Shoes Do Not Make the Man… Sneakers Do Not Make the Boy

“Can you take me to get new shoes instead of ice cream?”  The little voice called from the backseat.  “I REALLY need new shoes.”

“Bud, you just got new shoes.  Your Mom took you on Tuesday.”  I replied, thinking how odd it was that the kid who’d trade both his brothers for a single M&M found in the crevices of a car seat, would be volunteering to give up top-your-own-yogurt-with-every-sugary-item-available-in-a-50-mile-radius for a pair of kicks.

“I hate them.”  He pouted.  “They’re not fast.  Milan says they’re the SLOWEST sneakers ever.”

Ah, I should have known.  Milan, the nastiest viper on the planet.  Age 3.

If there’s a time in your life where you question how men get to be exactly how they are, all you need to do is go to a playground with a bunch of 3-5 year olds.  Little girls are vicious.  But I digress…

If I were the parent in this situation, I’d use this as some teachable moment about how you shouldn’t care what other people say, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I am an auntie to this particular tiny human, and as an auntie, I just wanted to Hulksmash la petite princess.  Okay, okay, Hulksmash may be a bit over the edge but I did think about sneaking into preschool during naptime and stealing the vixen’s shoes AND her tiny tiara – there simply must be a better queen-in-waiting in my nephew’s class and I’m determined to find her.

The thing about Milan is not just that she’s a boy-bully with an obvious Cinderella Curse but that’s she completely clueless:

My nephew’s massively-overpriced Nike sneakers don’t make him fast or slow.  What makes him fast or slow is whether or not he is a good runner.  (Or, in his case, how many things he stops to inspect/collect while he’s on his oh-so-circuitous journey.)

Yeah, I know, Captain Obvious reporting for duty here.

Marketers do the same thing though.  We mistakenly correlate one item to another, when in reality, they aren’t associated at all.  (One of the biggest whoppers I see right now is people thinking that because they have a responsive site, it’s mobile friendly from a user perspective. Oy vey.)

Regardless of what device your customer/prospect is using to look at your site, there are only a few things that matter:

Your entry pages (their first 10 seconds on your site has a direct impact on a user’s success)

Your navigation (including internal text search function)

Your checkout/inquiry process (from start to finish)

Your flow (aka path) pages

You can have all the bells and whistles and all the fancy-schmancy whizbang tools known to man and if you’re not focusing on these basics, you will not win the race.  Period.

Focus on the top 10%.  The other 90% likely won’t matter.

Want to improve your site in a jiffy?  Look at where the rat is getting caught in the snake.  Figure out which step(s) the user is struggling on and develop a plan to fix it/them.  Remember, users often bail because of something that happened up to 3ish steps before (this is especially true in search) so you really need to look at your whole flow to determine where your issues are.  (Side note: This will also help you with prioritizing your fixes – far too often people change things in an order that doesn’t serve their bottom line efficiently.)

What happens on your desktop site is typically not indicative of what’s happening on tablets or handhelds.

Tablets, especially the larger ones, are shopping devices.  If you’re not getting twice the conversion as you are on your desktop site, there’s probably something wrong in River City.

On the other hand, handheld user sessions are shorter, users’ tolerance level is lower and their distractions are, at minimum, tripled.  Handheld conversions are tough with most companies at a quarter to a half of what they typically get on a desktop site.

Want other sure-fire things to help you figure out where your rat is caught in the snake and then to shimmy him on down?  Here are four tried-and-true things you can do on a shoestring budget.  (Yes, I had to say it.)

Look at your direct/no referrer/branded traffic first.  That’s often the easiest to fix as people who come in that way (direct/no referrer/branded) have higher propensity to buy/inquire and they’re usually at your site for a directed (and easy to manipulate) goal.  If you’re a catalog business, do people instantly know how to place a catalog order or do you bury it under some innocuous link like Quick Order at the bottom of your site?

If you’re sending traffic from infomercials/TV ads, does your site match what the users saw on TV?  What about the folks coming from print?  Or radio?  Is there a solid transfer from one medium to the other?

If you’re a retail store and the user is coming through on a handheld, is your store locator front-and-center and easy to use or do you bury it in a link cluster at the bottom?

Do you have an adoption issue or an abandon issue?  (We focus far too much on abandons these days – abandons are easy and like shooting fish in a barrel.  Adoptions?  Well, they’re attainable but you’re going to need to work a teensy bit harder.)

Determine how your new visitor paths differ from your returning visitor paths.  This is ESPECIALLY important in mobile.  Are returning visitors looking at the same pages they looked at last time or new ones?  Are they getting stuck in the same places?  (For example, in a lead form/checkout or search.)  Are you alienating them by asking them for something they’ve already given you like an email address?  Are they searching for something they’ve already searched for?  (Hint: If you’re not coding your mobile searches, you should start yesterday.)  For a lot of companies, the easy money is in the repeat visitor traffic.

Speaking of email…  Look closely at your email traffic – what are those folks doing?  When someone comes in from an email, they often have a directed goal.  If they don’t adopt to action (put something in their basket, sign up for the webinar you are advertising, download a free ebook, etc.), there may be something wrong with your process.

Typically email folks get put into your process too early or too late.

Are you dumping folks into a category page when they should go to a product page?  Are you dumping them into a sign-up page with little/no copy when they haven’t yet been sold?  Email folks are the easiest to manipulate so if yours are run amok, figure out exactly where they’re running off the reservation.

Figure out whether or not your paths are too heavy or convoluted. I find the rule of 3 (that the user will spend only 3 clicks to do something) pretty outdated these days but there is still a lot of value in calculating AAUS.  AAUS means average active user session and it’s the length of time that the user stays actively on your site – every site has a different average and a different sweet spot – knowing your sweet spot is like knowing exactly where the pot of gold is hidden under the rainbow.

If you can’t calculate AAUS, determine how many seconds the user is spending per page on your site.  Are they bouncing around looking at too many pages in too short of a period of time?  If so, look at your visual match, word connect and navigation – most often one of those three things is to blame.

Is the user spending too long per page?  Are they spending lots of time on a lead page and then not converting?  All of those things are often caused by poor pathing or heavy loading and with a little elbow-grease they’re easy to fix.  Things like instigated chat and staged (step) triggers are two good solutions.  (Incidentally, it floors me how few companies take advantage of staged triggers.  There’s no need to put someone right back into the place they struggled if you can avoid it. Not to mention you can directly address the user’s primary pain point by using them.)

Have more ideas you’d like to add?  Or questions about any of the above?  Feel free to write info@amyafrica.com.  In the meantime, I’ll be looking for a jetpack that’ll fit a preschooler or a sleeping potion for a princess, whichever is easiest to find.

