Volume 121: 12/1/05

Green Regards

Up in the sky. What's that greenish spec? It's the Grok heading out for his planet-hopping holidays (red planet, little green guy, hmmmm). Join him in thanking Future Now, Inc. heavy-weights Holly Buchanan and Anthony Garcia, along with their cohort in conversion, Joshua Hay, for holding down the fort.

Men are from CNET, Women are from iVillage

GrokDo men and women behave differently on the Internet?

"Yes," say several reports released this year.

In August, Forrester Research published the report, "Men Are From CNET, Women Are From iVillage - Gender Roles Persist Even As The Technology Adoption Gap Closes."

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Finding 1: Men Value Technology More Than Women

  • Finding 2: Men Are More Active Online

  • Finding 3: Men Outdo Women When It Comes To Media Consumption

  • Finding 4: Women Favor Media Content About The Home, Fashion, And Family

Seems obvious, right? But is there more to the story?

Men Value Technology More Than Women - Not going to argue with you there. Men probably value the actual technology itself more than women. But women value what technology can do for them. They are still interested in researching it, seeing how it can improve their lives and purchasing it.

Men Are More Active Online - I don't know what criteria they're using to judge "more active" - do they mean spend more time, visit more sites, spend more money, take more actions? All of the above? Something to keep in mind is: women often use the web to research and narrow down choices, then take actions offline.

Women Favor Media Content About The Home, Fashion, And Family - Those are certainly subjects women care about. Fashion is a no-brainer. The Home and the family are usually under her care. But does that mean she has no interest in....say...B2B sites?

What should you do with this information?

Let me be clear - I'm not arguing with the findings of the report. What concerns me is what companies will do with these findings; how they will try to apply them to their own websites.

If you're a financial services site, should you focus your site mainly on men since they're the ones checking stock quotes while women are busy downloading recipes? You'd miss an entire market of divorced and widowed women planning their own financial futures, not to mention the 27% of all households in the U.S. headed by a single woman.

Is your electronics website ignoring or misunderstanding the needs of women since the majority of people who purchase online are men? You'd miss out on $55 billion of the $96 billion spent on electronics.

Are you tracking if she's calling in orders by the phone? Is she coming to your website to do research and narrow down her choices, then purchasing offline? Are you measuring how online clicks result in offline Ka-chings?

Are you a phone systems company focusing on selling systems to businesses - those businesses must be owned by men, right? If so, you've just cut off half your audience. 10.6 million firms are at least 50% are owned by a woman or women.  Women are business owners, purchasing agents, HR directors - yet many B2B sites don't take that into consideration.

CNET vs. iVillage

Imagine you are a woman with a full time career and a family. What are you thinking about right now? Probably the holidays and holiday gift giving. Sound reasonable? So let's look at what your experience would be on the home page of CNET and the home page of iVillage.

CNET

You read and think: "Holiday Gift Guide" - Wow, perfect! "Who has the Xbox360 in stock?" - It's the only thing on my son's list - and I've heard it's selling out everywhere - where can I get one now? "Hot gifts for less than $100" - Maybe I can get some ideas for my brother's family. "Small cameras with big potential" - I'd love to get a new digital camera for Christmas. Maybe I can get some ideas and leave my husband a hint as to what I want.

iVillage

You read and think: "Rentals to the Rescue" - Maybe I can get some DVD gift ideas. "For Your Metrosexual - cosmetics for him so he'll keep his paws off yours" - Thank goodness...I'm so tired of Frank always sneaking off with my best lipstick. Geez...that's one thing I know he WON'T want. "Oprah gives out favorite things" - I'm not really sure what this video is but I can give it a try.

You may be crying "Unfair - you purposely picked a topic you knew CNET would do better on." Yup, I did. But is it too much of a stretch to think one of the biggest reasons women are online right now is to do holiday shopping or get gift ideas? Is it a wild, delusional thought that she might be interested in electronics as gifts since iPods, DVD players, flat screen TVs, cell phones and digital cameras are at the top of almost everyone's list?

Sure, a lot of women may want to know all about "Branjelina's first public outing." But what about the busy women who only have 20 minutes of their lunch hour to go online to buy gifts or get holiday gift ideas. Instead of finding out what dress Angelina was wearing on her night out with Brad, it might be more important for her to find out where she can get an Xbox in time for Christmas so she won't disappoint her son. Call me crazy.

