One of Yours?

A news clip just informed me: a phenomenal 80 percent of all purchasing decisions are made or influenced by women! I can't actually verify that statistic for you (the talking head certainly sounded credible enough), but I can tell you that women - in one way, shape or form - are behind the majority of actions folks take on your Web site.

The question is, are you helping these economically powerful people accomplish their tasks on your Web site? Do you really know what they need? How would you even start?

Your Web site's persuasion architecture must begin with an understanding of your audience, not in the aggregate, but in the specific. So, meet Danielle. A specific if there ever was one!

Big Picture Stuff

I've discussed with you the four different categories of visitors that land on your site:

  • The one who knows exactly what she wants and nothing is going to get in her way - highly motivated and goal-oriented

  • The one who has a pretty good idea of what she wants and would buy if presented with the right item, but is still in the process of narrowing her final decision - quite motivated, but you have room to work some persuasion magic

  • The one who doesn't have anything specific in mind, but would buy if you could hit the right button (think window-shopper) - only mildly motivated and your persuasive skills have to be operating at peak efficiency

  • The one who landed on your site by mistake - zero motivation and most likely to bail. Wave goodbye nicely.

At the very least ... let me say that again, BARE BONES MINIMUM... your Web site must incorporate navigational and persuasive structures that account for these fundamental mindsets. Particularly the second and third visitor on the list - these folks constitute the great untapped gold mine of your audience.

The best-performing Web sites, however, take this framework much farther: they incorporate personas! A persona is a construct, a character fleshed-out from demographic, psychographic and topological factors, for whom you design a specific navigation pathway through your site. And because no one persona characterizes your entire audience (humans are definitely not one-size-fits-all!), you need more than one persona construct, hence more than one way to navigate through to the goal.

The process of constructing a persona begins with understanding an individual.

Back to Danielle

Danielle (untrained in the nuances of persuasion architecture) was a mystery shopper for our forthcoming Online Retail Study for Customer-Focused Excellence. A 20-something, single mother, Danielle describes herself as a micro-manager and works an entry level management job. She's an urban dweller (shares an apartment with several others to keep her costs down) who doesn't own a car or know how to drive. She works hard so she can get out from under her debt and find a place where just she and her son can live together.

Detail-oriented, Danielle enjoys getting the most out of life. Generally frugal in her purchasing, she rarely buys for the sake of buying, although she's been known to be impulsive and justify an expensive purchase for personal reasons. More often than not, though, she thinks carefully and researches her options before spending lots of money.

Got a nice mental picture of this person? Now read her reactions to shopping online! They are truthful, honest and something you need to internalize. Pay very close attention ... your potential customer speaks:

In Danielle's Words

In the world today, evolving technology is supposed to provide us with the conveniences to make our everyday lives easier. It enables us to be continually connected to our home, job, family and friends - including the people we do everyday business with like the butcher, baker and candlestick maker. But is the internet going to replace the physical store? Probably not, at this rate. Why? Because in their quests to simplify my life, they set up their shops in such a way that the whole process of online shopping ends up taking longer and aggravates me more than getting up early on a Sunday morning, hopping on the train or bus and schlepping to the store itself. In the end it just makes me want to scream "I NEVER EVER WANT TO SHOP ONLINE AGAIN"!

When I was given my assigned Web sites to shop on, I found I had lots of clothing and accessory sites. I love to shop for clothes and accessories, so I logged on with a mission to find the perfect little black dress (I'm not really a window shopper; when I shop I normally have something in mind that I want). I thought having a target would help me with navigation and the entire process, but I was wrong. Instead, I was helped to a serious dose of frustration.

I was assigned the Land's End Web site this year, and I can see why it won last year's survey: there's descriptive copy, it's in plain spoken English, they even give you a virtual model! Two things about this site bothered me, though. The first - it took about a minute to load up a product page. While it's great to be able to enlarge the pictures, there has got to be a way to make the upload faster. The second – copy was scattered all over the place; some of the copy was on the top of the page, and if I wanted to know more about the product I had to scroll down. When I'm reading about a product I don't want to look for the copy.

What's worse than having to scroll down to the bottom of the page for copy is having no copy at all - just a blurb. This was my experience on many other sites. I mean, I'm on the site looking to spend my money. The very least they could do is try to convince me.

Don't let the pictures speak for themselves. Pictures never really do a product justice to begin with. Tell me where I could wear this. Since I can't feel the fabric, tell me what it feels like. For example, although the Newport News Web site describes a material as "plush", they leave the picture to sell the product. And in most pictures, I can barely see the product, so how can the combination of a picture and a brief blurb of copy convince me to buy this item? It doesn't. I want to know: Why should I buy this?

Have you ever been to a department store like Macy's and found the perfect dress, but you weren't sure whether to buy it or not? So you decide to keep looking and then if you really want it, you figure you can go order it on their website since it is part of their new line. This happened to me. I actually found that little black dress in Macy's department store, but I wanted to see if I could get it cheaper somewhere else.

I kept looking around, but then I got this assignment so I figured it was fate that I buy this dress. So I log on to and look at the categories at the top of the page, it looks easy enough - all the categories are clearly listed. So I click on "Women". Then it brings me to the next page, where there are more categories, also clearly listed and since I'm looking for that black dress I so badly wanted, I click on the obvious category of "Dresses". Easy, I think to myself. After I click on Dresses, there are more categories to choose from if I wanted to narrow it down more. All Occasion, Bridesmaid, Daytime, Evening, Juniors and Sundresses. I don't really know what my dress would be under so I decide to look through all the dresses.

I never found my dress. I even searched for it by choosing a brand. So I felt grumpy because they didn't have the dress online; moreover, I couldn't shop by brand because they didn't have their own store brand available to shop by. Before I looked I wish they had a disclaimer saying that not everything in stock at the store is available on the Web site or even better still; make all their common stocked merchandise available on the Web site. Unfortunately Macy's Web site is just as confusing as their department stores.

Another thing that really got on my nerves when I was doing my mystery shopping was having to search for policies. To view most policies, you have to scroll to the bottom of the page and find a link. I don’t want to scroll to the bottom for these things. I want to see this information when I first get on a product page, maybe on the side of the page. When I finally find the link to policies, I often find the policies are so vague and legalistic that I even have to think about who pays the shipping if I have to return something. How hard can it be to say, "We'll take back any product you are not satisfied with. If you ordered the wrong size or don't like it, you're responsible for the return shipping. If we made a mistake or the product is inferior, you won't be charged for shipping"?

Then, when I finally decide to buy something, the check out process takes too long. Many of these sites have an indicator letting me know how long till my purchase is completed, but it isn't always accurate. Sometimes it says there are only 4 steps to an easy check out, but each step winds up having 3 pages of data I have to fill in. I won't shop on these sites again because I feel they're being dishonest - as if I'm in a horse race and my rider is sitting on top of me dangling a carrot in front of my face for 3 hours saying "One more step and we'll be done".

Pattern for Persona

Think you've got someone like Danielle coming to your site hoping to do business with you? Delightfully unique though Danielle is, she's also an average Jane. Listen to what she has to say. Think about how your site might better help all your Danielles accomplish their goals.

Then, when you think you understand Danielle really really well, start thinking about Kevin! And Elizabeth! And don't forget Carlos!

Volume 100: 10/15/04

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