your product is 30% more expensive than alternatives talk about your singular focus on quality and craftsmanship.

That’s it. Focus on these 3 things and your marketing calendar is set for the next 12 months.

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Is TurboTax® Free Really Free?

Free is an amazing offer. A skeptical buyer might think, “that’s great but why is it free? What’s the catch?”.

TurboTax uses Narrative Control to answer that.

Notice the “See why it’s free” message:

TurboTax Free offer seems too good to be true. Narrative Control to the rescue.
TurboTax Free offer seems too good to be true. Narrative Control to the rescue.

And this is part of the explanation given when “See why it’s free” is clicked:

Explanation for my TurboTax Free is $0 (zero dollars).
Explanation of FREE
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Your Most Important Conversion Goal

Many businesses are developing different strategies to get shoppers to stay on their sites. The problem is not many of these strategies are working because marketers are making the wrong assumptions about shoppers.

For example, when a shopper arrives at Kittyhawk.com—the online store for Kitty Hawk Kites—this popup appears after a few seconds:

Kitty Hawk Kites is making the assumption that shoppers will immediately stop what they’re doing to read a popup.

But shoppers hate popups. They’ve been conditioned to because of how intrusive they’ve been in the past. However, that doesn’t mean we should avoid popups. Instead, that means we need to rethink how we’re using them.

The goal of this popup on Kittyhawk.com is to generate email signups and encourage shoppers to make a purchase after receiving their 10% off coupon code. That’s a great deal, especially if you’re really considering a new kite.

But I highly doubt most shoppers are reading beyond the first two words of this popup before clicking the ‘close’ button.

Today, this is a shopper’s instinct.

We’ve developed a concept to slow the shopper down and increase the chances they’ll read our popup message.

Here’s our idea:

Popup message reads:


Spend 10 minutes exploring our unforgettable kites, wind spinners, and more, and we’ll give you a special offer that you don’t want to miss out on.

Your time starts now: 9:59

There are 3 major changes we’ve made that will result in higher conversions:

1: The Popup Design

Instead of a conventional square or rectangular popup, we designed a circular popup. This is unconventional and unexpected, which will naturally slow shoppers down.

Additionally, the ‘close’ button is detached from the popup, which forces the shopper to take an additional couple seconds to find the ‘close’ button, providing more time for them to notice our messaging.

Lastly, we’ve added design accents to make the popup truly “pop”. There isn’t anything visually interesting about the popup on the control (the current site).

2: The Messaging

Instead of asking shoppers to immediately provide their email address, we’re using our Challenge tactic to encourage the shopper to look around on the site for 10 minutes. After doing so, we’ll give them a “special offer” that they won’t want to miss out on.

Humans are a naturally curious species. When you hide something from them, they’ll want to know what it is. Our concept is taking advantage of that instinct.

We’re also achieving another goal with this challenge. If shoppers stay on the site for 10 minutes, they’ll likely see a number of products that may suit their wants or needs. Instead of just adding a single kite to their shopping cart, they may find 2 kites and a wind spinner that they just got to have.

After they spend 10 minutes on the site and receive their 10% off coupon code, they’ll be able to convince themselves more easily to add the 2 kites and wind spinner to their cart.

3: The Countdown Timer

At the bottom of the popup is a bright green countdown timer. This isn’t here to just let shoppers know their challenge has begun and they’ll soon see our special offer.

The true purpose comes before shoppers even read the popup.

Since this is a countdown timer, the numbers change every second. This changing element will grab the shoppers attention immediately. They’ll want to know what the heck this countdown is for. Then they’ll read the whole popup and see our challenge.

These are the types of assumptions we should be making.

Shoppers, like you and I, have short attention spans. We don’t always want to admit it, but it’s true. Because of this, we need to think deeper about strategies to keep shoppers on our sites.

One school of thought insists that we need to make the shopping process as quick as possible. But as you can see in our popup concept, sometimes it’s better to slow a shopper down or else they’ll entirely miss some compelling information.

How can you apply this to your site?

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How to Write Product Description that Sells (with Example)

You spent money to attract a new visitor. This visitor was different. Unlike 91% of new visitors they didn’t bounce. They actually spent time reading the first page.

Oh, they’re really getting into this.

They then went a few steps further and looked at a few product pages to finally zero in on THE product page.

The only thing that matters at this point is making sure the product description does its job. If we fail now everything else that’s been nailed till this point will be lost.

There are many best practices for product descriptions:

“Focus on Benefits”

“Tell a Story”

“Use Power Words That Sell”

“Know your Audience”


These strategies are great but they aren’t exactly rare. Marketers already use them. Your competitors already use them, which means in order to have an impact you need to work extra hard on “Tell a story” if you decide to go with that tactic.

Ready to hear about a tactic that is most definitely rare and also most definitely effective?

What if we flipped the way the product description was written? Instead of treating your product as an inanimate object what if we brought it to life and let it tell its own story?

That’s exactly what Ora.organic does on its organic probiotic product page:

Genius copywriting tactic.

Live page: https://www.ora.organic/products/organic-probiotic-and-prebiotics-powder

This is a genius tactic. I study online retailers 8 hours a day. Have been for the last 9 years. This is probably only the second time I’ve seen this tactic used.

Run an A/B test. Test this on your best selling product page and let me know how it did.

You’re welcome.

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Clever Mobile Site Tactic

On harryanddavid.com mobile product page there is a text option so the user can ask a question there and then.