Five Low–Cost Things You Should Be Doing Today: Email Edition

Check ALL Your From Addresses.  It amazes me how many companies still email from hideous email addresses.  Open Sky mails from Member Alert with subject lines like “look what we have found for you.”  (Hello Spam filter, let’s get cozy.)  Pomegranate mails from “contact us@” and Stonewall Kitchen mails from “content.”  I love Stonewall’s products but CONTENT?   What the hell has she done for me lately? Garnet Hill mails from “Customer Service” and Uno Allo Volta mails from “CustServ” as if they can’t be bothered.  Not to mention, I get dozens of emails each week from “community” (not to be confused with communicable.)

The majority of your email success happens outside the envelope: the “to” address, the “from” address, the subject line, the preview, the format, and the deliverability.  Nail them all and your success rates will increase.  Period.

Work Your Unsubscribes. It frosts my a** that so many companies try to bamboozle people into not unsubscribing with links that don’t work; unsubscribe pages that don’t load; no unsubscribe links at all; and so on.  I’m NOT at all a fan of the Vermont Teddy Bear way of putting their unsubscribe link at the top of their emails (in a HOT spot no less) but I also think it’s important (and legally sound) to give people a way to opt out of your emails whenever they want.  The key is to work your unsubscribe page.

What does that mean? It means offering a page that allows the user to change/update their email address (this is HUGE and not to be underestimated); change their frequency (if you can handle it); tell you the things that they are most interested in hearing about; and so on.  You don’t want to force users to answer a census-style survey with eleventy bazillion questions but three or four good questions is just fine.   Remember, a good unsubscribe page will save about half the people from bailing.  Yes, 50%.  So keep tweaking it.

Continue the Series. It floors me how many companies put their users through a 1-3 “series” email abandoned cart program and then just dump them.  I know.  I know.  Many vendors recommend you only mail abandoners x times but that’s typically because they are on some sort of commission deal and want to cherry pick the easiest-to-convert names off the list without impacting their cookie-cutter deliverability.  Here’s the thing.  It’s 2015.  People aren’t loading their carts because it’s a novelty like they were in the early 90’s. When a user adds something to their cart they are indicating interest and/or a propensity to buy.  So, instead of just dumping them after they haven’t responded to your x emails over a week, put them into a separate bucket and mail them once a month till they buy or die.  (You can mail them every 2 weeks, every 3 weeks, whatever.  The point here is to keep contacting them as long as it’s lucrative for you to do so.)  Incidentally, this “continue the series” advice is good for abandoned searches; PTP’s (page target programs); and so on.

Figure Out Your DTS (number of days to sale.)   My buddy, Bill LaPierre, frequently uses his blog to profess his undying love to the Co-ops.  (Just to be clear, he despises them.  With. A. Passion.) These days, I feel the same way about most email providers.  The thing about many (not all, but the majority) providers is that their recommendations about YOUR file are heavily influenced by their deliverability standards/issues/weaknesses.  So, they’ll commonly tell people that after xx days if the user hasn’t responded to your offerings, you should suppress/delete them.  (If you’re not immediately convinced, they’ll then use SPAM traps and all sort of other malarkey to scare you.)  The thing about deleting/suppressing names is that it often makes sense in theory but it can be the kiss of death in practice.

For example, say you sell personal tax forms.  The majority of your business will be done within a 4 month period.  Each individual customer will buy from you once a year and that’s it.  So, if someone has bought from you at the end of March or beginning of April (let’s face it, most people are last minute) and they don’t need to buy from you again till the following year, you have a year of “wasted” emails (unless, of course, you have something to sell them.)  If you don’t get opens or clicks for x months, your provider will likely tell you to get rid of the “bad” names.  This is NOT good.  The names aren’t bad – they just don’t have anything to buy from you at this time.  Suppressing them may make your stats look better but it’s not going to do anything for your sales long-term.  The better thing to do is to figure out what your DTS (number of days to sale — how long it takes to get someone to buy) is and market toward it.

And yes, I realize the above example is extreme but you get the idea.  Figuring out your DTS is important for all companies.  Maybe you’re a B2C gift company who gets an average of one purchase a year at Christmastime.  Perhaps you’re a B2B company and the majority of your business is government business, where there are intense fiscal buying cycles.  Maybe you sell training to teachers or vitamins to body builders.  It doesn’t really matter.  Knowing your DTS will help you become a better marketer.

Collect More Email Addresses.   I’ve written lots of tips and articles about how you can collect more email addresses using entrance and exit pops, catfishes, sidewinders, carthoppers and the like but today I’d like to talk to you about something else: all the ways that your prospects and customers are connecting with you that you are not keeping track of: live chat, customer service emails, inbound calls, surveys, old-school mail orders, and so on.

If you’re like most companies, chances are that you have lots of incoming email addresses (and fax numbers which are valuable if you’re in B2B – yes fax programs work!) that you’re not doing anything with.  Take a few minutes to figure out all the places you’re capturing – or more important, should be capturing — email names.  Then, develop a plan of attack.   No, you shouldn’t just dump them into your spray-and-pray program – I mean, you can, and sometimes companies do, but instead, I would suggests you consider a series of trigger emails to onboard them to your file. (I highly recommend you run the newfound names against your file first – and you definitely need to run them against your unsubscribes too.)

Have a question or want to add one of your own email ideas?  Feel free to contact me at info@amyafrica.com.

 

Secure Your Own Oxygen Masks Before You Help Others & More BS Concepts

My right hand was turning a weird shade of eggplant-blue. My seatmate (let’s affectionately call her 3F)  was clawing so hard and so fast, it wouldn’t be too long before her pointy nails laser-sharpened talons reached my wrist bone.

Like many others on the plane, she was praying out loud, hailing Mary, Maria and any other M she could think of.

Me?  Not. So. Much.

The odds of dying in a plane crash are in one in eleven million.  (About the same as me getting married. In other words: NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.)

I had exactly zero concerns about dying in a plane.  3F amputating my body parts before we stopped our turbulent freefall and leveled off?  90/10, in the scrappy grandmother’s favor.

To distract myself from the possibility of losing my right limb in battle, I looked around.  The seats in front of me were all filled with men.  My inner-Jack from Lord of the Flies noted there wasn’t an Alpha Male in the bunch.

If we do crash, I thought to myself, please let us all die because Lord love a duck, I don’t want to live a LOST-style-island life with any of these blustering yahoos. It’d be like a Shahs of Sunset Survivor. 

I looked to the back just as the oxygen masks fell.

Have you ever been on a plane when the oxygen masks come down like a swarm of jellyfish? (For those of you who haven’t been in the ocean, it’s sort of like the ceiling at the Bellagio after you’ve had a few too many cocktails.)

It’s fast, messy and disconcerting.

What I noticed though was interesting.

PEOPLE DIDN’T FOLLOW THE SAFETY DIRECTIONS AT ALL. 

