Button psychology

For the vast majority of task oriented online marketing it all comes down to the button. During the customer journey we may have started with our prospects clicking a link in Google’s search results, that took them to a landing page where we expressed the value proposition of our product to the user, that may have lead to a showcase page for more information on our product and glossy content and then we ask them to click a button: an add to cart button, a download button, a register button. Please dear customer, just click this button.

In my years of digital marketing and testing two things have become apparent.

1. When dealing with forms, especially one page forms, buttons that indicate that the process will be over with that button click are almost always most effective at converting the customer.

The marketing psychology of this is pretty obvious. Consider the word “submit” for a button. It’s vague. It communicates sending digital information through the ether, but then what? Now consider the dreaded “continue” button. That communicates that there’s more form to come, that punching in your personal information – a process most people hate – is an ongoing process, you could be doing this until dinner time!

Now consider the words “finish” and “complete”. That intones that you’re done. This is the end, don’t abandon this form now, you just have a few more boxes to tick and then you get the satisfaction of having completed the task. It is my experience that “finish” and “complete” can lead to considerable increases in form completion.

2. When dealing with e-commerce sites yellows, oranges and reds are the button shades that convert the most.

Walmart.com’s add to cart buttons are orange, Amazon’s is a dark yellow and Target’s is of course red, but that’s also in inline with their branding. This is no accident. I am sure they are testing this all the time. Orange is empowering, stimulating and reinforces what I like to call the “warm glow of consumerism”, that feeling of excitement you get when you pull the trigger on buying some cherished item.

Of course, you should always be testing buttons but if you’re looking for quick wins in conversion of form completions or purchases, the two suggestions above are likely winners.

The power of one word, or, why copy matters.

The beginning of this post is taken from an excellent episode of RadioLab (they’re all excellent) and I encourage one and all to listen to it.

Facebook had a problem; users were reporting photos as abusive and offensive when they weren’t. Why? People were posting innocuous group photos of family and friends and it turns out that other people in the photos simply weren’t happy that the photo had been posted. They may not have liked their pose, their facial expression or simply didn’t want it public. Having no other option to have that photo taken down, the self imagined victims were reporting the photos as offensive content.

Facebook created a solution, they asked users to select from some options in a drop down to describe how the photo made them feel. Some of the options were things like “embarrassing”, “upsetting”, “bad photo” and “other” along with a box to enter text to describe “other”. When they released the feature they found 50% of users selected one of the named emotions and 34% selected “other”. But of the people who selected “other” the number one typed in response was “it’s embarrassing” – a slight variation to one of the drop down choices.

In light of this data Facebook tweaked the interface. So instead of just “embarrassing” and “upsetting” they changed the choices to “it’s embarrassing” and “it’s upsetting”. This raised the number of people who selected one of the listed emotions from 50% to 78%. One word: “it’s” increased interaction with that content by over 50%. By including “it’s” the blame is shifted from a person to an object. I’m not embarrassed, it’s that photo that is embarrassing.

I recently did a copy test in the global navigation bar of a major electronics manufacturer. The global navigation had 5 options including two items; “Discover” and “Shop”. Now if you’re looking for a new widget from this company, which would you choose to learn more about it? You aren’t ready to buy it just yet, so you might want to “Discover” more information about it. But when you go to “Discover” you find glossy articles talking about other products from the company, not the one you want. “Shop” is the menu item you want, it is where all the products are listed by category and you can drill down to the product detail information. So we changed “Shop” to “Shop Products” and saw a 54% increase in interactions with that menu item and a 35% decrease in interactions with the “Discover” menu item. 

A travel business client has a gift card line of business where you can buy someone a card with a dollar amount attached for travel anywhere. The default amount shown (you can change it, but the dollar amount is very prominent) is $1000. I suggested we do a Valentine’s day promotion with the headline theme of “send the ones you love to the places they love”. It’s a message of giving something you know the recipient will enjoy and the word “love” is used twice – a powerful emotion and a powerful word. The client’s marketing department came back with a different approach of “venture big this Valentine’s day”. The word “venture” as in “venture capital” means to take a dangerous risk. The first definition from dictionary.com is below.

Venture, noun. 1. an undertaking involving uncertainty to the outcome especially a risky or dangerous one: a mountain climbing venture.

So the message is: spend a lot of money ($1000 suggested on the page) on the outside chance that your loved one will appreciate it. The test did indeed fail and my suspicion is that the word “venture” is primarily responsible.

