[Private] Our Secret Sauce: A Behind the Scenes Look at What We Do

In this post I’m going to be talking about something that is really at the core of everything we do at Frictionless Commerce and that is a process we call ‘Deconstruction’.

For those of you that prefer video, I recorded a video walkthrough (note: the video is 18 minutes long, but it’s worth your time if you want to know how we come up with our conversion ideas):

If you prefer reading text, continue below.

Deconstruction is essentially when we look at every single pixel, word, and emotion that is expressed on a page. When we deconstruct a page, we’re doing so from the perspective of a first-time shopper. We step into their shoes and navigate through the site as if we shared the same intentions, FUDs (fears, uncertainties, and doubts), and so on. Our goal is to identify points of friction and come up with ideas to fix them. This is how we come up with all of our insights to help increase conversions.

In this post, we’ll deconstruct a product detail page on Bogsfootwear.com and show you a concept that we’ve created to address some possible customer FUDs.

Bogs sells and manufactures winter boots and outdoor boots; I think most of them are waterproof. The product we’ll be looking at is the Bozeman Tall Men’s Insulated Waterproof Boot, which is $150. This is, I believe, one of their highest selling boots; there’s a lot of emphasis on this product on the site. It’s also the number one rated winter boot by Outside Magazine.

While going through this page, one of the things we first noticed is that if you go to the boot selection or the size selection, you’ll see that there are many different sizes:

size options

This section doesn’t address a possible customer FUD— is the boot size is going to be the same exact size as my shoe size? If you’re like me, you’ve probably experienced some sizing discrepancy when it comes to shoes. My dress shoes always run one size larger than my tennis shoes.

It never fails.

Since I’m not the only person in the world who has experienced this problem, we wanted to add some messaging here that would remove any confusion. Take a look:

shoe size.jpg

In our concept we added “(SAME AS SHOE SIZE)” after “PLEASE SELECT” in the size options dropdown menu. This lets shoppers know that the boot size they select will be the same as their normal shoe size. They don’t have to worry about accidentally buying a boot that is smaller or larger than expected.

The next thing that we noticed is that this page is linking shoppers to a blog post by Outside Magazine. This post claims that the Bozeman Tall is the #1 winter boot:

winter boot.jpg

This is typically a great way to build credibility.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is that when the shopper clicks on “View The List”, they are taken to a blog post that shows a different price for the boots:

outside mag

When the shopper arrives at the blog post, they’ll see a more expensive price of $160. This can cause two things to happen: 1) the shopper will think they’re getting a better deal since the new cost of the boot is $150, or 2) the shopper will become confused and not know which price is correct. Is there something wrong with the Bogs site?

This isn’t even the biggest issue, though.

In the blog post, the writer links the shopper to two different pages to purchase the boots: 1) the Canadian version of Bogsfootwear.com, and 2) their Amazon store. Both locations show very different prices. Here is the Canadian site:

Canadian site.jpg

The Canadian site shows a price of $175. The majority of shoppers will not notice that they are not on a U.S. site. Additionally, the product name doesn’t include “Men’s Insulated Waterproof Boots” like it does on the U.S. site and there’s no longer a camo color option. Is this boot waterproof still? What happened to the other color option? Shoppers will undoubtedly become confused, and many may leave the site altogether.

This is what the Amazon page shows:

Amazon page.jpg

Instead of $150, the price is no between $127.99 and $159.95. So what is the real price that a shopper will pay?

In our concept, we wanted to eliminate all of this confusion. The most important detail here is that this is the #1 rated boot by Outside Magazine (which is a pretty popular outdoor magazine). Just by showing this as a heading will be enough to establish credibility.

Additionally, we added copy that was more personable to connect with the shopper on a personal level. The copy is personalized, as it changes based on the type of person they are. See below:

our concept default.jpg

When the shopper clicks on the dropdown menu, they’ll see this:

our concept activated.jpg

(Note: Ideally there would be a few more options here to address all possible use cases and personalities)

After selecting the type of person they are, the shopper will see copy that is personalized for them:

our concept final.jpg

This copy adds personality and likability while creating a story. Currently, Bogs doesn’t have much copy on their page, which contributes to a bland experience. Remember, people buy from people they like, so establish a genuine connection with your shoppers.