One quick design note: I'll give iVillage better marks for not having a home page so cluttered you barely know where to start. (How many elements does CNET have on its home page??) But I have to question why iVillage devotes the prime area in their active window to an advertisement.

Here's the bottom line....men and women DO act differently on the web. There are a lot of obvious generalities you can make.

I'm more interested in the less obvious.

I think a much more interesting report would be, "Why Women Visit Harley-Davidson.com and Men Love CookingChannel.com."

Holly Buchanan, VP for Client Services at Future Now, Inc., is currently co-authoring a book with Michele Miller on marketing to women. Visit Holly's very popular blog, Marketing To Women Online - How To Shatter Stereotypes and Understand what She Really Wants

Train to Increase Your Conversion Rates

New Services

We've been busy bees over the holidays.  Check out our services page - new services have already been launched and more are coming!

New Publications

You'll also want to keep an eye on our publications page.  We've been working on creating resources that will help you put many of our principles into practice more easily and more efficiently.  We're just about to release several of our newest products, including Which Sells Best?: A Quick Start Guide to Testing for Retailers and The Conversion Experts Handbook.

An Outsider's Perspective on Your Web Site

Today I am interviewing Joshua Hay, one of our Conversion Analysts, about the value of an outside perspective when it comes to evaluating your Web site. He's a member of our team who performs Real World Sales Analyses, assessments that evaluate a Web site's conversion system.

Here's your chance to get inside the mind of someone who spends most of his day analyzing site after site, evaluating the inner workings and identifying both immediate and long-term solutions for improvement.

Anthony:  Josh, what's the first thing you look at when you start evaluating a site

Josh:  First, I begin by checking out the homepage's active window

A:  For those who don't know, could you explain what an 'active window' is?

J:  Sure. The active window is the central real estate on your computer screen. Eye tracking studies show that when people are viewing web pages, their eyes start in the upper left corner and follow along the top navigation, until they hit the end of the browser, at which point they travel diagonally through the center of the screen until they stabilize at the left navigation. The sight path then proceeds to go back and forth across the center area, between left navigation and right column, then back and forth, back and forth, engaging within the central area, hence the term active window.

A:  So why is the active window important?

J:  The active window is the portion of a web page to which the eye is drawn most frequently. It's the area "above the fold" where the visitor's gaze is naturally attracted, and most often engaged. Because the visitor is most comfortable engaging within the active window, it holds the key to conversion.

A:  What do you look for when you evaluate the active window?

J:  I start looking for the UVP and the main calls to action.

A:  What is the UVP?

J:  UVP stands for Unique Value Proposition. It's a sentence or phrase that answers the question, "Why should I do business with you and not someone else?" It describes the value of the company from the perspective of the visitor. How does the company stand out from its competition or topological landscape and bring value to the visitor that others do not? Visitors quickly and easily need to understand both the value the site offers and why they should choose this company over other competitors.

A:  And why do we look at the main calls to action?

J:  Calls to action are critical to moving visitors forward in their buying processes. If you can't persuade your visitors to take the action you want them to take - which, by the way, must be the action they want to take - then you might as well hit the delete key and wipe your site from the server.

Every page I evaluate has to answer three important questions. For your site to be successful you must insure you've planned an action you'd like your visitors to take.

  • Number One: Whom am I trying to persuade?

  • Number Two: What am I trying to persuade this person to do?

  • Number Three: What information does this person need so he or she is persuaded to take this action?

A:  How much do you worry about whom the site is speaking to when assessing conversion stumbling blocks?

J:  We make some general assumptions that help our clients begin to ask themselves the right types of questions. Realistically, we'd need more information before we could dive deeper, so we want to make sure they're thinking is directionally correct

A:  But the second question you mentioned - "What am I trying to persuade this person to do?" - that should be crystal clear, right?

J:  Absolutely correct. And on many sites I evaluate, I have to point out that the page has not clearly defined what action the business would like their visitors to take. I can't state this strongly enough - the visitor must know where and how to take action. It can't be complicated. And you can't make them have to work to find it.

A:  Do you always start your assessments with the home page?

J:  Typically, yes, because additional landing pages add additional complexity. I'm trying to help the business find as many stumbling blocks within their conversion process as possible - the whole process is actually about finding faults, which might be tough to hear. People want to hear they've done a great job. But I wouldn't be doing an assessment if things were going well. What I'm really after up front is all the low-hanging fruit a business can fix quickly to generate much-needed ROI - and these are fixes that will continue to pay dividends over and over.