And so you see, a single word can have a powerful effect. Take care with your copy and test it rigorously.


’tis the season

In my game we call it “seasonality”, the term is meant to describe user behavior that can differ wildly during certain periods of the year. This should not be a surprise to seasoned digital marketers, but what’s interesting is that it can have an effect on products and services that one would not normally suspect.

I conducted a test for a loyalty product where the value proposition to the user was the ability to accumulate loyalty points for both airline flights and hotel stays. If you link your hotel loyalty account with your airline loyalty account you can double your rewards. The test was launched 10 days before Christmas and allowed to run for an additional 10 days after Christmas. The test content was a series of banner images – very straightforward. Which image would have the most impact on getting users to link  their two loyalty programs?

10 days before Christmas : 0% lift in linked accounts. Some of the challengers had a slight positive or negative lift but none had any statistical significance.

10 days after Christmas: 15% lift in linked accounts with 97% statistical confidence for the best performing banner image.

This is an interesting result, but more than just a test result we can infer some best practices for this particular line of business. Since the number of actions – linking the two accounts – was roughly the same in the 10 days before and after Christmas it wasn’t that people were too busy in the run up to the holiday to take action, they linked accounts with an equal frequency before and after Christmas. So what changed was the users’ willingness to be marketed to. Of course some of this could be because of the busy-ness of the season, users just want to get the task done and don’t linger on subconscious messaging.

 Business lesson: take a look at other campaigns and channels for these two time periods. You might just find that marketing spend is far less effective in the two weeks before Christmas and thus budgets should be aligned accordingly, either curtail the spend before Christmas or shift it to the period after Christmas when users are more open minded to what you have to offer.


You win! Contest marketing pluses and pitfalls.

We’ve all seen them before, calls to do something to win a prize: fill out a form, send in a picture, tweet with a brand’s hashtag. This is contest marketing. If done correctly it can be highly effective, if done incorrectly it can be a nightmare.

The pluses: exposure, brand building, increased traffic and link building for improved SEO (if your contest is fun and notable it will get picked up by blogs and the media)

The pitfalls: potential legal problems (regulations vary by state!), contest gets hijacked by pranksters and low return on investment.

Books could be written on this subject, so I’m not going to get into this at length, but here are some non-obvious considerations.

Venue picking: do you use Facebook, Instagram, your own site? First, the more venues you use the greater the potential legal hassle so while it’s tempting to use them all keep the consequences in mind. Second, do your due diligence with some analysis to pick the right venue. How many Facebook likes do you have? Twitter followers? What are the metrics on engagement with content on your various social platforms? Third, what venue makes the most sense? Depending on what you’re asking a user to do, pick the easiest tool for the job. If you’re asking for entries into a photo contest Instagram or Facebook is the best choice, if you’re asking for people to submit user generated content your native web site might be the best answer.

Prize picking: If the goal is just to drive traffic then pick an iPad as the prize. Everybody wants an iPad. If you’re trying to build a base of customers with high lifetime value, pick what you sell. If you sell photography gear, give away photography gear.

Rules, rules rules: not only do you need to abide by Federal and State laws, and those laws do differ by state, you have to be aware of the platform’s terms of use as well. And of course, have detailed and bullet-proof terms and conditions for the contest itself. I know, the lawyers always ruin everything, but there’s a reason they make more than you do, they prevent disaster.

Exit strategy: don’t make this contest your Asian land war. Have a plan in place in case, for whatever reason, you need to pull this contest down before it’s over. Talk to the lawyers, figure out your greatest exposure and mitigate for that. Include items in the contest terms and conditions for this exit strategy.



Be the man with the plan.

Testing for testing’s sake is all well and good, but to really understand your customer you should have a strategic plan and calendar that creates long lasting lessons you can draw on. Here’s something I put together for a travel industry client that has a business line selling gift cards. This is a pretty simple plan because the client does not get a lot of traffic and we have to reduce complexity in order to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.

In December:

Q: Does holiday gift giving content convert at a higher rate over adventure travel?

Plan: do a 2×2 copy and image test MVT Surfing Girl image vs. Xmas tree image and copy “I’m sending ____to_____” vs. “Travel is under the tree this year”. Then do a second confirmation test with similar but slightly different content. By having this be an MVT test you can see if the holiday themed copy with the surfing image converts better than the surfing image with “I’m sending” copy, thus giving further confirmation of your findings.

Result: You find out if a holiday theme is the right one for this product. You now have a strategic understanding you can carry over to next year.


