Buying Time

Have a look at your site data. You’ll find a majority of visitors spend comically low time on the site. Typically under 3 minutes.

Think about your own behavior. How much time do you typically spend on new sites? Are you going to read this whole article?

When I visit a site, even if my intention is to stay, I end up exiting too soon. And we know time on site is one of the biggest indicators of future conversion rates.

Could this be happening on your site too? You can bet your last dollar.

As marketers, our #1 goal needs to be to drive up quality time on site. Keyword being quality.

So how does one know what’s a good time target?

A good place to start is to create a segment of paid search traffic (non retargeted). From the group exclude site users who spend less than 20 seconds and visit less than 2 pages. Calculate the average time on site for this segment. That’s your starting target.

Let’s say this number is 5 minutes and 18 seconds.

Ask yourself: how can we get shoppers to spend more time on the site?

Priming is a good tactic.

My company sells conversion optimization services. Businesses consider conversion optimization a damn important business goal. Naturally, they will want to invest time to study my credentials. This would be what their rational brain would say. Yet, the typical time on my site for a new visitor is under 1.5 minutes. Are my customers superhumans capable of completing due diligence in 90-seconds? I’m skeptical. So I could use priming on the site. Here is how it would work. When someone visits Frictionless Commerce they’ll see a banner with 4 button options (red banner below):


We know what people actually do (spend an average of 1.5 minutes on my site) but guess which option they’ll pick? That’s right, they’ll click the [As long as it takes] button.

But that isn’t the fun part. The fun part is what happens after they make this selection. Because now when the visitor’s  irrational brain wants to bail at the 90-second mark the rational side will chime in:


Most will feel so conflicted they’ll end up spending 80% more time on the site.

Learn more about Frictionless Commerce.

Getting Better Quality Reviews

Let’s look at these 2 reviews:

A: Generic and just adds cognitive load:


B: Specifically addresses shopper concern about mattress delivery to buildings (Narrative Control):


Which one do you like better?

Instead of sending out a generic post-purchase email that says, “Hope you are enjoying product X, please write a review” study the product and the reviews you have already collected. Is there a feature that isn’t talked about enough? Is there a feature that is unfairly criticized by a tiny minority? You can identify 15 such scenarios specific to you.

Now that you have the most promising ideas craft a review request email.

Look at an example CAMINO CARRYALL 35 on is marketed as a rugged bag. But most of the reviews don’t talk about that feature. So what can one do? Simple, send an email to people who purchased the bag in the last 6 months. Here is my example email:

Subject: Camino Carryall is rugged, right?

Hi, Steve.

You’ve had your Camino Carryall for the last 6 months. We hope you’re using the heck out of it. We also hope you’ve been rough with it because ruggedness is a feature engineered into the bag. But you know what? We have 853 reviews and only 6 talk about the ruggedness of the product. That sucks because we went through 38 prototypes just to maximize ruggedness.

If you’ve taken the bag through the paces we would love your feedback on the ruggedness of the bag.

[review link]

We need your help, Steve.


This email works for a number of reasons:

A: We’re asking Steve for a very specific thing
B: We’re challenging Steve to tip the balance of ruggedness reviews (they’re just 6 right now)

Words Work When They’re Readable

10 years ago the web was slow as a snail so websites were simple: black font with a white background. Today, because CSS is a thing and slow internet isn’t we’ve started designing the crap out of pages.

I can’t tell you how many sites I encounter that use a charcoal gray font color. It looks pretty but causes so much eye strain. And because CCS allows for it we also have pages with fancy shiny buttons, an incredible array of color shades, gradient backgrounds, shadow effects, parallax effect (example: a background image is moved at a different speed than the foreground content while scrolling), etc.

If your objective is to have visitors read your page content (and I hope it is) then just get out of way and follow the universal comfort reading formula: black text, nice big font size, eggshell white background.

Books and newspapers have used this formula for centuries.

This is ESPECIALLY important when talking about mobile pages. has some of the best graphic designers on staff. They could easily design the most beautiful pages in the world. But they don’t do it. Here is a snippet of the page they created to promote their latest book “Calm” (



[My screenshot doesn’t do justice. Check on your phone for full effect.]

