Copy Sells

We know that making a connection with the consumer can increase conversions through price points, warranties and guarantees and promotional freebies, but have we overlooked a more powerful connection?

Joshua Glenn is writer, editor and brand analyst and Rob Walker is also a writer and contributor to the New York Times. These two creatives came up with an idea to test how the value of an object, or one might say “junk”, is perceived when it is sold with a story. A fictional short story.

They named the experiment The Significant Object Project (nicknamed the quasi-anthropological experiment). They invested about $130 to purchase items like the Flannel Ball at second-hand stores, rummaging through junk drawers, garages that store garbage bags of who-knows-what to sell in their online Ebay auction. They invited over 200 writers to tell a story about each tchotchke, written without truth, but with a charm that becomes the emotional connection between the audience and the object.

Many of the auctioned items were marked with a starting price well under a dollar. The original price of the Tiny Message in Bottle was 33 cents (some may think 33 cents more than it was worth). The final bid was 19 dollars! That’s an increase of 5,757%.

Some examples:

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Story of how a TINY MESSAGE IN BOTTLE engrossed triplets over living life. Original price: 33 cents. Final price: $19.00.
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Story of the COW CREAMER named Norman. Original price: $1. Final price: $26
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Story of a FLANNEL BALL that is weighted and weightless. Original price: $1.50. Final price: $51.00

This project by Glenn and Walker emphasizes that we can’t discount the importance of creative copy. It can add significant measurable value.

Why Curiosity Matters

Bob Moesta is a curious person. He was involved in home building and selling condos. His condos were designed based on the stated needs of their target audience (ranch style, 2 bedroom, 2.5 bath, granite countertops, hardwood floor, etc.) But still, a big percentage of interested people didn’t pull the trigger.

Bob wanted to understand why.

He discovered people who were moving into this condo were moving from bigger homes and were anxious about the downsizing process. They simply didn’t know how to pack up 20 to 30 years of stuff that had been collected. Important, nostalgic stuff. They didn’t know how to purge collected memories. So people would say things like, “Boy, we don’t know how we’re going to downsize. We’ll need to cancel on the condo because we need another year to figure out how to downsize”.

Here is what Bob did: he raised the price of the condo and included (in price of condo) moving plus 2 years of storage. Result? Sales went up 17%.

Be more like Bob when thinking about your ecommerce business.

Choreographed User Experiences

We all know how important user experiences are. But what about choreographed user experiences? They’re even more important. Let me explain …

Imagine you’re an author who has written an excellent mystery novel with 12 chapters. Would you let your readers read the chapters in any order they please (chapter 8 followed by chapter 2)? Or would you demand that they read starting in sequence, from chapter 1?

It’s very similar for your ecommerce site. Yes, we want to give our visitors freedom to explore our store as they like but make no mistake about it, the sequence in which potential first-time buyers consume your story has a dramatic impact on their overall conversion rates.

Don’t know what the magic sequence is? Here is a template that can be applied to any site:

— The first content first-time buyers need to see is why your product/service is unique.

— The second content first-time buyers need to see if what makes you unique (your story).

— The third content first-time buyers need to see is why they should trust you.

— The fourth content first-time buyers need to see if what happens if the promise you are making isn’t true (risk reversal).

As marketers, we need to ensure all engaged potential first-time buyers “buy” this content (and in that sequence).


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