With that being said, I want to remind you that we don’t use templates for our projects at Frictionless Commerce. Each concept we come up with is custom-tailored for each site’s needs. Conversion optimization works best when we realize that each business has its own unique conversion challenges.

Just like your business isn’t a cookie cutter business, we’re not a cookie cutter agency.

Many people think if something worked well on one page or site, it’ll definitely work just as well on another. But that’s not always true. And that’s why Deconstruction is at the core of what we do. Every time we deconstruct a page, we come up with new ideas that target the points of friction that exist on that page.

Remembering Learnings

This is a slightly longer post.

I’m sure you learn a new thing about your online business 2 or 3 times a week (if not more).  When that lesson happens what do you do?  Do you just internalize it or note it down?  If you note it down are you noting it in a format that an intern could easily read or grasp, or are you writing it down for just yourself?

The fact is that 90% of these daily lessons evaporate into nothingness, which is why I strongly recommend noting them down and making note in a language that someone totally inexperienced could read and make sense of.  I use a dead simple free site called http://30boxes.com/.  I’ve been using it since 2010.  The site has a very simple interface, it’s essentially a page with 30 boxes, one for each day of the month.  If you click a box a popup appears where you can type in your daily learning.  The lesson needs to be written in a summarized format (around 7 words).  You can use Bitly.com to add a short link to a Google Doc for lessons that are more detailed, but my advice is to keep things simple.

I make it a point to note one lesson a day.  It’s not always easy to do because some days I feel I didn’t learn anything new, but that’s not true.  I just need to think through my day and a lesson will pop.  If you want to keep your learnings private just mark them as ‘private’.  I personally don’t think this is needed because your calendar is only accessible via your login and password.

Every 30 days I have a calendar reminder to review daily learnings.  I randomly scroll back, select a month, and go over the lessons for that month.  It never takes more than 5 minutes and always ends up reminding me of a few forgotten lessons.  It’s also a great way to have a reality check.  Sometimes I just feel my mind isn’t learning anything new but when I go through daily learnings it immediately dispels that myth.  We ARE learning all the time, we’re just not cataloging it properly.

Another cool benefit is that if I vaguely remember a lesson but want more detail 30boxes.com has a search box where you can enter the name of the idea (for example “reactivation email”) and see every idea with the phrase “reactivation email” in it.

Anchor product

Most shoppers click in and out of search results quickly, making it a challenge for the e-tailer to tell their story.  We already know landing pages, content and site design play a role in slowing shoppers but I think retailers can do a better job using their anchor products.

An anchor product is a product that does a really good job grabbing the browser’s attention.  This is not to be confused with a top seller, which both grabs attention and gets purchased.  An anchor product is like a great assist, it lifts the team’s performance.  In Google Analytics terms an anchor product would be a product page that has a relatively low conversion rate with a relatively high $ Index.

Harry and David is famous for the distinctive way in which they cut their pears:

This would be their anchor product.

But even a site like umbrellasusa.com can use an anchor product:

PediPed Has Humanistic, Methodical and Competitive Shoppers Covered

The About Us page is where you tell the World why your store is THE place to buy.  PediPed is a manufacturer of children’s footwear and what I like about their About Us section is that it targets humanistic, methodical and competitive shoppers simultaneously:

pediped.com about us

The video story style appeals to humanistic shoppers, the chaptering format appeals to competitive shoppers and there is enough content here to answers all questions of methodical shoppers.

One Month Later

I can see why you love your online shop but what would happen if it vanished for 30 days?

Would customers bombard you with concerned emails?  Would they start “save the store” campaigns?  Or would they forget about you and find another site?

For many young Christians C28.com is THE place to buy clothes that celebrate their relationship with God.  It matters to them.  It is a part of their life.  It makes them happy.  If C2:8 went away for 30 days their customers would take significant action.  Would yours?

A Brief History Of Ecommerce

Stage 1: The big bang.  Somewhere in the early 90’s technology emerged which allowed people to inexpensively launch digital neon stores.

Stage 2: The long tail.  First shops to open for business catered to customers left out my mass retail.  There was now a place (2bigfeet.com) where men with extra large feet could shop in leisure.  Chris Anderson would later coin the term “The Long Tail” to describe this market.  And while online shopping was the biggest disruption in retailing in the last century only early adopters were using it at this point.