A:  Where can site owners start looking on their own?

J:  The homepage is certainly the place to start, but I'd also recommend looking at the other key landing pages on the site. Site owners should look at their logs and see which search terms are driving the most traffic from search engines. The landing pages the spiders have indexed based on those search phrases would be excellent pages to analyze.

A:  And when you look at these landing pages, you should be looking at the same things you look for on the homepage?

J:  Certainly. Then afterwards you follow or 'click thru' the intended action and begin to see where the path leads. Along the way, we use our three questions to assess how well the resulting page - the page the call to action takes the visitor to - meets the visitors' needs.

A:  You mentioned many sites lack clear calls to action. How do you assess the intended action there?

J:  If the site is missing a call to action, I do what every visitor would ideally do - I go to the navigation for help. This isn't optimal, because it means the visitor has to disengage with the active window. I also evaluate the text and design to see how easy it is for the visitor to understand what to do.

A:  What do you look for in terms of navigation?

J:  The things I look for are rooted in the concept of "trigger words." Trigger words make up the vocabulary visitors would use to describe their problems, and more importantly, their solutions. Visitors much more successful solving their problems online when the navigation and links contain their own vocabulary rather than industry-speak or jargon.

A:  Can you show me a good example of site navigation?

J:  An excellent example of navigation chock full of trigger words is Kinetic Fountains - it's a small site selling various types of water fountains. This site's navigation provides many different visitor types the ability to browse in their own terms. Businesses should make sure the site provides different navigation paths based on every different way a person may decide to shop or move forward

A:  So, I look at the homepage and key landing pages and evaluate how clear and easy an individual buying scenario is. I make sure to take a hard, honest look at the value I'm providing the visitor and ensure I'm answering the questions they're asking. Then I look at the navigation to ensure the visitor can easily move forward within their buying process, even if I allow them to become disengaged with the active window. Anything else?[AG2]

J:  Of course! There's plenty more where that came from. We need to take a deep look the checkout process, plus the help pages, contact information, and specific tools used on the site. We must assess the site's ability to convey trust-building elements to the visitor. We must make sure the site includes reassurances - in customer-focused language - about things such as guarantees, security and privacy. Basically, we must make sure the pieces are in place for our visitors to build the necessary confidence in us to award us their business.

I could go on and on talking about eliminating the stumbling blocks commonly found within the conversion process. Starting with the steps I've laid out here, a site owner will find plenty of low-hanging fruit to raise conversion rates.

You can do it yourself, if you can be brutally honest about something that's as close to you as your business. But there's a big advantage to involving a knowledgeable outsider. As we say around here, it's hard to read the label when you're inside the bottle!

Anthony Garcia is Future Now, Inc.'s Senior Persuasion Architect and the organizing force behind A Day in the Life of a Persuaion Architect.

Interested in a spot on our team? A starting role has just opened up...

We're currently accepting inquiries for our open Engagement Coordinator position. This NYC-based, entry-level position provides a great opportunity to grow within our Consultancy. Becoming an expert in Conversion does not happen overnight. The first step is learning and honing your skills at listening to customers, and planning to meet their needs.

Our newest Engagement Coordinator is responsible for the first line of communication between Future Now and our prospects. This teammate begins spending time interacting with our prospects, engaging them to share their experiences and their issues, uncovering their needs and resources. The teammate is responsible for taking these customer needs to the experts and learning to plan engagements which resolve these needs within the resource constraints. Finally, the teammate will explain this engagement to our prospects, in plainly spoken English, and once their final questions have been overcome, will craft an agreement reflecting this engagement. The measures of success for this position will NOT be tied to sales, but rather satisfied customers and successfully planned engagements.

Are you, or do you know, someone who has a college degree, ideally with a Psychology or Communications background? Someone who's extremely sociable, an excellent communicator, both orally and in writing; someone who's had some work experience (at least one year); most importantly, someone who's interested in Marketing Consulting in this brave new world of overwhelming customer power where the push marketing and advertising strategies of yesteryear are dead?

Are you up to the challenge? Please send an email to and spend a few minutes letting us know why you're interested in being included in this hiring search. Let us know what exceptional skills you bring to the table that make you worthy of this opportunity. Please do NOT send any attachments or resumes, as they will not be considered at this time. We appreciate and thank you for your interest in this position.

Volume 121: 12/1/05


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