In January:

Q: Are cold weather escape images (beach) better at converting vs. winter sports (skiing) and for which region of the country?

Plan: hero image A/B test with generic copy around “getting away” that would apply equally to both. Create geolocation personas by region (New England, Southeast, etc.). Do second confirmation wave with similar but slightly different hero images.

Result: You now know what kind of content appeals to which regional segment. You can carry this learning over to the next year.


In February:

Q: Now that we’ve figured out which kind of vacation appeals to which region how can we optimize that?

Plan: using the regional segments and the winning hero image for each segment, do copy tests to determine the best approach.

Result: You have leveraged the last test to further refine and understand your customer on a much deeper level. Example: You now know that Midwesterners want to see images of the beach and copy that reflects family fun.

Showrooming stats

I just wanted to share some mind blowing stats from the Get Elastic post on showrooming. http://www.getelastic.com/showrooming/

71% of US mobile users own smartphones, and 81% of them use their devices in-store.

92% of consumers who showroom have used Amazon to compare prices, compared to 84% who’ve used Google, and 77% that use price comparison sites.

50% of male and 42% of female consumers who showroom are members of Amazon Prime.

67% of showroomers will buy from a physical store over Amazon when the store matches Amazon’s price with a rebate.

73% of consumers expect a retailer’s online pricing to be the same in-store, and 61% expect online promotions to be the same in-store — yet only 16% of top global retailers have price parity, and 73% offer the same promotions.

Amazon changes prices every 10 minutes on average.

41% of customers who showroom end up buying elsewhere.

Mobile strategy

A client asked for some help fleshing out their mobile strategy and in my research I found some interesting statistics and cautionary tales I’d like to share.

KPIs: if you’re selling something through a mobile eCommerce store, orders and revenue are clearly the metrics of choice. If you’re looking to collect user data, successful completion of the form is your goal. But for advertising campaigns, it’s a little trickier. The standard metric is click through rates (CTR) meaning, of those users who saw the ad, what percentage clicked it? Well, guess what? It’s estimated that 50% of mobile ad clicks are accidental. I know that seems like a lot until you think about it. Small screens and big fingers and no physical object defined to tap are perfect for accidental tapping. Then there’s the baby sitter factor. Since an iPad or iPhone is now a common plaything for toddlers and children of all ages, how many of them are stabbing their little fingers onto things they don’t even understand? Better mobile ad metrics, if you don’t have a clear cut sale or form registration to rely on, would be time on site and bounce rate. You also might want to intentionally build in a second step to your mobile landing page so step 1 is clicking the ad, step 2 is hitting the landing page where the value proposition is reinforced, step 3 is tapping through to the meat of the content and step 3 is your success metric for that ad that was seen in step 1.

Platform segmenting: Android and iOS users are not the same. Not even close. You need to break them out and figure out what works for each audience. There are 18% more users aged 18 to 24 on iOS devices. 39% of Android users make less than $50,000/year vs. 23% for iOS users. iOS users are 35% more likely than Android users to engage in m-commerce. iOS users engage in all activity more on their devices vs Android from the banal like checking weather to the more sophisticated tasks like mobile banking.

Browser segmenting: Safari market share is dropping while Chrome’s is rising and Android browser usage has remained steady in the last year. No other browsers matter in mobile. This infers that iOS users are switching to Chrome. Now who would do that? Safari works fine. The younger, techy and likely high earners is who. I bet if you took a sample of users on Chrome and iOS you’d find an audience much more willing and able to complete a task on a smartphone.

Location segmenting: location matters, yes, but in densely populated areas it matters less. First you want to target urban users because they have the data networks to make mobile a pleasant experience and a handful of urban areas control a huge amount of GDP

However, there’s a lot of demographic variety. Imagine if you will a Google exec hailing a cab on 14th Street in Manhattan. To the location servers the cabbie behind the wheel and the Google exec in the back seat look like the same prospect, but clearly, they are very different in terms of comfort with technology and earnings. However, if you then took all the people in that high earning zip code, targeted just iOS users and users on Chrome you would stand a much greater chance of getting to that Google exec who is your target audience.

Nuts for nuts.com

I’m an Amazon Prime guy. Amazon probably captures 80% of my online spending. But I also eat a lot of fruits and nuts and nuts.com does such a great job of marketing and customer experience that they get 100% of my spend on that category.

