This is a story about Christmas shopping of the worst kind a male can possibly imagine: buying a ‘teen heart-throb’ gift for a younger, female family member. Well, I guess it could be worse, this gift could have been requested by my wife
I have a certain younger sister-in-law who is a freak for the actor who plays “Edward” in the Twilight movie saga. I undertook the mission to buy the “Edward” water bottle that was sold through Burger King when the movie first came out. So, I went to my local Burger King, walked up to the front counter, and VERY QUIETLY asked if they had any Edward water bottles left. Go ahead and snicker now if you’d like.
I was informed that not all locations had even gotten sent water bottles, and they had none. The kind lady behind the counter gave me a promo pack, saying, “maybe you can order it online somehow.” Aha! Now I’m excited!
So, let’s use my embarrassing episode and see what we can learn about how to optimize a marketing outreach from the “driving point” to the landing page, and on through to conversion.
The place where I started was a 3″ x 5″ printed card (see Step 1). Remember that a driving point for online marketing often starts offline, and there’s no reason offline collateral can’t be optimized. This touch-point does a decent job establishing the theme “Team Edward” that will be continued online. A custom URL helps as well; easy to remember even if you lose the card.
Let’s take a look at www.TeamEdwardBottle.com (see Step 2). The landing page is decent, and reflects the
look and feel of the movie, as well as the “Team Edward vs. Team Jacob” theme that is essential to a much larger marketing campaign. Apparently, young women across the country are pummeling each other with water bottles and other merchandise over this divisive issue There are a few product features repeated from the offline card, the product photos are high quality, and the calls to action are relatively clear. Also, there is a product upsell that would come in handy for a gift-buyer shopping for two daughters on opposite sides of the battle. My only critique on this page is that I could use some reassurance about the security of the checkout. I get the feeling that I’m not buying from Burger King, nor Twilight, but some 3rd party, and hence I’d like to feel a bit more comfortable about the credibility of that 3rd party.
I clicked the Team Edward call to action to initiate the transaction. On the next page (see Step 3), I’m presented with a standard shopping cart product/pricing table, although I’m a bit surprised to see “Team Jacob” in my cart! They added the other product into my cart with a quantity of “zero,” which was a bit off-putting. I don’t think I’d have risked annoying my customer. Especially with the giant upsell banner already in place. The good news is that now I do get a 3rd party Point of Action Assurance about security which makes me feel more confident to move forward. Also, the wording of the call to action is strong.
Moving forward, I’m expecting to head into the standard “shipping and billing” page to do the real transaction. Unfortunately, my expectations are not met, and I’m a bit shaken. The seller has thrown up an overlay popup (see Step 4) trying for a third or fourth time
to upsell me into buying another bottle. But, the whole point of the campaign is to choose sides! Enough is enough! This hardcore interruption in the purchase flow is very risky.
After dismissing the overlay popup, I’m on to the real checkout process (see Step 5). The true checkout page doesn’t have anything terribly wrong with it, but it just doesn’t feel credible. I’ve never even seen a 3-column layout in a checkout! And something as subtle as the serif font adds to the feel that this was thrown-together in about 10 minutes. Again, just because nothing is broken doesn’t mean that people will convert. Every pixel, every visual cue you present, will either add to, or subtract from, the persuasive momentum the prospect has heading into checkout.
Once I made it through the checkout page, I was on to confirm my order. At this point, everything should be done, and all I have to do is review my entries, and click “Buy,” right? Well, take a look at Step 6′s screenshot. You’ll notice that something MAJOR is missing. I don’t see a call to action, do you? Ouch, that is a persuasive scenario about to break down, and money about to be left on the table. A simple check should always be run on critical pages like this one: Is the primary call to action above the fold, high-contrast, and clearly labeled? If no, fix it. If yes, consider testing it. The call to action was hidden below the fold, see Step 6a.
Also, since this was a gift I was buying for someone, and part of a self-proclaimed “Holiday” promotion, where was I supposed to input a greeting/gift message for the recipient? That is a pretty basic feature these days, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have included it.
After I finally found the call to action, and transacted, the “thank you” page had no major defects or noteworthy items. Remember that thank you pages are still a chance to interact with your customers, so don’t waste the opportunity to test different offers, messages, upsells, or ways to collect useful data.
Similarly, the email confirmation I received had no serious challenges, but also could be considered a lost opportunity because it didn’t invite me to take further action. Considering I just bought a movie-themed water bottle, there are dozens of different messages they could test presenting to me to see which ones resonated. Think about fan clubs, movie sites, a Facebook fan page, a Twitter stream, a blog, etc. The customer’s inbox is hallowed ground, so don’t be dismissive of the opportunity to reengage the purchaser and ask them to continue to interact with your site and your marketing efforts.
All in all, I give the persuasion funnel a “B-” grade. The usability of the checkout was OK, but that is expected. A few tests could confirm how risky those aggressive upsell interruptions were, and the one major flaw on the purchase page could be fixed in 30 minutes or less, but how much money has it lost already?
I think the temptation with marketing campaigns that end in transactions is to not take them seriously enough because they are viewed as “short-term” projects. But, a very inexpensive usability test or audit by a pro could have found that one major “below the fold” issue and prevented lost sales. Optimization doesn’t have to be a major project conducted on a major redesign of a major site. It can and should be done on marketing outreach programs no matter how short-lived they’ll be. If you’re investing marketing dollars on it, you owe it to yourself to optimize for better marketing ROI.