Don’t Complicate the Process

Posted by Ken

A complicated process is a surefire way to lose crucial conversions and testing a prospect’s patience gives them a reason to shop elsewhere. Additionally, once they’ve been through the steps and have determined it to be too cumbersome, they may never return.

Shoppers always want a quick and convenient checkout and instinctively head for the shortest line. Even if you are not “selling” anything online, the concept is no different. The number one thing you can do to increase your conversion rate is to optimize your process’ flow. Creating a  process that uses as few steps/pages as possible and requires potential prospects to jump through fewer hoops can encourage them to complete the process on your site.

As IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller puts it in a recent CNET article, “One of the greatest barriers to buying things is the steps that it takes, and we all know the difference when you go to Amazon and you just push your little thing and it’s bought, paid for, delivered, billed, etc., instantly, and [...] how much that has made the difference between just browsing and buying…that little thing, [...] you scroll it, you do it, it comes, everything else is taken care of, is the answer to what’s going to happen on the Internet when, in fact, we get the applicability of that broadly.

Some easy steps to help the conversion flow:

1. Low Barrier Entry:
An email address is really the only bit of information you need to contact me. Don’t scare me off by asking for too much personal info up front. Capturing my email address now gives you permission to get in touch with me… even if I don’t go through the whole process.

2. Save My Information:
If I bought something from you once, I may return. Don’t make me re-enter my information. Keeping my shipping information and credit card “on file” will make my experience quick, easy and convenient.

3. Include a Customer Service Contact:
Regardless of how much you simplify your checkout, I may still require assistance. If I can’t find the answer I need, I have no choice but to abandon my cart to find your site’s help page, or worse, make my purchase on your competitor’s site.

4. Following up is NOT begging:
Even if you optimize your process to be super low barrier, there may be “other” reasons beyond your control that cause me to not complete the process. So, don’t ignore the fact that I was interested to begin with. You have my email address now, after all, so follow up with me - remind me why I was there in the first place; ask me if I’m still interested; send me a coupon to get me to come back… just don’t forget about me once I’ve taken that first step.


Bank of America, Twitter and Customer Service… OH MY!

Posted by Ken


BofA is part of a growing number of companies who are already utilizing the wildly popular Twitter tool – becoming the largest financial institution in the world using a social media tool for customer service.

What makes BofA’s use of Twitter so remarkable is that they are using a real person with a real name and an actual photo (not a logo or other avatar). Using the twitter handle @BofA_help, David Knapp is Bank of America’s Twitter Representative. I was amazed and impressed to discover that he is not just a CSR appointed to be the “face of Bank of America” on twitter, but David is actually the senior vice president and market manager for middle market commercial banking. I was also delighted by how genuine and immediate his responses were.

Out of frustration about a recent snafu with my finances, I posted this message to the twittersphere,

“BofA is charging me (long time customer) $350 in NSF fees, for a simple mistake. Maybe it’s time to switch banks.”

to which, within an hour, I received this response,

“BofA_help@kzarecki I work for Bank of America, anything I can do to help?”

The idea that BofA’s Twitter rep proactively goes out to find customers who need help threw me for a loop. This is something we’re not used to any more – Actual “Customer Service”.

I have to admit I was skeptical about any type of a resolution, as I had already attempted to work something out by calling BofA customer service line 3 times. But David Knapp asked me to follow up with my contact info and a description of the circumstances. I figured that it couldn’t hurt to give it one more shot, so I did. The very next morning, I received a phone call – not an email… not a form letter in the mail box… and actual live person, and not a CSR, mind you (I didn’t catch the guy’s name, but I think it was Mr. Knapp’s boss!) called me to say, “I think the right thing to do is credit you back [all but one of the ten $35 overdraft fees].”

Honestly, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Not just because I got most of my money back, but because I didn’t feel like just another no-name customer – all the personal attention made me feel like I was integral to the success of the company and my happiness is important. Seth Godin says in his post about in-bound customer service, “…the goal of every single interaction should be to upgrade the brand’s value in the eye of the caller and to learn something about how to do better, not to get the caller to just go away.” I applaud BofA for putting an actual face and person behind the twitter account and having a real person follow up with a phone call. While I may not be their most profitable customer, the treatment I received made me feel like I was worth a million bucks. Now, THAT is what I call “customer service”.


You have got to be joking!

Posted by Ken


Why originate when you can emulate?

“Emulation means never having to visualize and describe…. it’s cheaper to borrow rather than buy.”, According to nerdless.com.

