Reconsidering the Phrase Coupon Code


If you hate watching videos read this:

The Zeitgeist affects the emotions phrases evoke. One such phase is “coupon code”. 10 years ago (to me) it meant “use if you have one”. Today (to me) it means “leave this site and Google + coupon code“.

But it doesn’t have to be. If the phrase coupon code has been highjacked use something else. Just ensure the new phrase makes sense to shoppers that do have a code while not tempting others to hunt for it on Google.

This is what does:


They’re begging me to leave the site and hunt down a coupon code (top of the screenshot).

This is what Zingerman’s does. They use the phrase, “Have a secret code?”. It’s great because customers with a coupon code will intuitively know coupon code is a form of secret code. But someone without a coupon code will not instantly know how to search online for a Zigerman’s secret code. It’ll require extra mental effort. And humans are lazy. default state:

Zingerman's_Default.png activated state (here they make sure to use the phase discount code):


How Do You Feel?

When submitting a ticket to WordPress the user is presented with an extra question (red box in the screenshot below):


Why does this matter? Because shoppers who post questions to customer service are often experiencing some level of anxiety. By presenting options WordPress is saying, “we care”.

The funny thing is that these options may be purely serving as a placebo (meaning they have no impact on how the query is handled in the back-end.) But placebo effects are powerful (source).

Be Aware of Adoption/Defection Latency

For those who prefer video–

For those of you who like to read (talking to you, Lars)–

Have you ever wondered why there is a delay between a change initiated by you and when that change registers? This is known as adoption latency. It’s the time gap between action and outcome. Defection latency is the evil twin.

To understand adoption latency let’s look at a phenomenon from the eCommerce world. Looking at your Google Analytics data you will likely definitely notice desktop conversions rates are 2x mobile conversion rates. This trend has held steady for years.

Initially, we speculated mobile visitors were in a different state of mind, constantly multitasking, making their attention fragmented. This, coupled with the idea that mobile users are in “research” mode and not “buying” mode should explain why desktop conversions are higher, right? Not necessarily.


Photo credit: Photo by Bruce Mars from Pexels

Know the biggest reason for mass shoppers not to buy on their phone? Habit. I myself almost always prefer to “investigate” on my phone but place orders on my desktop. Also, to me, the idea of placing an order somehow seems unsafe; it’s a public network. It’s an irrational fear, but I can’t seem to shake it (thanks, System 1!).

It’s taken a long time but the shift is happening. If you look at the numbers, younger shoppers convert much more on mobile devices because that psychological friction isn’t there. However, most marketers are not prepared for the long run, they see the numbers now and think sales will continue to be primarily from the desktop. At their own peril, they’re ignoring adoption latency.

What about defection latency? There are plenty of examples for this too. Have you ever heard of the company Kodak? Do you know Kodak pioneered digital photography?


They made a crucial mistake when evaluating the market. They told themselves that people are still buying a ton of traditional film cameras, so clearly there is a lot of demand for it. Wrong. They were ignoring defection latency.

Consumers wanted the new technology. But were paralyzed by habit and terrified of change. Their behavior didn’t reflect their intent. So Kodak continued on their course. And then, one day, it was too late.

Let’s look at an example from the world of email marketing. The scenario: A marketing executive knows that emails drive 20% of overall sales and wants to grow that. They increase email frequency, sending an email every 10 days vs. every 14 days (what they were doing previously). What happens? An increase in revenue. That correlation signals to the team that the strategy is working. The manager keeps increasing the frequency each quarter until eventually, an email is being sent every 2 days. While this happening, revenue continues to go up.

The company even surveys their customers and they say they want fewer emails, but they are obviously wrong because the numbers tell a different story.

The company continues harvesting their email channel until one day, they have a 45% unsubscription rate. That’s almost half their customers.

The main point to take away from adoption and defection latency is that we need to always look under the surface.


Play on

Play is a tactic where you employ an interactive element to subliminally communicate your marketing message. Why go through the trouble of constructing an interactive element to pitch your marketing message? Because we’re living in a world saturated with marketing messages.

I’m going to use a made up example to show how a dash of Play can boost conversions (especially for first-time buyers).

Here is my video–

Written explanation:

What is currently being shown on lower half of homepage:

Control - Play.png

Here is the default state of our concept (using Play):

Default - Play.png

Here is what the user sees when they make the wrong selection:

Wrong - Play.png

Here is what is revealed when the user guesses correct:

Correct - Play.png

Getting More Recurring Plan Signups

Our objective is to get people to buy the monthly auto-ship plan (and not the one-time option).

Here is the control (what’s online now):


Everything is laid in front of the user. This can cause analysis paralysis (too many options). Also, the shopper is likely to pick the one-time option because they don’t want to get into a monthly membership.

I had an idea to make this better. This is what I would have done if I was working on this site.

We added a priming treatment. The idea is to activate System 2 for the shopper. Where System 1 cares about the short-term (impulsive emotional side), System 2 cares about the long-term (rational side).

Now when the user reaches the product page we show a welcome message and ask them to make a selection:


This activates System 2. We fully expect most shoppers to select, “I want to change my life for the long term” option. Who wouldn’t? When they do that we show them this screen (notice we’ve eliminated the one-time purchase option):

Test_Option_2.pngThe user will be surprised but immediately remember, “Oh that’s right, I did say I wanted long-term benefits”. It’s now 7% more likely people will stick with this choice.

If the shopper had selected “I’m looking for benefits on the short term” they would have seen this:


Using Small Ask Trigger to Get Leads


Online shoppers (especially mobile) are intimidated by forms. They’re hard to fill out, take a long time, and often make the user give up information they don’t want to. A Small Ask is a good way to get the ball rolling. Definition: Small Ask is when you inspire the shopper to take a single action.

In the bottom right screenshot, “For whom do you need a hearing aid?” is the Small Ask. It’s an innocent and non-threatening question (that’s the key).

Once the user answers the Small Ask they are shown the rest of the form. At this point it’s likely they will continue (sunk cost syndrome). The user thinks, “I already answered this first question, might as well take a look at the next.” This is why the image on the right works so much better than the one on the left.