As in they completely ignored them.

I know. I know. That part wasn’t really a surprise – even the 80+ year old, perfectly-coiffed, impeccably-dressed gentlemen traveling in suits don’t pay attention to the flight attendants’ IMPORTANT SAFETY BRIEFINGS any longer instead preferring their Kindles set to 100-point font (one word per page.)

When I looked around, I saw a bunch of mothers & fathers (and a few abuelas too) putting on their kids/loved ones’ oxygen masks before they put on their own.

Apparently “SECURE YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK before you help others” sounds very good in theory but just doesn’t turn out all that well in practice.

It’s, well, EXACTLY like marketing.  What people spout in theory is often completely meaningless (read: craptastic) in practice.

Here are a few of my favorite marketing things that sound smart but aren’t:

THEORY: THEY’LL SCROLL SO YOU CAN PUT THE ACTION DIRECTIVES (BUTTONS) WHEREVER YOU WANT.

Fact: Users will scroll but with scrolling comes a loss in brain focus/attention.  The first view they see is HEAVILY weighted in their heads.  Use it wisely.

What Should You Do?  Make sure you have an action directive on every single view.  This is ESPECIALLY important in mobile.

*

THEORY: COPY DOESN’T MATTER BECAUSE NOBODY READS IT.

Fact:  People do read copy but they read it the way they want to read it, not necessarily the way you want them to read it.  (Or the way Google reads it either.)

What Should You Do?  Focus on your headlines, subheads, and picture captions (very important and sadly underrated.)  Next, look at your BENEFITS – not the technical specifications, not the this-item-requires-batteries or you-can’t-get-this-if-you-live-internationally – the 4-5 things you would use to SELL the product.  There’s a lot more that a user reads but those are a very good start.  (If you’re in ecommerce, pay special attention to what you call (title) the item, where you present the pricing and the availability information as well.)

*

THEORY: MY CUSTOMER IS TOO OLD FOR MOBILE.

Fact:  The people who seem to be struggling the most with mobile are actually the millennials (aka the new homeless.)  Regardless, mobile is here whether you like it or not.  (Mostly because about half your users read their emails – including the spray-and-pray ones YOU SEND — on their phones.)

What Should You Do?  In 2015, the key to mobile, will be figuring out the very best place you need to sell the user and it’s likely NOT going to be on a handheld.  Get people ON the phone (as in calling your call center), use live chat, answer questions via text message, consider v-chat, use triggers to “carry their cart” over to your desktop site, or do all of the above – do whatever you can to get the order.  

*

THEORY: REMARKETING IS A WASTE OF MARKETING DOLLARS.

Fact:  Remarketing can be one of the best tools in your arsenal.  I hate – and I mean, VEHEMENTLY DESPISE – remarketing ads – but they can really work ESPECIALLY for new PPC/PLA/syndicate-type traffic.

What Should You Do?  Build killer banner creative or get an outside freelancer to help you.  Develop lots and lots and lots of banners – not just one – you can rotate the ones that work in and out of your schedule but banner fatigue is a real thing.  Look at how you can use frequency capping.   Segment your target audience – it’s possible that not everyone on your file should be remarketed.  Work your landing pages – remember, if people left because they were struggling it’s often an exercise in futility to drop them back into the same situation. 

As an aside, I recently saw a funeral company’s remarketing ads. Even I would have trouble approving that campaign and I’m bad grown-up numero uno. Apparently they have definitive answers about whether or not there is a God.

*

THEORY: IF SOMEONE SEARCHES (ON YOUR SITE) AND YOU SHOW THEM RESULTS, THE SEARCH IS “SUCCESSFUL.”

Fact:   Sorry about your luck but that’s not at all the case.  Users consider a search to be successful ONLY if they find what they were looking for.

What Should You Do?  The easiest way to figure out whether or not you’re handling search well is to look at the subsequent page views, adoptions and completions you get from search. Another good exercise is to take the top 50 most popular searches in the last x months (x depends on your seasonality) and conduct them yourself.  Evaluate whether or not the search term was in (or should be) your navigation and what people get when they search for that term.  Make sure the search results are prioritized – the order in which the items are presented has a huge impact on whether or not they clicked.

What have you heard lately that sounds good in theory but sucks in practice?  Anything you want to add to the list?  Drop me a line at info@amyafrica.com.

 

P.S.  We didn’t crash.  After the oxygen masks came down there was about 4 minutes of sheer panic – mostly from the purser who didn’t shut the glasses/mugs door in the galley properly and had about 100 breakables smash at her very Frederick’s of Hollywood shoed feed.  Then, we stabled off and I untwisted my paw from 3F who went on to get completely crackerjacked off, you guessed it, Bloody Mary’s.

P.P.S.   I’m honored to be one of the featured keynotes at the Conversion Conference this year.  I am not speaking much any longer mostly because (a) I’m sick of hearing myself talk and (b) although orange IS my color, I am not interested in going to prison at this time.  Most conference speakers – especially the conversion ones – make me want to HULKSMASH.  Between the blatant sales pitches, the navel pontifications, and the sheer BS, I’m THISCLOSE to bopping one of these wackasses right in the nose.

The Conversion Conference is different though – Tim’s group (especially my buddy, Casey) puts on a solid show.  It’s packed with solid information and the majority of the presenters are folks I don’t want to bury in the desert. You can learn more about it here: http://www.conversionconference.com.

 

Bad Grown-Ups Say Hallelujah

“I’m too hot.

Hot damn.

Girls hit your hallelujah.

Cause I’m going to funkngiveittoya.”

The ladies’ gasps were audible.

While he danced and sang like nobody was watching (ahhh, the delicious irony), the other mothers stood fast and united behind their little ticket-peddling card tables.  With their dropped jaws and Restaylned lips, you could see the word bubbles forming over their heads as they looked at 3.0 (my youngest nephew) in abject horror:

“YOUR GROWN-UP IS BAD.  She is a terrible, horrible, no good, VERY bad grown-up.”

Apparently, none of them have heard the Bruno Mars Uptown Funk that plays NONFLIPPINGSTOP on the radio and/or can extrapolate the fact that most 3 year olds aren’t the best enunciators and it was FUNK with an –n, not with a –c.

That’s what happens, you know.

When a wee one does something, er, unfavorable, all empathy goes out the window and the adults in the room immediately look around to see who the tiny human’s grown-up is so they can be immediately (and permanently) labeled:

BAD GROWN-UP.

Very often I’m THAT grown-up.

The bad one.

…The one who is so busy fiddling around with the parking meter that she has to chase the mighty minion into a SEX SHOP because he reads the word “toys” off the sandwich board in front of it.  (I’ll spare you the details of what happened when the little sociopath yelled “this doesn’t look like much fun” while holding up a very large, er, device!)