We think visitors will not read long text. They will not read long text if your site is over-designed (design can cause distraction fatigue). They will also not read if your text isn’t in the right size proportion. And finally, they will not read if your content is boring. But if you don’t commit those sins your shoppers will read.

And you can take this to the bank: of all the things one could A/B test, words have the biggest influence on converting browsers.

Use Customers to Craft Better Product Pages

A couple of weeks ago, we wrote an article (link) explaining how you can improve product descriptions by studying submitted reviews. Reviews are a great way to see why customers actually “like” the product you are selling. We received some very interesting comments and questions:

— What happens if your product page doesn’t have a lot of reviews?

— How are you supposed to know why customers are purchasing if you don’t have any reviews?

There are two ways in which you can deal with a product page that either has a low number of reviews or low purchase numbers:

1. Send an email to people who have purchased your product asking for feedback.

This is a great way for you to increase feedback from your customers. Generally speaking, 1,200 purchases will generate 1 organic product review. Sending an email to each customer might sound tedious, but 71% of customers will leave a review for a product when asked (source). What does this mean for you? A potential of 852 new reviews from those 1200 customers when normally your site would only be getting 1.

Now we come to the question of what if the purchase numbers for this product are low?

2. If the user is on the page, engages with the page, then starts to exit, show them a message.

Not everyone is going to interact with the prompt, but it slows people down. If someone takes the time to read that prompt and enter their email, you can collect feedback on what you need to do to improve your product page. For the sake of continuity, we’ll use the same site ( that was used in the previous article.

The first image is the default state of the product page:

Spin life control.png

Once the user navigates towards the close button, a popup will appear with our messaging:

Spin life exit prompt.png

You don’t need to have high sales numbers to figure out what’s on your customer’s mind, you just have to ask.

Competing with Self

I’m reading a book about Andrew Carnegie. Mr. Carnegie used a clever strategy to maximize productivity at his steel plants. He would pit plant against plant. You might be wondering, “How is what happened at a steel plant relevant here?

I’m mentioning this because I believe you can use a similar strategy for your site. Let me explain … is a major retailer of hearing aids. Their 2 top-selling products are:

MDHearingAid PRO

MDHearingAid AIR

Both sell in high volume.

To boost sales further I’d break my marketing team into 2 groups and assign each one of those 2 best sellers. I would then have them compete. The goal is to see which team is able to drive more first-time buyers. Here are the ways in which the teams will be able to compete:

1: Each team can rewrite their product description as long as the look/tone of the page remains consistent with the rest of the site.

2: Each team will get their own online ad budget so they can drive traffic to their own page (Facebook, banner, affiliate, influencer, AdWords, AdSense, it doesn’t matter.)

3: Each team will be able to create new video content for marketing purposes.

4: The teams will be allowed to update the product images and thumbnails on their product page:


5: Teams can email past purchasers for ideas to improve the product descriptions and generate new reviews, video testimonials, or word-of-mouth marketing.

6: Teams will be allowed to configure special marketing campaigns on their product page. For example, the PRO team might want to add custom code on their page so that after 2 minutes on the site page visitors get a prompt that says, “sign up for a secret to buying the perfect hearing aid”. On the backend of the signup, we will have an automated email series. See the image below for a mockup of this idea:


7: Teams would even be allowed to offer special discounts/incentives on their product pages, as long as the discount doesn’t negatively impact net profits for that item.

8: Teams can decide if they want to focus on the mobile or desktop version of the page. For most sites, the mobile product page has way more upside potential so the team might decide to focus their entire effort on the mobile experience on the page.

9: Teams can even take over “chat” for their designated pages. When customers click chat they’ll be talking directly to the team.  In fact, you could even apply that to the incoming calls associated with each product page.

The bottom line is we’re treating MDHearingAid PRO and MDHearingAid AIR as their own independent units with profit and loss responsibilities.

This is just a small listing of the ways in which these teams can compete. I’m sure you’ll be able to add to this list for your unique site.

The next part is measuring success:

A: We would run the challenge over a 60 day period.

B: The winning team would get an $8,200 prize.

C: Success will be measured by new sales.

Why this would work: Humans love competition. This will shake things up. Marketing teams would enjoy having more voice over their work. It would help build team learnings. It would build teamwork (no more fighting between the AdWords team and customer service). It’s no longer the boss saying, “we can’t do that.” Now the team can see first hand why some ideas work and others fail.