Why this is a great idea: Shoppers sometimes often have last minute questions. If they can’t find it on the page they will delay the purchase (a nice way of saying never come back). But if there is a simple mechanism to get their answer right away they’ll end up buying.

Really clever way to convert shoppers with last minute questions.
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Conversion Rates Are a Pretty Crappy Metric

We have an unhealthy obsession with site conversion rates.

When they’re up we feel good. When they’re down we want to shoot someone.

As a former conversion addict I can tell you conversions aren’t the right only metric. Just like carat weight of an engagement ring isn’t the only measure of love.

When you focus on conversion rates you are telling yourself (and your team): people that buy are everything and those who don’t buy mean nothing.

And what you believe drives your team’s attention. When the big cheese says something (even if it’s presented as a possible idea) the team runs with it.

So, What’s the Trouble with Conversion Rates?

The single most valuable asset in the world is attention. So people navigating your site might not be paying with their credit card but they most certainly are paying with attention. And attention is $$.

When we focus on credit card digits we end up ignoring attention.

Why Focus on Attention?

Because getting credit card digits is the end result of attention. It’s impossible to succeed in the attention game and fail in the credit card game. But it’s very possible to succeed in the credit card game and fail in the attention game. And those who fail attention eventually die.

Framing the Question

Don’t ask: Why is our conversion rate 3.2%?

Ask: How come 24% of our visitors spend 4:10 minutes (which is an eternity online) but only 3.2% end up buying?

You’ll realize that the second question will take you down a completely different path.

How to Track Attention for Your Site

That’s going to vary from site to site. It can get complicated (because we’ll need to add markers at critical steps of the funnel). But one simple solution is to look at visitors who spend more than 2 minutes and view 4 or more important pages.

Thank you for investing time to read this post. If attention is something you want to explore further, just comment below and let’s talk.

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How to Optimize B2B Lead Form Pages for Better Results

After searching for “video management software” on Google, we stumbled upon Costarvideo.com—the website for Costar Video Systems. After reviewing their site, it became clear that Costar is primarily a B2B (business-to-business) seller of video management software, surveillance cameras, digital video recorders, and other similar security products.

The focal point of their site—the element they are trying to draw the shopper’s attention to—is undoubtedly their video management software, StarNet. This is what their StarNet page looks like:

Costar’s goal on this page is to get shoppers to download their software after filling a lead capture form. How can we improve the conversion rate on this page?

B2B sites are often filled with jargon and words that are unique to that specific business. On the StarNet page, Costar mentions in the features section that StarNet offers “video analytics reporting supported with use of a video analytics box (CRIA04).”

As marketers, we often make the assumption that shoppers will understand everything we say on our sites. This is a habit we need to kick. While some shoppers (and certainly return shoppers) will be familiar with what a video analytics box is, many others will not be, especially if this is their first time searching for security video solutions. To tackle this issue, we developed a concept for this page:

In our concept, we’ve made 3 key changes.

Change 1:

Let’s take a closer look at the features section:

Beside “video analytics box (CRIA04)”, we’ve added a tooltip. Once clicked, the following lightbox window will appear:

This lightbox window features a video from Costar’s YouTube channel that provides an in-depth explanation for the CRIA04 video analytics box. For shoppers who had no idea what a video analytics box was, they now know. This new information makes the product more compelling for them because now they have a better understand of how it works and what benefits it provides.

Change 2:

Another way B2B sites can improve conversions by helping shoppers visualize the product or service. Costar takes a baby step in this direction by including an image of their video management software interface on the StarNet page.

However, the image is small, which means it’s difficult to see all the details. To help shoppers visualize the product a bit easier, we’ve made the image clickable in our concept. Once clicked, a much larger version will appear in a lightbox window:

Now shoppers will really be able to see what the interface looks like and how it works.

Change 3:

Lastly, we wanted to take advantage of something called the Zeigarnik Effect. In marketing, the Zeigarnik Effect is used to refer to the shopper’s better recollection of unfinished tasks instead of finished tasks. Shoppers want progress when they see something is incomplete.

In our concept, we’ve hidden the lead capture form by default:

Instead, the shopper is now required to click a button that says “DOWNLOAD NOW”. When they do, the full lead capture form will be revealed. Now that shoppers have begun the process of downloading the software, they will feel more obligated to fill out the form because it’s incomplete.

Another marketing practice you’ve likely seen that takes advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect is a progress bar. Progress bars serve as visual reminders that a task is incomplete, but nearing completion.

Each of these changes contributes to better conversion rates. Can you adopt any of them on your own site?

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Product Reviews: Are More Always Better?

We know going from 0 reviews to 1 review improves conversion rates by 20%.

But there is a something I’m curious about. Here is the scenario–

Choice 1: 20 hours of effort to collect 343 reviews for your product page.

Choice 2: 200 hours of effort to collect 34,134 reviews for the same product page.

Given that 343 reviews is itself impressive which option would you pick? Choice 1 or 2?

This isn’t a trick question. We genuinely don’t know the answer.

What choice would you make. Comment by simply typing 1 or 2 below.

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Is Google’s Express Checkout an Amazon Killer?

I was on awaytravel.com and I hit the Add to Cart button. Then I saw this menu:

When I clicked the EXPRESS CHECKOUT button, this is the pre-populated popup that appeared:


One of the big benefits of Amazon is that they make checkout a breeze (because they have our shipping billing info). Google’s Express Checkout has taken that advantage off the table.

Would you consider this for your site?

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