…The one who spends $11.89 on a single cup of yogurt at one of those choose-your-own-toppings places. (The shop was suspiciously out of small cups.  Plus, there was far too much time spent keeping grubby lil’ paws out of the Rolos and gummi sharks, and the whipped cream from being squirted directly into a frothing mouth.)

…The one who knocked over an entire aisle, yes aisle, of bikes at Toys R Us because she thought it’d be ok to let the mini-monster test-drive the little Jeep and missed that it was TIED DOWN.  (Why put a battery in something that’s bolted to the wall? I mean really.)

…The one who goes back into the children’s restaurant for the 3rd time to score a free balloon because she can’t properly tie a balloon to a wrist. Yes, the same one that also had to bribe the balloon-animal-guy to make extras because she inadvertently decapitates 1 out of every 3 animals in either the door or lockdown (aka the carseat.)

The thing is that (a) what other people think of me is really none of my business and (b) I don’t particularly give a flying funk anyway.

My motto: Keep your eyes on your own paper. (And yes, I’m aware of the incongruity of that particular statement considering I appear to be incapable of watching a 3 year old but WHATEVER.)

What on earth does any of this have to do with web/mobile marketing?

Glad you asked.

I was at a conference recently and session-after-session of speakers touting individual case studies reminded me how DANGEROUS it is to look at someone else’s test results and think you know anything about their success… their business…. the test results in general…

I get it.  As a consultant, it looks super sexy to present that you executed X test for your client and it had 3476% lift.  If you tell the story right, it looks like you found a cure for cancer, solved the AIDS epidemic, guaranteed net neutrality for life and figured out once-and-for-all whether orange is better than green in just one test.  (Incidentally, testing button color ad nauseam?  Lock those suckers up in the broom closet for LIFE!)

Regarding one test as the be-all-end-all of civilization – with one set of test “results” (word used very loosely) – when you don’t really know how it was executed or tracked?  ABSOLUTELY FLIPPING INSANE.  Keep in mind that I see thousands of tests a year and the MAJORITY of folks call the results too early and don’t ever back-test against the control.  Nor do most folks separate their customers – especially their email customers – when looking at the results, which depending on the business can have a huge impact.  In other words, I review way more invalid tests than valid ones.

Right now, the web-world is like it was in the mid-90s.  Mobile has arrived but it’s not really in full-force yet – it’s way more pre-tween than teen.  Search is changing – voice and visual are both on the horizon of good use/adoption — but it’s not really there either.  Text messaging, especially triggered texts, are in their infancy.  More sophisticated versions of chats are being tested but they have a ways to go.  I could go on but you get the drill…  There’s a lot to do – many, many things to do and test.

So, while it’s fun to choose Version B over Version A on the latest and greatest test at one of the many sites that rate your intelligence (cough, cough, choke) as a marketer….

….and it can certainly be good to get fresh, new ideas of what to test from an entertaining speaker…

In the end, you’re the one who knows what’s right (and what’s wrong) for your business… and your uptown funkin’ kid.

 

Questions & Answers from the VT/NH Direct Marketing Group Event

Last week, I spoke at a VT/NH Direct Marketing Group event along with Kevin Hillstrom of Mine That Data and Bill LaPierre of Datamann.

At the end of the day, we took about an hour to answer questions that were sent in before the conference as well as some “live” audience questions.  Frankly, I thought most people would bail before this session – it had already been a long day — filled with rapid-fire information and teensy spreadsheets — and the weather outside was, well, not delightful. (Datamann did a fantastic job of hosting the Show but they did absolutely nothing about fixing the below-zero weather outside. They’re topnotch at merge-purge so I guess they spend more time talking to the Data Gods than Mother Nature. We all have to pick our battles, eh?)  Interestingly enough, the majority of attendees stayed and we just couldn’t get to all the questions.*

Here are some of the web-related ones people came up to me afterwards and asked. Even if you didn’t attend the Show, I hope you’ll find them useful.

“Do you really think search is going to change all that much?  I don’t see it happening in the next 10 years. You think it’s already happening.”

Hello Frog, how do you like your cozy little frying pan?  Getting hotter, is it?

Search is changing rapidly. Do I think you should dump your wife, er, current plan of attack, and hook up solely with Siri, Cortana or Alexa?  Not. So. Much.  But you should pay attention to what’s happening in the search world, especially with the 3 V’s (visual, video and voice search.)  Analytics are a wondrous thing – and looking at (and acting on) what words/phrases people are using in AND outside of your site can dramatically change your business. This applies to looking at mobile search strings too – which, depending on your demographics, can be drastically shorter.

And yes, I know, there are a lot of articles that say that Google has trained us all to be such great searchers (now there’s a laugh) in the traditional (desktop) world that we speak to Siri the same way we’d type a search string into the computer.  If you buy that (you shouldn’t, but if you do…), try using one of the voice searches for a week (without using anything else) and afterward, send me a note about how accurate you think that sounds-good-in-theory-but-it’s-not-like-that-at-all-in-practice concept is.  In related news, I believe there are far too many people using bath salts other than prescribed these days.

***

“You said that you don’t think my email provider is good. Who is better?”

Yeah so, I didn’t say that any one email provider was better/worse than the other, I said that I think you should be careful about what you listen to when it comes to ANY email provider.

Here’s why.

A lot – and I mean almost all – email providers are constantly begging/blackmailing/bribing you to whittle down your list.  They want you to mail only the freshest and most active names.  Why? Because it benefits them.  (In fairness, it benefits you too – it can be better/easier/more immediately lucrative to target the people who have the best chance of buying but long-term, constantly pruning your list to the bare minimum to fit someone else’s cookie-cutter rules is a waste of dough. No pun intended.)

Here’s an example from one of our clients….

They sell B2B supplies, mostly consumable products.  In one of their segments (based on SIC), they sell x pallets of their product every 14 months.

They have a lot of names and are using one of the big name email providers.

This provider insisted that they should not mail anyone who had not clicked on their emails in the past 6 months because “those names don’t perform.”  When my client really begged, the provider relented to 12 months.

SERIOUSLY?  HULKSMASH ON THAT YOU (*&^%$#@#$%!

You don’t need to be a math genius to figure out that the ESP is basically DESTROYING the entire segment with their recommendation.

Before you say that you’re not a B2B company or you have a more frequent buying cycle or whatever, consider this…  Using frequency and segmentation would be a MUCH better choice for you than just killing xx% of your names every month because they haven’t clicked or opened.

I totally get that you shouldn’t mail to names that have been toe-tagged for ten years, but…

Think about how many emails you get in your own personal inbox.  Do you open every single one?  Do you open all the stuff Gmail buries in your promotions folder or trash?  Do you click through all the stuff that’s in your Outlook SPAM folder?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

If you’re a small office and only need a box of copy paper every other month, you may not want/need to open CopyPapersRUs emails every single day they blast you with them but that doesn’t mean that you will never want/need copy paper again.  I mean really.