Stage 3: Rule of the technologists.  Shop owners quickly discovered a seductive equation; traffic = sales.  They hired geeks to device strategies to pull customers straight from search engines.  Geeks love boiling things down to a formula and naturally took to SEM and SEO.  But they aren’t marketers and the stores they created looked awful.  Luckily, shoppers were so glad to discover hard to find items they forgave woefully poor shopping experiences.  This is one reason stores with designs like this…


watchbandsonline.com category page


…pulled in thousands of monthly hits.

Larger multi-channel retailers were still avoiding the web because they viewed it as cannibalization of their other channels.

Stage 4: Unchecked growth.  Once you reduce something to a reusable formula someone is bound to exploit it.  We now had enterprising companies like CSN Stores which were running hundreds of specialty stores.  Each had a finely crafted exterior but ran on the same engine.

Stage 5: March of the elephants and birth of peer to peer review networks.  Eventually the Best Buys of the world started investing serious money online and brought in their product photographers, brand marketers and catalog circulation specialists who helped convert the first wave of mass consumers.  Mass consumers had a totally different value system, they came looking for recognizable brands, expected great service and shopped around like crazy.  The adage “bring them in, the sale will happen” no longer applied.  Many ecommerce pioneers adapted to the new environment but most stubbornly held on to old ways.  Market movements are inefficient and the old venus fly trap still lured enough to keep the old model alive.  But, for the most part, tables had turned and veterans with their SEO/SEM automating technologists where finding it hard to pull in mass consumers.  Don’t get me wrong, they were still making serious money, it’s just that they were used to so much more.

During this time another event took place that exacerbated the pain of the veterans; peer to peer review networks.  You see, mass consumers want to know what other mass consumers are doing and services like Yelp!, BBB.org and epinions.com allowed them to share experiences.  The veterans who had invested so heavily on bringing people in now had another fire to deal with.  Back in the day power of word of mouth (WOM) was faint so poor service didn’t have any real downside.  But WOM magnifying networks have shifted power to the customer.

Stage 6: Contraction.  This is happening at the present time.  Here in the US we have twice as many retail stores as are needed by the population of the country.  I believe the number is even more skewed online.  As a result there are fewer consumer dollars per etailer to go around.  On the flip side inexpensive automating strategies have been exploited fully and the only way to generate disruptive growth now is by investing money on specialists.  Etailers are so used to the idea of clear ROI that hiring an expert who charges $150/hr but does not give explicit guarantees makes them nauseous.  Like I mentioned in an earlier post many etailers are addicted to the unsustainable 200% growth story.  I predict a big contraction is on its way and 30% of online stores in business this morning will cease to exist two years from now.

Stage 7: The NumeratiStephen Baker’s book with the same title dives deep into the subject but the summary is that the Numerati is a select group of people with equal skills in mathematics, psychology and marketing.  These super crunchers are redefining traditional customer segmentation models and designing new ones that better define consumers.  The future belongs to agile companies that are constantly testing assumptions about customer behavior and have structural flexibility to adapt to new discoveries.

The Trouble With $3 Jamba Juice Smoothies

Retailers are working extra hard these days.  On my afternoon walk I saw two guys standing near the station selling $3 Jamba Juice smoothies out of a white box.  I know Jamba Juice wants to drive sales but I think this is a penny wise pound foolish strategy for three principle reasons:

Brand dilution: I thought the unique selling proposition of Jamba Juice was that one could walk up to the counter, order a smoothie and have the juice expert prepare it right in front of us?

Authenticity: How do I even know if this is a legit setup? The guys were wearing Jamba Juice tee-shirts but there was no specific branding on the box itself.

Price point: Is $3.00 for a Jamba Juice smoothie too high or too low? The only people who could really answer this are Jamba Juice regulars.  So, in effect, this promoted price means little to non-customers.  The whole idea of setting up a stand on the street is to get non-customers to try your product once.

Here is what I would have done:

— I would have made a nice little Jamba Juice banner, slapped Jamba Juice stickers on the box, slapped another sticker on the smoothie itself and given customers an authentic proof of purchase receipt.

— Instead of saying “$3 Jamba Juice Smoothies” I’d say “Pedestrian Special 25% discounted Jamba Juice Smoothies for only $3.00