**** All sarcasm from here on out, people… but the content in quotes is actually from their website. ****

Finally,  folks, you no longer have to take any ownership in your presence on the web.
Too busy to spend time working with a web company to develop your corporate site?
Only want to be as good as your competition?
Don’t want to be unique or stand out among the crowd?

Then we have the perfect thing for you!

Now you can just  steal borrow from those who have already done it.

That’s right, kids!
“Emulating an existing design eliminates a lot of back-and-forth between you and your site builder, saving time.” You’re a busy person. You don’t have time to waste talking with a professional website design company. C’mon, nobody cares if your site is user friendly, standards compliant or that all your page titles are the same! As long as you LOOK like those other guys who are making the money, you will too! And you just KNOW that if YOU think that other site is “cool” then everyone will think YOUR site is just as awesome!

HEY! “Get over your worries about being an imitator. Unless you emulate a direct competitor, it’s unlikely that anyone will ever see both the original site and your emulation.”

See kids… it’s O.K.to steal borrow what other designers have created as long as no one will ever see the original AND your copy side by side. So, copy that design… download those cool photos you found on Google Images… and use that copy you hacked together from those other sites…and you’ll have yourself a brand new website you can call your own. Won’t you be soooo proud to show this off? And what a time and money saver. Gosh, why didn’t YOU think of it? Yes, proud website owner… don’t bother trying to be the best, when you can just look like the best?! (let’s see how long that will work.)

OH, by the way… those other websites you’re stealing from… who do you think designed them? I’m pretty sure they didn’t copy from someplace else. Do you suppose they maybe took their business seriously, dedicated some time and resources to their investment, and worked with professional web designers and developers to create a website that actually caters to their goals and needs. Yeah… probably more likely.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” - Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) … but when it comes to the web, imitation is just bad business.


You paid good money for that website… dump it.

Posted by Ken

“Past investments are over, lost, gone forever. They are irrelevant to the future.”

Seth Godin’s recent post “Ignore sunk costs” shows a photo of a store front sign with the largest word spelled incorrectly, and suggests that “just because the guy spent a lot on the sign for his store doesn’t mean he shouldn’t spend more to spell the biggest word properly. The amount he already spent is irrelevant. What matters is what the benefit of spelling ’stationery’ properly will be.”

The same concept can be applied to your website. Yes, you may have sunk several thousands of dollars into having your website built 5 years ago,  but a lot has changed since then. More people have hi-speed internet access, better monitors, web browsers are more sophisticated and above all, web users are way more savvy and have higher expectations from websites that they visit. So, what have you done with your website since you had it done 5 years ago?

I know. You paid good money to have all that fancy Flash® animation done, and made sure that Pachelbel’s Canon plays on every page, but who cares? No, really, WHO CARES? Does it convert? I mean, are people actually going back to your website and saying, “OMG, I LOVE all those Flash® animations! I think I’ll buy more of their products!” NO! And I’m not speaking just about the “design” of your site, I’m talking usability, conversions, and yes… SEO.

Simply put, just having a brochure-type website and hoping that “If I build it, they will come” just doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time to rethink your web presence. Don’t think about how much money you spent to have it done. That initial investment has already paid for itself. If it hasn’t, all the more reason to do something about it.

Like Seth says, “When making a choice between two options, only consider what’s going to happen in the future, not which investments you’ve made in the past.”


SEO = Search Engine *Optimization*

Posted by Tony

The term “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) has been abused and seems to have become a catch-all for anything and everything related to increasing search engine ranking/visibility and user traffic to a given website. As I see it, “optimization” is the act of making the website easy for search engine bots and spiders (and bears, oh my!) to crawl through a website and parse the content easily. So, that would include things like:

  • Making a website standards compliant
  • Appropriate use of “alt” attributes on images
  • Appropriate use of “title” tags (and attributes)
  • Using CSS for layout (thus making the HTML more compact and easier to get through)
  • Use of appropriate content and keywords

The list above won’t do much to increase your rankings in the search engines unless your competition is nonexistant on the web. So, what needs to be done to actively pursue increasing your ranking in the search engines? Well, that is where “Search Engine Marketing” (SEM) comes in. With an active search engine marketing campaign, you can cultivate your website over time and show those search engines that you have a site that is well taken care of and relevant to people.

Websites should not be viewed as static bits of code that just “sit there” until someone stumbles across them. They should not be put out on the web just “to have something out there”. With a nurturing environment, a website can grow and thrive and attract a community of users that value what the site has to offer. Just like people need to be taken care of and encouraged, websites need frequent attention to be seen as successful, high-ranking sites in the eyes of search engines (and users).