Bottom line: Develop and work your preferences page.  Build a solid circulation plan complete with triggers and a traffic cop. Segment your list as if your life depends on it (it does.) Mail responsibly (which includes not taking two weeks to opt out.)   Most important, don’t let anyone else’s grubby little paws on your file.

***

“Do you really hate social as much as you alluded?  We’ve never been successful at it but we do throw quite a bit of money at it, mostly because my boss is a Facebook addict and thinks everyone else is the same.”

Yes. Probably moreso.  (And chances are your boss is a narcissist but that’s another story.)

With that said, there are a few (read: a handful) of companies whose social media campaigns or practices impress me.  For example, regardless of what you think of the books (inspired by vampire fan fiction, God help me now), The Vermont Teddy Bear Company did a killer job with their Fifty Shades of Gray campaign.  If everyone executed on that level, I’d have more good things to say about it.  (Hey, I like results and let them speak for themselves — if your result is  ”2300 Twitter followers, 50% of whom are bots and 0 of whom purchase, I’ll vote you off the island and into the shark-infested waters right where you belong.)

***

“Kevin said that you’ll typically get 20% of Amazon customers to transfer over to your brand. You said 30%. Who is right?”

Both of us.  If you don’t work at getting the customers, you’ll typically get 1 out of 5 (sometimes less.)  If you do work at it, then you should get around 30%.  If your stuff arrives in plain-Jane packaging material with no branding whatsoever and there’s a bunch of crap inside (read: your regular package insert program with no thought to it whatsoever) instead of a solid campaign, chances are you’re not going to WOW! a lot of people into checking you out.  Something to take into consideration when you’re planning ALL your third-party campaigns, I might add.  (Important note: Please check your Terms of Service on anything – and everything — you do with Amazon.)

***

“I got the message that all cooperative databases are evil. Is that true for the web stuff? What about B2B?”

First, Kevin penned a great article on the Co-ops a few days ago, definitely worth taking the time to read.  My experience is that B2B Co-ops and Consumer Co-Ops are not at all the same thing – the B2B ones are set up differently and they share way more information amongst their mailers.

Is the new web cooperative stuff evil?  A lot of it.  But that’s mostly because a lot of the bigger players get their names in ways your mom/kid/dog would definitely not approve of.  (And the fact that I’m saying this – as a person who often steps over the line in web marketing just to find out where the line is – should tell you something.)  However, there are some things that are coming soon that could have enormous potential.  I didn’t talk about them during my session because there are eleventy bazillion privacy complications associated with the ones I’m most intrigued by and I just didn’t have the time. If you want to know more about them, feel free to shoot me an email at info@amyafrica.com.

 

*Well, technically I suppose we could have but by 4:30 Bill was rambling on about 18 US Code 2340A and other torture codes. I think he felt that people – including he and Kevin — had been subjected to me for long enough.

The Unholy Trinity Unites for the Can’t-Miss-Event of the Year!*

On February 19, 2015 Bill LaPierre, Kevin Hillstrom and yours truly will be hosting a seminar entitled “Who’s Looking Out For Your Interests?” in Concord, NH.**  This info-packed, day-long seminar focuses on where the catalog and ecommerce industries are going and the impact the future will have on your business.  You will get a realistic view of how we got to where we are, and what you’ll need to do to push, pull and carry your company along to survive in the future.

If you read Bill’s blog or are on his email list, you’ve likely already heard him wax poetically about Kevin. (Or seen him effortlessly compare me to a ruthless serial killer.)  But here’s what you should REALLY know about the event.

  1. IT’S SUPER AFFORDABLE.  This event is priced under $200 for the full-day and that includes food.  Have you seen my day rate?  I mean really.  When I say this thing is a STEAL, it’s not hyperbole.  It really is a heist.
  2. You’ll leave with DOZENS OF IDEAS YOU CAN USE WHEN YOU GET BACK TO WORK.  Look, I’ve been to a lot of events in my career.  Most of them are all-hat-and-no-cowboy.  This event you get TWO COWBOYS and one intact BULL.   (I’ll let you decide who’s who.)  The rock-solid content is unique and power-packed.  My two hour presentation is scheduled right after lunch (hello, naptime) so I’ve got oodles of new stuff prepared.  (Plus, I’m bringing Taser wands, just in case I need to serve as a Wake-Up Fairy.)
  3. It’s an intimate affair. The attendees list is like a Who’s Who of the direct marketing companies doing things right.  The attendance is limited (hey, we’re meeting in Concord, NH, not exactly Vegas) and we’re being purposeful with our marketing.  We’re not forcing our vendors to attend.  We’re not giving sponsors paid commercials throughout the day. Yes, there will be a few consultants and vendors there but most of the room will be filled with CEOs, VPs, and other folks from the end-user side.  It’s a no-selling, no-pitch event.
  4. Bill and Kevin.  They’re two of the most respected guys in the industry.  Period.  Do I always agree with them?  Yeah, no.  Do I respect and learn from both of them?  100%.  (Wise. Salt of the earth. Refreshingly honest.  No baloney.  They’re both Amy-tested and approved, which considering how fussy I’ve become says a lot!)

BONUS:

  1. THE SMACKDOWN.  Ok, so Bill calls it an open forum “where attendees can share their concerns, beliefs and questions” but the guy would sell a cookie as an “unhealthy biscuit.”  His copy is not exactly infomercial material.  In other words, if you’re not in the kumbaya mood, you’re welcome to pit us against each other for excitement.  WWF-style.

REGISTER NOW:

Here’s where you register (I could go on and on that the attendance is fantastic – it is – and you’d better register today before it’s too late — it will be — but you’re a marketer, you know the drill – click here now:

http://www.vtnhmg.org/event-1788117

See you soon!

P.S. I know. I know.  Blue moons come more frequently than I post and now, today, for my first post of the year, I am using the space to promote something.   You’re welcome to throw something (preferably feathers) at me February 19th.  And yes, for some of you, that’s PLENTY of incentive to show up!  Heh.

 

*Well, technically you can miss it but frankly if you’re a cataloger, you’d be an idiot to skip it.  No, neither Bill nor Kevin would approve of me saying that but whatever.  I’m the bully-meanie-witch-bitch-Fuhrer-etc.-etc. of us three.  And to think, I’ve mellowed GREATLY over the past five years.  Oy vey.

**If you’re thinking WTFWITHTHELOCATION, I am TOTALLY with you.  Apparently this is Bill’s idea of a (rather unscientific) test to see whether or not people really do like us.

