Case Study: Make Them See Your Point of View

As online retailers we want our site visitors to behave a certain way.  Our visitors have their own ideas about what they want to do.  E-tailers who figure out a way to get what they want are the most profitable. sells art supplies.  Most art supply items are fairly inexpensive (averaging $5-$10) so one-time purchases aren’t in the interest of  Art supplies are purchased by artists, and art is a lifestyle so if MisterArt can get a shopper to buy from them exclusively they’ll generate a nice profit over the lifetime of that relationship.  This is why they created a VIP Program which gives shoppers a small discount on each purchase.  The VIP Program costs $25 a year.  MisterArt wants shoppers to purchase this.  Shoppers might not feel as enthusiastic, so MisterArt has a clever tactic.  At every turn they remind shoppers how much they could save if only they were VIP program members.  In itself individual reminders aren’t persuasive enough to generate a signup but each instance nudges the shopper just a little.  Hopefully, by nudge number 4 the shopper will just give in.

Nudge 1 happens at the homepage—


Nudge 2 happens on product page—


At this point the shopper at least wants to see how they could save 30%.  So they click the Learn More link and are transported to sales pitch page.  Here they’re told about the $25/year fee along with nudge 3—


This nudge is a poor one because they are listing how much these shoppers saved in one order.  Since the VIP program has an annual fee it would have been more effective to showcase how much VIP members are saving annually.  Anyway, that’s a minor detail.  Overall, their sales pitch page is quite good.  I’d recommend reading it fully—

Now, if some fool is still not convinced they’re hit with nudge 4 on cart page—


If you liked this post you will also like my case study.

Wonderful Ad

The picture below was taken from a POM advertisement in Money magazine.  Lighting wasn’t great so below the ad photograph I’ve added bigger screenshots of every important ad section.

Section by section analysis (screenshot followed by explanation)–

1: Relevant headline– I saw this ad in Money magazine so the headline LIFETIME RETURNS is particularly relevant and has been used intentionally.

2: Story telling– Many etailers are shy of telling a story, they feel it adds too much fluff.  Story telling can be very effective.

3: Up-selling– POM juice is a recognizable brand that has been nationally advertised for years.  They have thousands of customers.  The purpose of this section is to up-sell POMx to POM juice customers.

4: Endorsement– Here they are making their case through science.  They seem to be saying, “Don’t take our word, listen to Mr. science.”

5: Exclusivity– Look it, if you don’t take our product you can forget about getting the benefits of punicalagin and punicalin.

6: Up-selling– Here too they are up-selling to their well established POM juice customer base.

7: Risk reversal– Try POMx for free.

8: Attracting non-POM superfood audience– After up-selling to their own customers twice POMx is now shifting focus to their broader market- superfood enthusiasts.  To make POMx stand out they seem to be saying, “Mr. science says POMx is better than the green tea, grape seed, goji berry, lutein, lycopene, resveratol and acai substandard products you’ve been taking.”

9: Quantification– 30 researchers (a.k.a. very smart people) have studied and written scientific papers about us.

10: But wait there’s more tactic– Not only will we reverse risk by giving POMx for free we’ll even pay shipping.

11: Campaign tracking– In order to know how well the ad worked they’ve provided a unique identifier- discount code MNY30.

[This ad is pretty persuasive.  They seem to have analyzed every word.  But they’ve also made a huge mistake.  The url (this is where they are inviting readers) doesn’t work!!  I wonder how many thousands of dollars were wasted because of this one mistake?]

So why am I sharing a magazine ad on my ecommerce conversion blog?  Because this copy and layout format can be tested on your product page or Pay Per Click landing page.

Borrowing From the Kings

Us online marketers need to learn a thing or two from old school direct response marketers.  I love every aspect of this Charles Tyrwhitt mailer:

Mailer front shot-

Mailer opened shot-

Click to Enlarge

What I love about it-

1. It’s super short: just 3 pages.
2. It’s super targeted: Charles Tyrwhitt sells everything from ties to shoes to outerwear, but this mailer talks about just one thing- their world famous shirts.
3. Super compelling content: click the image below to see a larger size shot of the offer.  The image below that analyzes the offer–

The offer-

Click to Enlarge

Offer explanation-

Here is an explanation of the numbered list above (notice how every inch of the page serves a well thought out purpose)–

1. The nucleus of this direct mailer is the incredible discount on the shirts.  The copywriter uses three distinct styles to communicate the offer (only $39.50, $39.50 for $139 and save $99).
2. Though the nucleus is the discount, to accentuate the offer the copywriter intentionally starts the letter by emphasizing quality.  Why? Because consumers have been trained to associate deep discounts with scammy offers.  By talking about quality the writer is attacking that line of negative thought.
3. While the bullet above somewhat addressed shopper concern bullet 3 is the knockout punch.  Here the copywriter explains why a sane company would make such an insane offer (they’re doing it because they know we’ll be back for full priced shirts).
4. The copywriter is using humor to sugarcoat any lingering doubt that may be in the reader’s head.
5. Now that the reader is buying into the sales pitch the copywriter needs to generate action.  He does this by introducing urgency (you only have 10 days to act on this offer) and scarcity (we can only let you buy 5 shirts at this price).
6. The in-house statistician needs to calculate ROI of this mailer.  “FINT3” acts as the campaign tracking code.
7. The founder’s signature appeals to humanistic shoppers.