But why? Is the website magic? No, it’s a functional e-commerce site that’s nothing special to write home about. Is the product amazing? No, they sell a commodity – nuts. I defy anyone to tell me the difference between a $4 organic fair trade cashew bought at Whole Foods and one from a Planters can other than sanctimony and guilt. Are the prices the lowest? No, they’re about average. I’ve found lower, but I continue to give my business to nuts.com and pay a little more.

So what makes nuts.com so dear to this marketer’s beating heart? All the little things.


Awwwww. Just like Con Ed. (New Yorkers will get it)

The whole tone of their branding makes you smile. They market themselves as a family business that’s been around since 1929 when “Poppy Sol” started the business. That’s a warm and fuzzy. Where ever possible they use a goofy font that is friendly, approachable and resembles a grade schooler’s penmanship – emphasizing the story that there’s real people behind this purchase. The transactional emails are written in a jaunty friendly way that stands out from the cold cold copy of other emails. When my package arrived, they (through the carrier) sent me an email that said “Hiya Christopher! Doorbell. Special delivery from the nutmobile.”. OK, maybe it’s a tad hokey. But I’m a jaded New Yorker and I still think it’s cute.

The packaging is bright and cheery and has little anthropomorphic nut characters on it. The packaging is also durable, easy to open and easy to reseal. It has a little clear window so you can see the contents. Someone clearly put some time and thought into that consideration. Other sites I used to order from just dump the nuts in a clear plastic bag with a twist tie that may or may not be originally intended as a garbage can liner.

Nuts.com well branded bag

Good branding! Nobody’s going to look at this bag and ask “Hey, where’d you get those pumpkin seeds?”

Fulfillment is great, I got an email every step of the way and I got my nuts the very next day after I placed my order. OK, it’s coming from a few miles away in New Jersey, but still!

They offer a 100% money back guarantee – for any reason. Now, I’ve had no cause to see if this is true, but it jibes with the whole brand message “we’re a family business of nice friendly people who just want you to enjoy some nuts”.

Jeffrey, Kenny, Uncle Sandy and Cousin David you’re doing a hell of a job.

Sample size and significance

I recently conducted a test for an electronics retailer whose focus is on selling protection plans and accessories for computer products like iPads and laptops. Having worked for a major electronics manufacturing company doing analytics I know the profit margins on hardware (save Apple products) is astonishingly thin. Like paper thin. Like grocery store thin. The fat margins are on the accessories and protection plans. So we did a common sense test and made the area on product detail pages for laptop and tablet accessories and protection plans more prominent.

Now, the take rate for these products – particularly the critical protection plans – is very low. The test, if run according to the rules I learned from my stats professor (Art Vittorito you were my favorite professor!), should have a sample of at least 100 actions on the KPI per creative treatment or user experience. That means this test would have run for months on end to reach that goal.

This was a multivariate test. So you look at the results on the variable level as opposed to the creative level. The results for one variable were so off the charts positive (over 100% lift in desired user action) that even though the sample was lower than desired, you just have to run with it. Yes, it is possible to flip a coin and have it come up heads 20 times in a row. But 40 times in a row? 60 times? And the contributing factor was that it just made sense. The KPI content was part of a series of tabs. We brought that tab to the far left where the natural eye scanning starts (we read left to right of course). So the insane positive lift numbers + duh factor = calling the test before good statistical modelling sample is in.

Sometimes you don’t have to wait.

Tesla segmenting

Mr. Musk’s patent surrender really has got me thinking hard about Teslas and marketing segmentation. I can’t think of another auto brand that says so much about a person than Tesla. Well, an auto brand that has a product for sale under $100,000. I think we can all imagine the type who drives a $250,000 Lamborghini and you probably don’t want to sit next to him on a long flight even if it is first class. But a Tesla? Tells me right off the bat you’ve got a lot of disposable income, you’re probably highly educated, interested in technology and environmentally sensitive. 

If I had a business in the Hamptons or Greenwich or any play ground of the 1% the first thing I would do would do is to go out and buy a Tesla Super Charger and market the beejeezus out of it. If you don’t know, Tesla is setting up a network of super charger stations that will recharge the Tesla’s batteries in under an hour, thus eliminating the “range fear” of running out of batteries before you can recharge your car.

What would I stock for these people? Solar cell phone chargers. Maybe some high end gluten free snacks. $10 organic artisanal scones. I’m not sure, but as I watch that Wall Street bond trader who wants the world to know he’s successful but not too full of himself exit that amazing car I will most certainly keep track of what he’s buying. ABT: always be testing.