 

 

Duct Tape and Spit: Ideas To Improve Your Holiday Season Without Breaking the Bank, Part 1

For the past month or so, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from folks who are worried about the upcoming Holiday season.  Most of them are on “lockdown” (meaning no new projects till after Christmas) and are concerned that their plans aren’t enough.  Sales were soft for a lot of companies in August and September so I understand the anxiety – although the whole “IT gets  a three month vacation” baloney?  Not. A. Fan.  But I digress.

If you’re staying up at night wondering if your company’s Christmas business is going to be a hit or a miss this year or if you’re just someone who wants to improve their sales but doesn’t have a lot of time, resources or money, here are some tried-and-true Duct Tape and Spit ideas you can consider.

EMAIL ALL OUTSTANDING CARTS.  It blows my mind (and not in a good way) how many companies send their users a couple abandoned cart emails and then just delete them/leave them to rot.  Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it all before: diminishing returns blah blah blah.  Putting that argument aside for right now (since it’s mostly based on vendor propaganda), let’s agree that the majority of people who put stuff in their baskets have propensity to buy it.  (This is NOT like 1995 where people were enchanted they could SHOP NAKED but didn’t have the cubes to lay their credit card numbers bare on that mysterious information super highway.)

Let’s also acknowledge that those people – who put your products in their baskets – may not have been ready to purchase it within YOUR cycle of abandoned cart emails – ESPECIALLY if it was a holiday item/gift – and that they may be susceptible to another gentle reminder.   Yes?  Fair?

If you agree (and you really should because this program works like gangbusters for most folks), consider taking all your outstanding abandoned carts who’ve gone through your current abandoned cart series and emailing them a solid “I was going through my records and noticed you still have stuff in your cart” email.  If you want to include an offer, that’s fantastic.  If you don’t, that’s okay, but please add a deadline to the email anyway  – deadlines create urgency and cause people to focus, which is extra important this time of year.

How far can you go back?  As long as you have the carts.  (And if you’re NOT keeping carts open indefinitely, you should be.  Yes, even if you have limited inventory.)

How far back is profitable?  You have to mail to figure that out.  It varies depending on the type of item(s) you’re selling and how comprehensive your contact plan is.   My experience is that if your creative is good (meaning the story about why you’re writing is tight and compelling) you can mail for as far back as you have carts.  However, if you’re feeling conservative or just want to put your toe in the water on this, mail the most recent outstanding carts first.

WORK YOUR REMARKETING FOR THE HOLIDAYS.   The Amy Africa Voodoo Doll has lost at least one limb – maybe two – solely from my oh-so-bullish stance on remarketing.  I get the vitriol – I personally hate remarketing too but that doesn’t change the fact that it works.  More importantly, it works even better if you work it.

There are lots of different types of remarketing (my personal favorite is competitive retargeting) but for now, while you’re trying to get the biggest bang for your buck, look closely at your existing program –  there are usually some simple tweaks you can do to maximize its efficiency.

The three things you should look at first are: your frequency (there is a magic formula for frequency and a lot of folks tank their programs because they overmarket in too short of a window/time period); your creative (creative makes a HUGE difference in remarketing success and most companies don’t test enough creative versions) and your timing.  The timing thing can be a big play at the holidays.  You might want to market more aggressively faster OR you might want to market longer.  (It doesn’t take long to test both and it’s definitely worthwhile.)

Best of all, like the abandoned cart email idea above, you can also test pulling from older universes (especially carts and searches.)  Using specific banners to feature HOT products and bestsellers that you want to promote also can work really well too.  However, if you can only choose a couple things to focus on, look at the carts (abandoned and adopted), searches and people who spent a boatload of time and/or looked at a bunch of pages on your site.  (Mileage may vary on the latter – if you’re confused as to where to start, look at people who stay 1.5x your average user session or look at 2x the average number of pages.)

CHANGE YOUR MOBILE SITES TO GET MORE PEOPLE TO CALL.  Look, chances are you’re like everyone else, and your mobile site leaves a little-something-something to be desired.   It’s a mistake but with all the other stuff you’ve got going on, these things happen.  Don’t beat yourself up about it. (Do put it on the plan for next year though – Mobile is NOT, I repeat NOT, a division of ecommerce, it’s a whole different beast and needs to be treated accordingly.)  Instead, do the best you can with what you have – and for a lot of you that means putting click-to-call buttons and phone numbers all over the place (read: every view.)  Will this save the world?  No.  Statistically though, if you’re uber-aggressive about getting people on the phone, you’ll capture about a third of them which is about THIRTY TIMES MORE than the 0-1% you are currently getting, right?

What else can you do with a little elbow grease when it comes to mobile?  Work your entry page(s).  It/they should be short, fast loading and have the essentials.  You don’t need 4 buttons for customer service and you certainly don’t need to spend half a screen asking the people who come from your emails to sign up for your emails.

Once you’re finished, streamlining your entry page(s), look at the next 5-10 most popular pages on your site and work on those.   It’s way easier – and more effective – if you break it down into small, bite-sized chunks.

Oh, and don’t forget to separate your tablet traffic from your phone traffic this Fall.  Chances are they’re going to be different and even though you may not be able to impact your phone sales that much, you’ll surely be able to improve your tablet conversion just by paying attention to the differences.

Have an idea you’d like to add?  Email it to info@amyafrica.com and you might just see it in Part II of this article.

The Biggest Mistakes Catalogers Make When It Comes to eCommerce… Part 1

Catalogers and other offline marketers have many advantages when it comes to eCommerce.  Unfortunately, most of them don’t leverage their benefits.  What’s even more demoralizing? They often turn their positives into BIG negatives.

No, I’m not being a Negative Nelly here.  Ass-y Amy? Perhaps. That’s always a fair assumption.

But I digress…

I started my direct marketing career in the mail order world and I will always have a soft-spot for catalog and two-step companies.  There was nothing like opening an envelope filled with cash – yes, cash — from some little old lady 38 states away wanting a pack of greeting cards and a refrigerator magnet from the stationery company I worked for at the time.

So yes, despite the somewhat obnoxious, linkbait-y title, if you’re a cataloger – or any legacy company, for that matter — here are some of the biggest mistakes I see AND more important, tried-and-true ways/solutions for you to fix them.*

Mistake #1: Underestimating the value of direct/no referrer/branded traffic.

Sure-Fix #1: The people who know you – the ones who are typing in your company name or branded keywords – are more valuable than the ones who aren’t.  Period.   The direct/no referrer/branded folks have the highest propensity to act.  Granted, sometimes the actions are customer service-related (tracking an order, for example) but still… The people who know you?  They’re your gold. The center of your bullseye.

Put them in their own bucket.  Study them.  See where they are exiting.  (Remember, people typically choose to exit within 3 pages BEFORE they actually exit.)  Look at what they’re searching for.  Find out what they’re doing.  What they’re using.  What they’re not.  If you’re like most companies, you should develop an entry page specifically for the direct/no referrer/branded folks.