From bullet 1 to bullet 7 above the copywriter is appealing to the emotional side of shoppers.  Emotions are super critical, which is why they’re addressed first.

9. Here the marketer is appealing to the rational side of shoppers.  To do this he is making 8 “superior quality” statements.
8. Bullet 8 serves as a divider between emotional and rational copy and is used to highlight shopper convenience (online, phone and store).
10. Icing on the cake.  Here the marketer wants to eliminate any and all doubt by throwing in the trump card- if you don’t love the shirt after trying it for 90 days just send it back.

I really don’t know how this mailer could be improved.

Final thought: We’ve deconstructed direct response mailers before (link).  Most are so formulaic they sound fake.  This one really does sound authentic.

Case Study: Stauer Magazine Ad

Recently I stumbled on a watch advertisement.  I share it because the copywriting is excellent (bigger text version in the next paragraph):

Important building blocks of the ad have been highlighted.  First, the testimonial:

One could not hope for a better endorsement.  It comes from a gentleman who is himself a master craftsman.  I have never heard of Mr. George Thomas but am certainly aware of the Smithsonian.  Excellent, you’ve got my attention Stauer.

Before we dissect the copy please read the original:

Click to Enlarge

I have a confession, I’m a recovering infomercial addict (hi Lars).  I’ve never bought anything but have been known to spend hours gazing at people with British accents sell things I didn’t realize I needed.  But I didn’t watch infomercials because I suffered from insomnia I watched them because I thought they were brilliant marketing tactics.  Alright, now let’s break up this ad (pay attention to the blue numbers around the red boxes):

Click to Enlarge

1. This is a classic marketing play on scarcity.  Got my attention.  Check.
2. This is what we call price marketing, the nucleus of all infomercials.  When the brain encounters a product it attempts to put a value to it.  This ad is about a rare beautiful watch so I expect a price tag between $200 and $2,000.  With that mental anchor $100 is a steal.  This is the exact emotion the advertiser was gunning for.
3. Start by telling a story.  This has an irresistible pull on Humanistic shoppers.
4. This is a classic “but-wait-there’s-more” line.  The prospect is already thinking the watch is a steal and now the advertiser is upping the ante.  This watch is better than the priceless original.  Beat that.
5. Again, a clever use of anchoring.  The company has invested $31 million to produce a $100 watch.  If the brain had constructed the “if the watch is $100 it must be crap” argument it would now feel secure knowing a significant investment has been made toward production.
6. Another play on scarcity.
7. Not only are we selling at the ridiculously low price of $100 we test the watch motor for 15 days.  Note: the use of the number 15 is deliberate.  Every time the brain is confronted with a claim it can do one of three things: believe it, think it’s an exaggeration, think it’s a lie.  Humans would rather assume the other person is exaggerating then brand someone a liar.  Had Stauer said “we test each watch” the reader would have easily assumed they were exaggerating.  But 15 days cannot be an exaggeration, we can either accept it or assume the company is lying.  Most people accept the number.
8. Building desire.  When I was in school I once got stuck with an Amway salesman who asked if I wanted to be a millionaire.  Obviously this was a trick question because the moment I would have said yes he would explain in great detail why his Amway program was the program for me.  This is exactly what Stauer is doing.  By claiming Stauer watches are made for millionaires they are asking if we want to join that exclusive group.  Who wouldn’t?
9. Another “but-wait-there’s-more” line.  At this point most readers in the market for such a watch are sold but the 30-day money back guarantee is another ridiculous giveaway.
10. 4,999 is a classic play on scarcity.  Unfortunately it is the one aspect of the ad I’d change.  I explain below.
11. Save 300% is a math trick.  We are used to advertisers give discounts that represent fractions of the price.  So we’d expect a $10 discount on a $100 item.  A $300 saving on a $100 item is an uncomputable deal; my brain almost fried.  Are you telling me with my savings I could buy three more Stauer Meisterzeit II Timepieces??
12. These is nothing much to talk about here except the promotional code.  MZW140-01 was chosen for a very specific reason.  Think about it, they could have used a promo code like SALE1 but their idea is to give a code the customer has to note down.  It also creates a sense that this is a very special offer.

In the end Stauer wants to communicate one of two emotions-

Emotion 1: Our marketing department has made a typo.  The moment our CEO finds out about this ridiculous offer they’ll lose their jobs and you’ll lose the deal.  So hurry up and make the purchase.

Emotion 2: Something horrible has happened at our company, maybe we are about to shutdown.  We don’t want to cause mass hysteria so we are quickly liquidating our inventory.  This is why we’re willing to take a loss on this magnificent watch.  So hurry up and make the purchase.

Does this ad have an Achilles’ heel?  Yes.  It’s the number 4,999.  I’m unable to get over the fact that they bought a $31 million machine to produce 4,999 watches.  Based on those numbers each watch costs $6,200 to produce.  I would have worded that part of the ad differently.

