My Problem with Amazon

Everyone is saying Amazon will gobble up independent retailers. But Amazon isn’t perfect. There are too many vendors listing the same product on its platform, which creates a poor buyer experience.

Here is my story:

Here is the Amazon listing page:


Difference between System 1 and System 2?

Video explanation:

Written explanation for the video above:

If you want to improve your conversion rates, you’re going to have to understand the mind of the shopper. And if you want to understand the mind of a shopper, you need to understand how the shopper’s brain works. And in order to understand the shopper’s brain, I can think of one simple model that really simplifies our understanding. That is to imagine the brain as a two-part system: System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is impulsive and fast. System 2 is slow and methodical. Really, when you think about it from the perspective of a shopper, they’re always trying to activate System 2, because System 2 is what helps you see the world for how it is. System 1 is the way you see the world from the perspective of what your aspirations are.

I’ve thought a lot about a simpler way of explaining System 1 and System 2. Recently, while walking, had a breakthrough of sorts.

Think of System 1 as your finance department, and think of System 2 as your accounting department. So, System 2 looks at the world as black and white, just like an accountant does. Finance, on the other hand, is all about the future implication of an investment today. That’s exactly what System 1 is always focused on.

Again, this is not a perfect analogy because really System 1 does not look into the future, but I think the way System 1 makes decisions is more akin to a finance person, versus an accountant. So, let’s understand what is the difference between finance and accounting. If you would open a new retail store, let’s say that you knew that Santa Monica is a growing market and you want to open a retail store.

You’re going to have to spend a lot of money to open a retail store, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money to get licenses, you’re going to have to spend a lot of money to train people, and it’s going to take at least a year before the store is getting the right kind of foot traffic, you know, you’ve worked out all the kinks, you’ve trained your staff, all of that good stuff.

Now, from an accounting perspective that is a black hole. An accountant would simply look at your finances and say, “Look, you have spent one year on this location in Santa Monica, this is the rent, this is how much we’re paying for training,” and they’re looking at it purely from a cost perspective, and you will get one version.

However, the finance department will look at it differently. They will look at the growth of the demographics in the Santa Monica area, they will look at the trend lines for foot traffic, they will look at trend lines for returns, they will look at the impact of word-of-mouth, they look at all of these other metrics that give you an idea about the future, and likely draw a totally different conclusion.

So, that’s how you should think about System 1 and System 2. These are two different parts of the brain. Hopefully, this analogy has given a better insight into how System 1 makes decisions versus how System 2 makes decisions. If you have any questions, comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.


Ethical Line of Persuasion

If you don’t like watching videos here is the written version of the article. The things I do for my readers 🙂

Marketing has become incredibly powerful. Whenever you go to a website (whether it’s CNN or, often times anonymous aspects of our data are sold in the marketplace. The goal of this is to not release personal information but to instead stitch together certain aspects to determine purchase intent. We can use this information to market products effectively.

However, there is an ethical line that no marketer should ever cross because once you cross that line the whole point of marketing is lost. Let’s talk about it.

So what is the ethical line? The truth is we aren’t even fully sure what it is. There are certainly black and white aspects of what is wrong and what’s right, but there is also a gray area that makes it ever so challenging to determine the morality (i.e. can you blame Budweiser for an idiot who drank 20 beers and then drove extremely fast on the highway?).

I’d like to share a more black and white example that happened to me while on I saw an Outbrain ad and decided to click on it. The ad brought you to a website called SmartConsumerToday where they were marketing a CPAP machine.

Image 1.png

After reading the article I wasn’t particularly impressed with it (as a marketer I am always thinking skeptically). However, what did impress me is that they had 347 comments and that seemed like a strong social proof element:

Image 2.png

When looking at this comment interface you can immediately see the similarities to Facebook. Scrolling through the comment you can see that people were replying to comments, there was a top commenter, and even a follow button for each person. This is where the curiosity began:

Image 3.png

The “347 comments” (seen in the first image of this article) is not actually a clickable element, meaning you can’t sort the reviews. Even worse than that, the comment box was literally just a screenshot, so you couldn’t even leave a comment if you wanted to! The buttons at the bottom of each comment (reply, like, follow post) aren’t interactive and the timestamps for each comment aren’t correct (I viewed this article in the morning and it’s now the afternoon, much more than 13 minutes ago).

Seeing this fake customer comment interface left me absolutely flabbergasted. This is a clear example of crossing the ethical line. Remember to be mindful of all the tools we have as marketers and make sure we are using them ethically.

Treat others how you want to be treated.


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.

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.