I know.  I know.  This tip sounds easy but less than 1 out of every 10 companies I visit actually does this.

The interesting thing is that when you do it (separate them into the proper buckets), you’ll see a lot of trends.  You’ll find those are the folks who do things like type in item numbers, use your recommendation engine or go into their order history trying to find a quick and easy way to reorder.  You may also find that they’re the ones who are likely to use the phone as the ultimate ordering channel – they come from a catalog, snoop around for the best deals/promo codes, look at your new stuff and then call in and place their order.  If this happens with your business, make sure you put your phone number all over the place – especially the cart/checkout and search functions.  As always, I recommend using special 1800# numbers for this kind of stuff – they’re inexpensive and not only are they good for your tracking but they’re good at getting your customers to the right place faster.

 

Mistake #2: Basing your navigational structure around your catalog categories.

Sure-Fire Fix #2: Just today, I’ve seen first aid kids under “Children” (should I alert CPS?); socks under “Novelties” (from an apparel company that puts scarves and mittens under “Accessories” but socks elsewhere);  vibrators under “intimate solutions” (which, incidentally, was buried under Health and Beauty); candles under Outdoor (even though they only sell indoor candles, not a citronella in sight); and Jams under Preserves, which was under Favorites but not Food even though Jellies was under Food, not Favorites.  (Heaven knows where the marmalades are — I couldn’t find them and they are one of that particular store’s most popular items.)

Here’s the thing.  Users don’t want to search for anything.  THEY WANT TO FIND SOMETHING.  I’ve said it here before and I’ll say it again, navigation (including your text search function) is one of THE biggest determinants of your online success.  Sure, you can say that nobody cares about navigation and everybody uses the text search – but you’ll be sorely mistaken.  In usability, you find that unless users know precisely what they are searching for and/or are sophisticated users, they’ll try using the navigation first ESPECIALLY if they are browsing/shopping or have had a bad experience with your search function or any of the half dozen or so they’ve used before it.  (Research shows that the site(s) immediately before the user came to yours has/have a direct impact on your success.)

My recommendation to you? Work your navigation but work it as if your sole goal was to sell the products and not to just put the catalog/offline products on the web.  Name the products what people are searching for – if they’re calling it a raincoat, don’t call it a poncho.  If they’re calling it a shirt, don’t call it a blouse.  If it’s a bestseller, don’t bury it under some innocuous category like “accoutrements” or “selected features.”  Also, be sure to make the categories indicative of what people are looking for – if you’re only selling PATIO FURNITURE, you needn’t bury it under GARAGE/OUTDOOR.  Be clear. Be specific.

 

Mistake #3: Not offering “Ordering from a Catalog?” tools.

Sure-Fix #3: Most companies do two things incorrectly when it comes to this valuable section.  First, they’ll call it QUICK SHOPPE or something equally useless when they should be showing a picture of their current catalog cover and saying “ORDERING FROM A CATALOG?”  Second, and even worse, they’ll take the whole section off the site altogether because “we tested it in 1998 and it didn’t work.”  Newsflash: 1998 was SIXTEEN YEARS ago, things are just a little different now.  Not to mention, your ORDERING FROM A CATALOG? section won’t work on all your traffic – it will ONLY work on potential catalog traffic.  So, if you know I’m coming in from a referral link on one of your affiliate sites, chances are you don’t need to show it.  For the record, your email sign-up should function the same way.  If you have my email address, you really don’t need to push a pop-up in my face asking for it again – you can use that space for something more valuable.

 

Mistake #4: Dumping all your new products on the web at the exact same time.

Sure-Fix #4: Yeah. I get it.  You put your new items in your new books x times a year in one big batch.  That’s cool.  FOR. THE. CATALOG.  But let’s be honest here, it’s a lot easier to promote stuff in a new book than it is on the web, right?  You give the item you want to bet your house on, the front cover; the item you’ll bet your car on, the back; maybe your smartphone (your kids?) on the inside front; and so on.  The web is different though – chances are, you’re more socialist on the web and probably a little lazier too – all the new stuff gets dumped in one fell swoop in a New section or put in your regular categories with dinky NEW bursts.  (The only thing more predictable than that particular pattern is the one where the majority of the products move directly from NEW to Clearance, eh?)

In a perfect world, you’ll use your web/email efforts to test new products and categories before they make it into your books.

In the not-perfect-but-still-great world, you’ll introduce the products to the web in small batches with precision.  The best products will get carousel frames and/or home page features; they’ll be shown in a thrust (batch-and-blast) email or two; and they’ll be introduced in your triggers; especially your Sneak Peeks, EBOPPs (Emails Based on Past Purchases) and EBOSIs (Emails Based on Selected Interest.)  The new products will get the time – and the space – they deserve.

 

Questions?  Comments?  An issue you’d like to see here?  Write me at info@amyafrica.com.

 

*(In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote all the sure-fire tips I could think of for catalogers and it turned out to be over 23,000 words, so I’m breaking the “mini book” up into smaller segments.  This is part 1 of the series.)

3 of Your Most Pressing eCommerce Questions… Answered!

Last week, I asked on Twitter if you had any eCommerce questions that I could answer.  I was inundated with email replies. Here are the first three:

Jessa from Austin asks: “I walked in late at a speech you were giving in Chicago and heard you scold someone on your panel about remarketing but I didn’t understand why. Are you not a fan of remarketing? We’re making about $35k a month from it which is a lot for our company.”

Short answer: I am a fan of remarketing as long as the costs are attributed appropriately.

Long answer: I LOVE Remarketing.  Ok, that’s a lie.  Personally, I despise it. (One glance at my search history and you’d understand why. Ha!)  Professionally, I think it’s fantastic.  HOWEVER, what I do NOT love is that most marketers grossly overestimate the “profit” of their remarketing efforts. For example, many folks will wax poetically about how lucrative their abandoned cart remarketing program is but they’ll only take out the ad cost/agency fees and they’ll completely ignore the original source cost.  Newsflash: those abandoned carts had to come from somewhere and that “somewhere” cost something.

I realize that many remarketing agencies and consultants disagree with my logic – they want their numbers to be as BIG and juicy as possible. The challenge is that there comes a point where it’s difficult to just “do more remarketing” without increasing the original sources/leads/starters.  More important, triggered emails are often A LOT less expensive – and frankly, boatloads more effective – when it comes to retargeting.  (Yes, the combination of email and banners/ads does work best.)  Bottom line: Do it but do it wisely.

 

Kyle from Delray Beach asks: “I heard you on a mobile webinar recently and you said to capture mobile numbers even though you may not use them. We’d have to pay about $2k for this field to be added to our system, is it really worth it?”