Bottom line, do I believe this ad worked?  Yes, yes and yes.  I predict Stauer has sold over 50,000 of these 4,999 watches!!

Update: Liked this post?  Follow my copywriting ideas on Twitter @BetterRetail.  Thanks!


There are hundreds of ecommerce best practices, and it’s hard to remember all of them. embodies the spirit of BetterRetail.  If you are new to BetterRetail no need to read archived posts– just head over to  Five minutes on the site will give you new insights for your own store.

Features I like best

  • “180 day trial & FREE SHIPPING ON ALL BOATS” available through 10/31/2009. Time limit on offer encourages visitors to take action.  If they don’t want to add to cart they can easily call their toll free number:
seaeagle - header
  • Allows customers to self-segment: self-segmentation

  • Fantastic use of customer testimonials (written and video) and loads of customer submitted “in use” photos: - customer photos

  • Video confidence builder: - video testimonial

  • Advertisement confidence builder: - current offers - micro-conversion 2
micro-conversion 2 - micro-conversion 1
Micro-conversion 1

1. Great tittle: “Ideal for Fishermen & weekend Boaters on a budget”
2. Quick bullets for competitive shoppers:

quick bullets for competitive shoppers
Quick Bullets

3. Emphasis on limited time sale offer for impulsive shoppers:

limited time sale for impulsive shoppers
Instance 1
limited time sale 2 for impulsive shoppers
Instance 2

4. Lots of customer submitted “in use” pictures + testimonials for humanistic shoppers:

But don't take our word for it - for humanistic shoppers

5. Lots of content + downloadable PDF spec sheets for methodical shoppers.

[Note: To learn more about humanistic, methodical, impulsive and competitive shoppers head over to ]

6. Product pages have been cleverly constructed for all kinds of potential buyers:

a.) SE 9 Startup Package for first time buyers
b.) SE 9 Fisherman’s Dream Package for the serious fisher
c.) SE 9 Motor Package for premium buyers

Let’s review the first time buyer experience.  This is the product page:

first time buyer product image

Everything here is perfect but what I find particularly innovative is that Sea Eagle understands a first time buyer might be interested in a used boat.  They even show how many they have in stock (3) and give great reason to buy one: - why buy used
Why buy used?

7. Final reassurance on add to cart:

final reassurance
Final reassurance

Other Case Study:

Baby Steps

Few weeks ago I was having an informal chat on online strategy with the owner of, which is a specialty etailer for organic baby clothes.  The site already pulls in thousands of monthly visitors and Melissa (the owner) was not looking for a redesign so we brainstormed on ideas she could implement herself, right now.

As Melissa told me the story of KidBean I got really excited because this completely changed my opinion about the company.  Anyone can set up an online store, few have an authentic story.  A site visitor could visit “About Us” to hear snippets of her story but we wondered if we could summarize it (elevator pitch style) and place it right on the homepage for everyone to see.  The other nugget to jump out was that doesn’t carry brands that fail their fair labor, environmental, veganism, and safety standards.  This was a huge ‘aha’ moment because it completely changes the context of  It’s no longer just a store where people add products to a cart but rather a filtering system that hand picks products for a very specific customer profile (Vegans). helps parents save time by performing the filter function for them.  This adds a premium value to the store but a first time visitor has to dig to discover this differentiator.  We decided to include this page link (in bold) as part of the homepage elevator pitch content.  10 minutes after our call Melissa had implemented the changes and the test was officially live.  In essence, all she did was add a snippet of text to the homepage.  One month later I inquired about results and received this email:


PS: I have the store owner’s permission to reproduce this email.

How I’d Improve

Google ‘hot sauces’ and is the first result that pops up.  For every hot sauce seeker is a mandatory stop and every month over 15,000 fellow seekers land here.  Being that gets all this organic traffic as a passionate hot sauce enthusiast I have a few suggestions.

Idea 1

Build a list of five recognizable hot sauces (Maybe: Tabasco, FRANK’S RedHot hot, Sriracha, Cholula Hot Sauce and El Yucateco Green Mexican Hot Sauce).  I would then hire a professional hot sauce taster (they exist for wine and coffee so probably also for the hot sauce world) and ask him/her to classify each sauce against this palette of five.  So, hot sauces under Tabasco are similar in taste to Tabasco.

Whenever someone makes a purchase I’d add samples of the five base sauces to the order.  This way shoppers can familiarize themselves with base flavors.  Any sauce that has a flavor outside of the five sauces will have it’s own category called “unique”.  The five flavors I’ve chosen are random, I’m sure the store owner could do a better job picking representative base flavors.

Idea 2 currently ranks sauces on four levels: Hottest, Hot, Medium and Mild.  This means nothing to me.  What I describe as hot might be medium for you.  The most popular hot sauce in the US is Tabasco it’s taste and hotness is universally recognized.  I would use Tabasco as my average hotness point and categorize each sauce on a gradient scale above and below Tabasco.  Now I would use our hot sauce expert from Idea 1 and have him/her rank every sauce on this new scale.