technologies may be dazzling, but your success in
e-commerce depends on understanding that the medium is not
the message. (Yes, The Grok is not a big fan of
Marshall McLuhan, but then he's probably not at the top of
Marshall's party list either.) The medium may change, but
the core message must remain the same or you'll never move
the people at Future Now, The Grok is plain-spoken,
saying what people need to hear even if "the price
of clarity is the risk of insult". And what he
has to say about e-commerce websites is simple: until
e-commerce companies get the basic fact that sales
is about selling, not technology or design or
marketing, conversion rates will continue to be a tiny
fraction of what they could be and profits will remain
not just elusive, but impossible.
Williams , the Wizard of Ads, says, "We're
still the same, predictable creatures we've always been.
That's why we are so frightened by the things we have
created." Futurists in the 70's, influenced
especially by Alvin Toffler and his landmark book, Future
Shock, tried to forecast the impact of fast-changing
technology. But when making their predictions, they didn't
take into account that people will still be people.
Regardless of the degree to which technologies both
overwhelm our lives on the one hand and simplify them on
the other, we still fill the vacancies in our lives with
more life, underscored by the burning - and legitimate -
concern about what's in it for us.
shares with us his "unchanging secret of
advertising" that, "The goal will remain
what it has always been, a focused attempt to speak to
a felt need." At Future Now we understand that
this "unchanging secret" is also the unchanging
secret for successful e-commerce. People may justify
their purchases based on facts, but we all ultimately make
our purchasing decisions based on feelings. If you
want your business to succeed on the Internet, you must
"always speak to the need your customer feels."
psychology is a complex field, but people have been buying
and selling forever. Years of research have produced vast
amounts of literature, and the actual practice of doing
business itself has yielded a cornucopia of time-tested
and proven techniques. The result: we understand the
technological possibilities, we understand consumer
psychology, and, at Future Now, we understand the
expert selling process. What we need on the Internet
is to merge the three in a way that results in increased
sales rather than the customer bailouts, red ink, and
accompanying doomsday predictions that haunt so many
dotcoms these days.
Grok doesn't mince words: "Hey, an e-business
is a store." Roy Williams agrees, "Most business
owners see the internet as a new way to advertise. It's
not; it's just a new kind of store. Look past the hype
and you'll see that cyberspace is exactly that; space; an
electronic realm of unlimited, digital square footage in
which you might build a digital store. Beyond this simple
distinction, all the "old" rules of
"brick and mortar" businesses still apply."
it is a store, an e-business is an arena for the
interaction of people. Developing a relationship is
critical to influencing the feelings of your customer and,
as a result, promoting sales. Does your website act like
an expert salesperson (does it even know how), or is it in
reality just a catalog, however fancy, with maybe a
shopping cart tacked on? "A human salesperson instinctively
adapts their sales presentation to fit the preferences of
the customer. Reading the customer's facial
expressions and body language and listening beyond the
customer's questions to interpret their tone of voice, the
sales person "sells" each customer in whatever
way that customer prefers to be sold. The foundational
problem of the Internet is that all of its digital stores
lack a digital sales staff. You don't think that a sales
staff makes that big a difference? Fine. Dismiss your
sales staff and let me know how it works out."
(From that last comment, we secretly suspect Roy and The
Grok are cousins.)
Ordinary people. No matter what you devise, they are still
the bottom line. The goal of your business is to woo
customers, not frighten them away, right? Then people
must be your first and last consideration. Not so
revolutionary a concept at all, is it? And that's why Future
Now has developed Digital Salespeople™ (patent
future issues of GrokDotCom, look for The Grok's
commentary on the e-commerce world as it is and as it
could be. Just think about that fairy-tale child who
revealed the folly of the leader by pointing out the
obvious (cast in terms of our own perspective on
e-commerce): The Emperor Has No…Close!
Roy H. Williams is a principal of Roy H. Williams
Marketing, Inc., a marketing and advertising agency near
Austin, Texas. He is the author of The Wizard of Ads and
Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads, both best sellers on
the New York Times and Wall Street Journal Business book
lists. Mr Williams is in no way affiliated with Future
Now, Inc. However, we find his philosophies delightful,
and highly recommend reading his books and subscribing to
his newsletter, Monday Morning Memo, at
Roy H. Williams, "Is America Scared Silly?"
Monday Morning Memo (1997).
Roy H. Williams, "To 'e' or Not To 'e'." Monday
Morning Memo (March 27, 2000).
click here for a printable version of this whole article
Help With Your Site?
Ask Your Mom!
Are you designing your website to lose sales? Could
you be ignoring the fastest growing segment of the
population without knowing it? The last thing you'd want
to do is alienate one of your biggest buying audiences,
right? So here's a simple question for you: could your
Mom buy from your site?
and their parents arethe largest growing segment
of the buying population. Money and numbers; a match made
in heaven. But most e-businesses out there aren't paying
attention to the fact that these folks didn't cut their
teeth on computers. Many would even admit to having
computer-phobia, afraid the wrong click will bring about
the end of the world as they know it. Faced with
uncertainty or the risk doing something wrong, they'll
just leave your site. And when they leave, they'll
spend their money elsewhere. You do want to
help them buy on your site, don't you?
what you do. Grab your Mom or a friendly person about her
age (your Dad in a pinch, although women account for a
greater share of online purchasing decisions) and spend
five minutes with her on your site. See if she can
navigate her way through, find what she wants, and
complete a purchase. Completely.
I was watching my friend Lisa's Mom go shopping on the
JCPenney site, (http://www.jcpenney.com),
so she could save a trip to the mall. The first page
took forever to appear. She tapped her pencil
distractedly and then muttered something I don’t think
moms are supposed to say. When the page finally loaded,
she was overwhelmed by all of the small type. At
her age she can’t see as well as when she was 25. She
scootched closer to the screen but that didn't help much.
Then, it took a long time for her to make sense of the
"strategy" of the site. She did have a
moment of triumph when she discovered how rollover menus
work. But then they kept disappearing under her cursor
just as she was about to click!
she got to a page that had teeny pictures on it. The web
designer guy calls them thumbnails. After squinting and
staring for a few minutes, she was still puzzled and
paralyzed. Quickly, she decided a trip to the mall
was going to be much easier. She logged off. The
result: not just a lost sale but also bad feelings. When
she got to the mall, JCPenney was not where she
could JCPenney have avoided this? Larger type, bigger
pictures, simple and consistent navigation, information
that stands out, lots of clear instructions and
online help, an intuitive process that reflects
how people buy … all of these things would have made
a big difference. Lisa's Mom could have had a much more
enjoyable shopping experience and JCPenney could have had
a happy shopper. Happy shoppers tend to buy. When
they buy, they tend to buy more, and they tend to buy
again, and they tell others about their
wonderful shopping experience.
whistles and gimmicks don't impress these folks or help
them feel like buying.
Nor can they make up for fundamentally bad designs and
confusing processes. These people want text they can read,
pictures they can see, help in every form available at
every moment, and simple, obvious links. Oh, and if you
give them a search engine, it better return relevant and
comprehensible results. Next, present them with every
viable payment option at check out: via an online secure
and a non-secure shopping cart, an e-mail order form, a
fax order form, a phone number. Finally, reinforce them
after the sale. Don’t leave them in
omigod-what’s-gonna-happen-next land. If they can
find what they are looking for quickly and can purchase it
easily, you have a new - and happy - customer.
come to your site because they want to buy.
Don't make it hard for them. So spend five minutes with
your Mom or another Mom-like human and see if your site
passes the Mom Test!