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Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2007 at 10:20 am

Are You Giving Visitors the Bait-and-Switch?

By Melissa Burdon
September 11th, 2007

Website visitors are impatient. They have high expectations. Since options are abundant, they’re in control. They hold the power. If your visitors open their circle of trust because you engage them with persuasive copy or links, you have a limited opportunity to meet exceed their expectations.

Each click represents an expectation. The visitor expects that this scent will follow through to the next page, and that she’ll be brought to a page that specifically offers the experience she was promised. When there’s a disconnect and her expectations aren’t met, the visitor is unimpressed — and usually frustrated.

homepageresized.jpgKelly Mooney expresses her frustration when she was mislead by Williams-Sonoma into believing she would experience the Fall Decorating Guide (please click the thumbnail to see the email she received). And after reading “View tips on confident collecting, elegant entertaining and our tips for style stand-outs,” what would you expect? Most likely, you’d expect “tips on confident collecting, elegant entertaining” and the like, right?

wsguideresized.jpgSo, she clicks and sees the Fall Decorating Guide, but there’s no continuation of scent (define). Kelly’s left frustrated because she was told one thing in order to bait her into clicking, and the following page didn’t follow through on that promise.

What images are conjured in a visitor’s mind when they read the word “Guide”?

Do you think they expect to see a list of products you’re trying to sell, or do you think they expected to find information that would give them direction to decorate for the fall? Not just some 60-or-so words, right?

In Bryan Eisenberg’s article “There is No Egg in Eggplant,” he writes: “The key to constructing effective mental images and creating powerful persuasive copy lies in systematic and coherent intentionality.” In other words, you only achieve your goals by first helping your visitors achieve theirs.

Kelly may easily have been persuaded to purchase some of the products listed at Willaims-Sonoma, but first she needed the guidance to decorating for the Fall. Of course the appropriate products would have been integrated into the content of the guide. She’d have expected as much. But did they really expect her to be content without content?

The moral of this story: If you’re only going to guide visitors to the checkout line, you might as well tell your brick-and-mortar store employees not to talk to customers either. At least then, there would be some consistency in the experience.

[Editor's Note: Join Melissa tomorrow, September 12th, from 12 - 1pm EST (9 - 10am PST) for a free webinar on "7 Simple Ways to Boost Your Holiday Conversion Rate."]

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Comments (3)

  1. I think that a lot of companies try to cut corners (and costs) by implementing half a marketing initiative. They don’t take the integrated approach, rather they think about what they already have, and just do a patch job, trying to create a campaign out of it. Maybe Williams-Sonoma had intended on doing more but ran out of time? or got lazy? Or maybe the copywriter got carried away and the marketing team failed to notice? There was clearly a disconnect..I know – maybe the project manager needed only to show positive click-through stats in order please top managment…

  2. I think Julie has put her finger on the problem most companies are facing today. With the growing popularity of web analytics, project managers might be more motivated to focus on click-through stats rather than the overall success of the campaign.

    And the solution is……?

  3. [...] How lack of scent feels like “bait and switch” to website visitors [...]

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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