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Even if you never send out a text message in your life (which you will, and before you say you won’t, remember in 1993, nobody thought they’d send out emails either), mobile numbers are amazing for profiling.  They can also be very useful when you’re doing ECOA (Email Change of Address) and e-Append (both things I recommend.)

Please remember: if you are collecting mobile numbers, you need to tell the user that message and data rates may apply.  (Yes, you need to do this now, just in case.) I also recommend you list approximately how many messages you send a month along with a Text STOP message.  (A link to your Terms and Conditions won’t hurt either.)

 

Ruth from Seattle asks: “We implemented a carthopper at your recommendation and it’s working like crazy for the people whose email addresses we don’t have but it’s a waste of space for people we do.  How do we fix this?”

Short answer: Have more than one carthopper.

Long answer: Carthoppers are the catfishes that crawl along the bottom of your screen.  (Some people call them bottom pops.)  They’re designed for people who return to your site who have items in their basket from the last time they were there. (You can also test taking people who have active carts directly to the View Cart page.)  If you don’t have the user’s email address, the carthopper should remind them that they have items in their basket and ask them to give you their email address so you can send them their cart.  (Read: put them in your trigger series immediately!)  If you already have their email address, don’t waste the space and ask for it again.  Instead, show them a special TODAY ONLY offer and then send them directly to the cart with a big RETURN TO CART NOW button.  (If you don’t offer financial incentives/promotional codes, you can feature a new or bestselling product instead.)

5 of the BIGGEST Lies Conversion Consultants Are Telling You Right Now!

Lie #1: “Improving conversion starts with color testing your buttons. Button testing is THE most important thing because red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons perform x times better than any other color buttons.” You know what? Red/orange/green/rainbow/polka-dotted/zebra-spotted buttons can perform x times better than any other color buttons and in the big scheme of things, there are hundreds (yes, hundreds) of tests that you could be doing that are more fruitful. You can test the size of the buttons (the bigger the better), the number of buttons (the more the merrier) and the language on the buttons – they’ll all make a difference.  But is that your biggest swing?  If you want to hit it out of the park, is an orange button versus a red button really going to do it?  Probably not.  You’d be better served by testing new product(s) OR a new offer OR something – anything — else that makes you feel queasy in your tummy (keeping-you-up-at-night-worried-you-might-not-have-enough-stock-to-support-it uneasy.)

Truth #1: GO BIG OR GO HOME. You’ve got limited time. No, I’m not predicting your eventual death (I have a 900 # for that.) What I am saying is that you need to identify the home runs and swing for the fences when it comes to web testing. These teensy things that “improve conversion 613%” but result in only a handful of orders?  Not impressive.  And probably not worth your time either.

Lie #2:  “When you buy a good search package, you can just set it and forget it.”  Things like “good search package” and “responsive design” are completely overrated. Yes, they can both be fabulous but neither of them will solve all your problems overnight. (Adding an outside search package is a big expense for a lot of folks and with spending a significant amount of money comes a tendency to think that all your issues will magically disappear. Sadly, that doesn’t happen.)

Truth #2: You’ve got to work your search. Start by looking at the top 10% of your products and services.  Are they well represented?  Is the copy useful and compelling?  Does it tell a story?  Does it have all the information/details your users need to make a purchase?  Is your copy friendly for online users or did you just plunk in your catalog/offline copy? (Incidentally, that’s one of the biggest mistakes legacy marketers make.)

You’ll also want to look at what people are searching for – start with the top 100 searches to make it manageable.  Look at what they’re finding – what they’re not – and what they’re clicking on.  Tweaking/working those will all help you make your search better. For example, a client of ours noticed a bunch of their major competitor’s item numbers over and over in their unsuccessful searches.  Their “learning” search tool had redirected a couple (of the many) searches to similar products but not the ones that the client would have chosen.  Also, the search package was showing “no results” for most of the items. To fix it?  They added the culprit item numbers to the “right” product pages (with solid success, I might add.)

Lie #3: “_________________ works because so-and-so tested it x years ago and the results were posted {here.}”  Look, I’m all for best practices – I know some people hate them but I think they’re useful. However, one poorly executed test to a market that is NOT yours to a sample size that is NOT significant?  Yeah, I’m not a fan. Not. At. All.

Truth #3: You’ve got to figure out what works best for you and your company.  Best practices are good places to start.  Make sure they are practiceS, with an S, however.  Not one company doing one thing that may or may not have been executed properly.

Lie #4: “It doesn’t matter what kind of user testing you do, as long as you do it.”  I’ve made more mistakes than the average bear when it comes to user testing. Like eleventy bazillion times more. One of the biggest mistakes?  Thinking some random ass tester from East Podunk, Mississippi who knows nothing about my product, nothing about my market, and nothing about what I’m trying to do, would solve my site’s problems.

Yes, I have used several of the remote testing sites.  Yes, I like some of them more than others.  Yes, I think they can be useful.  And yes, I think that a lot of times it’s like giving a lollipop to a child who just fell from the top of a jungle gym TO THE ASPHALT.  It may stop their crying but it may not prevent them from having a concussion.

Truth #4: If you’re using folks to test your site, use a good balance of prospects, customers, competitors’ customers AND people who don’t know you from Adam.  You should NOT use only people you’ve found on the street, your kid’s preschool, or from your great grandmother’s senior home.  Yes, you can use some but people who actually have propensity to buy your product will behave differently and their needs should be represented.

Lie #5:  All mobile transactions are created equal.  This comes up a lot at mobile conferences.  I know because I am often the morning keynote and then, for the rest of the day, speaker after speaker who follows me, wastes 5-10 of their allotted minutes, pleading their case about why I’m wrong and/or an evil demon spawn. (There are many reasons, this is NOT one of them.)

I get it.  I really do.  Mobile conversion sucks – and I mean REALLY sucks, and if you separate the tablet traffic from the phone traffic, it’s even more demoralizing.  So, the easiest way to make it look better/sexier than it really is, is to say “oh, who can define what a phone is?  Is a Nexus 7 a phone or a tablet?” and then greedily rub your hands together like that Mr. Burns guy from the Simpsons as you watch the attendees nod like bobbleheads.  Newsflash Mobile Speakers of the Planet: if it’s not the primary device you hold up to your ear as you take or make calls, we can safely call it a tablet at this point.

Truth #5: It’s smart business to separate your phone traffic from your tablet traffic.  Why?  Because it’s likely that your tablet conversion is fantastic (it’s often 2-3x desktop conversion these days) and your phone traffic is pitiful.   That’s not what’s important though.  What’s important is that you get an honest idea of what’s working in each medium so you can make the appropriate tweaks/fixes/overhauls.

Have something you’d like to add?  Send it to info@amyafrica.com or tweet it to @amyafrica.  If it’s good, I’ll include it in one of my next posts.