eCommerce Speed = Win

The amazing thing about our super-connected world is that smart eCommerce entrepreneurs can capitalize on a high popularity but short-lived trend.  Brick and mortar retailers don’t stand a chance.

The hit show Game of Thrones has generated a really popular meme around the character Hodor.  This buzz can’t last more than 15 days, but, for those 15 days the buzz will be intense.

This is why a clever entrepreneur can add a sticker to a door stop and sell it on Etsy for $30:


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Subtle Trick

We marketers scream when we want the user’s attention.  We use comically large fonts and ugly color contrasts; not because they’re beautiful, but because we know the loudest elements capture attention.

But there is another way.

I was on this product page …


… and one of the first elements I noticed was the $ symbol to the left of product name.  How did I notice it when that icon takes only 5% of screen real-estate?  Because the retailer did 4 clever things:

1: They used an icon shoppers are trained to pay attention to, the dollar symbol.

2: They colored the icon green on a white page, making it stand out.

3: They strategically placed it one letter to the left of the product page.  Eye tracking studies show shoppers start scanning pages from top left position.

4: They made the icon non-descriptive.  The visitor senses it has something to do with pricing (because of $ symbol) but beyond that she doesn’t know what message is hidden behind the icon. So she clicks it.  And when I click it I’m shown this powerful urgency message:


There is one other point in favor of subtle tactic.  When you scream and tell shoppers they are receiving an amazing deal they get suspicious (why is this retailer trying so hard?)  But anyone who clicks this icon will believe the “… cancel this sale at any time” message in popup because they’ll think, “if this was just a fake warning they would have made it more prominent.  Why would they have kept it so subtle?” And that thought would confirm for the shopper that the warning isn’t a gimmick.

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Free Shipping for Everyone

I predict that in 5 years free shipping will be the norm.

Let me paint a picture.  E-commerce started to take off 8 years ago because manufacturers who were paying slotting fees (definition) to stores like Macy’s and Sears realized they could use Google AdWords to directly establish 1:1 relationships with their customers, and save a crap load of money.

Obviously this didn’t make Macy’s and Sears of the world too happy so they made threats (“If you want our shelf space you better not think about setting your own store.”)

But you know what they say about holding back a tsunami.

It was this uncoupling that really made e-commerce take off.  To get a sense of how big e-commerce is today consider this: Bigcommerce and Shopify are two well known shopping platforms and they host 95,000+ and 200,000+ independent businesses respectively.  That’s 300,000 mostly small entrepreneurial businesses on just these 2 platforms.  And there are over 100 large platforms out there (not to mention custom stores).

But there is an elephant in the room: shipping fees.  The data is very clear on this: shoppers hate the idea of paying for shipping.  Some data is open to interpretation; this isn’t.

If you’re selling a high margin item you can absorb shipping fees.  But if you’re selling a handmade soap for $6.95 you have no option but to charge shipping. is a site that’s had a lot of publicity recently (is touted as an Amazon killer) because they’ve identified a way (details) to give shoppers lower shipping prices.

But has scale and doesn’t.

For the Soaptopias of the world to survive they need the help of UPS and FedEx.  These shipping giants have scale and (if they put their mind to it) can figure out a way to disrupt shipping price structures.

For example, if the FedEx truck is delivering a package to house 5498 in my neighborhood then the marginal cost of delivering one more package to house 5497 is nearly $0.  Right now FedEx doesn’t share those profits.

A small business would always want to have a direct 1:1 relationship with their customer (they don’t want to depend on so they want UPS and FedEx to develop a solution.  If FedEx charges 50% less for shipping (based on marginal cost argument above) then can (and must) absorb the remaining 50%.  Moment that happens US e-commerce market will grow from $300 billion to $900 billion.  It’ll be a win for, FedEx and soap shoppers all over the US.

Just my 2 cents.

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Discount Code Location

These days many sites have promos where they offer shoppers a discount if they ‘comment on’ or ‘like’ their brand on Facebook.  Most display these promos on landing pages or product pages.  While those location are OK the best idea is to do what does, they show their message on cart page, where it has the highest chance to getting the shopper’s attention and generating action—


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Price Valid From [08/21/2014] to [09/10/2014]

To minimize cart abandon rates shows shoppers how much they’re saving (in this case 33%) and also reminds them that the saving they’re about to enjoy is only valid few more days

Great way to incentivize on-the-fence shoppers to take action today. knows shoppers who leave thinking ‘they’ll be back real soon’ tend not to return.

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Social Sharing

On when you get to cart page they have a clever design element that shows a partial 5% off coupon code—


On click we see this popup—


The idea is pretty simple, shoppers who are incentivized by the discount can access it by letting their Twitter or Facebook friends know about the order.

Idea described above is a plug and play widget by, so you can implement it on your site too.

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Come out and Say It

3ACTIVE is a brand of 3D glasses by Dimensional Optics ( is an e-tailer that competes against Dimensional Optics.  Makes sense so far?  Ok.

I Googled 3ACTIVE and this paid ad appeared on my screen—


With a juicy message like What 3active Owners Wish They Knew. Before Buying – Avoid Regret! it’s impossible to not click the ad.  Clicking the ad takes shoppers to a page where very eloquently explains why doing business with Dimensional Optics is a bad idea.  The page has been cleverly constructed and I recommend you check it out.

Is playing fair?  Who knows?  Is the tactic working? Most likely.  Google certainly doesn’t mind PPC bidding wars.

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Coupon Codes Page

Shari’s Berries ( knows shoppers are trained to hunt for coupon codes.  Instead of having shoppers visit sites like or Shari’s Berries wants to keep coupon searchers on their site.  So they’ve created a page that lists their current coupons.  This is a win-win for both the shopper (convenience) and retailer (saving on affiliate fees, plus preventing a site like from showing a better discount code from competitors.)

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Case Study: Make Them See Your Point of View

As online retailers we want our site visitors to behave a certain way.  Our visitors have their own ideas about what they want to do.  E-tailers who figure out a way to get what they want are the most profitable. sells art supplies.  Most art supply items are fairly inexpensive (averaging $5-$10) so one-time purchases aren’t in the interest of  Art supplies are purchased by artists, and art is a lifestyle so if MisterArt can get a shopper to buy from them exclusively they’ll generate a nice profit over the lifetime of that relationship.  This is why they created a VIP Program which gives shoppers a small discount on each purchase.  The VIP Program costs $25 a year.  MisterArt wants shoppers to purchase this.  Shoppers might not feel as enthusiastic, so MisterArt has a clever tactic.  At every turn they remind shoppers how much they could save if only they were VIP program members.  In itself individual reminders aren’t persuasive enough to generate a signup but each instance nudges the shopper just a little.  Hopefully, by nudge number 4 the shopper will just give in.

Nudge 1 happens at the homepage—


Nudge 2 happens on product page—


At this point the shopper at least wants to see how they could save 30%.  So they click the Learn More link and are transported to sales pitch page.  Here they’re told about the $25/year fee along with nudge 3—


This nudge is a poor one because they are listing how much these shoppers saved in one order.  Since the VIP program has an annual fee it would have been more effective to showcase how much VIP members are saving annually.  Anyway, that’s a minor detail.  Overall, their sales pitch page is quite good.  I’d recommend reading it fully—

Now, if some fool is still not convinced they’re hit with nudge 4 on cart page—


If you liked this post you will also like my case study.

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