and I both know we could dissect most sites to death,
which might be useful but would take forever. So when I
take on a website in each of these studies, I’ll focus
on one primary feature, something that will
illustrate an important principle everyone can use.
welcome to MagMall.com, a case study that will offer you a
before-and-after look at how to improve the selling
of The Company
began e-business operations in 1997 as a reseller of
magazine subscriptions, both B2B and B2C. They offer over
1,000 national titles (some in languages other than
English) at savings up to 85% off retail subscription
prices. With the motto "We subscribe to
outstanding customer service," MagMall offers several
great benefits: a family-friendly (aka
non-"adult") inventory, great pricing, huge
selection, highly personalized service and some very nice
technology for managing a family of over 3000 affiliates.
was concerned about both their professional online look
and the overall organization of their website and shopping
process. With a very weak return on their investments (low
site penetration, high shopping cart abandonment, low
conversion rate, low renewal rate), MagMall needed to make
more effective use of their marketing dollars.
- Usability: The site had some regrettable color
choices, a proliferation of confusing elements and
general disorganization to overcome. (link
to original home page)
- Navigation: It's a rare site that can't improve how it
helps folks get from here to there.
- Sales: A site should never ignore the 5-step process
of sales. (To refresh your memory, read my Five
Simple Steps to LOTS More Online Sales.)
Attention to the 5-Step Sales Process
PROSPECT: Present the goods your potential customer is
looking for right up front. These should be the first
thing they see. Notice the link dead-center on the new
home page, www.magmall.com <http://www.magmall.com>:
"What Magazines Are You Looking for Today?"
Notice the link column: "May We Suggest."
Each of these added tremendously to the ultimate
RAPPORT: Clean up your design, make content scannable
and clear, get the important information up front,
remove excess, distracting (or just plain ugly!)
color, value compelling text over graphics and make
the site load fast (on my system, the core information
appears in under 6 seconds and the entire site is done
in 10)! Compare this home page to the original
to see how
Future Now, Inc.
did this for MagMall.
Check out the improvements: white background, the
tabbed categories at the top, big type, clustering of
related information, phone number prominently
displayed, the vast simplification of color scheme and
a more "tasteful," professional appearance.
element is important in itself, but when you set about
to develop rapport with your prospects, all these
elements combine to present the character of your
business. They all say a lot about your
trustworthiness and how enjoyable it is going to be to
do business with you - all of which encourages your
prospect to penetrate further into the sales process.
You further enhance your rapport if you make sure
these elements are consistent through the site.
QUALIFY and PRESENT: This is the back and forth
between seller and buyer that is at the heart of
sales. You offer, your customer refines, you offer
again. Obviously, if your customer can find what he or
she wants quickly and easily (here's where your
navigation and information architecture - hopefully
designed the way your customers think and shop - make
a huge difference), sales go up.
on that front-and-center presenting strategy,
"What Magazines Are You Looking for Today?"
Immediately, you go to a page that helps the customer
qualify her needs. She has a search option. She has a
whole list of categories to choose from. Or, further
down on the page, she can examine bundled sales
experience, MagMall learned that the bulk of their
sales comes from just a few magazines. Therefore, the
“May We Suggest” section was added to include
these top sellers. Now click on a choice from the
"May We Suggest" list. In under six seconds,
you arrive at a product page that describes the
magazine in detail, shows a picture, shows bundle
options, and suggests related magazines
(cross-selling). Pricing and savings are right there.
The format for every product is consistent.
CLOSE: GTC (Get the Cash). That's the mantra,
so make it easy. MagMall offers all the options and
displays them prominently on product pages.
MagMall makes this a simple process (we are working
now to streamline this even further for them) and they
guide you through it with ease. Navigation through
this section is straightforward and help-assisted.
Also, you always know where you are in the process and
what you are being asked to do. When you arrive in
checkout, you are presented with a page that lists
your shopping cart contents and offers payment options
The system walks you through setting up an account,
which on later visits eliminates many of the checkout
steps. The form you are required to fill out is not
invasive, but asks only pertinent information and
allows you the option of declining future e-mail from
the business. The information you enter is displayed
through the rest of checkout, and you can edit it at
choose from among five methods of online payment
(Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover/Novus or
Beenz), then review and finally confirm your order.
You may also fax your order, phone in your order, or
mail your order, in which case you also have the
option to pay by check. Your order is confirmed both
by email and also on a page that you can print out as
When the customer is getting closer to the purchase,
MagMall relocates the important Point of Action
information (see my article)
right where it has the most impact on the customer:
privacy, guarantees, a description of what's in the
shopping cart. When the customer needs to see the
assurance, it becomes more prominent. On the first
page of checkout, they are greeted with big red
letters proclaiming, "Ordering Online Is
Private, Safe and Easy -- Guaranteed!" As
another example, the "100% Guarantee"
announcement moves higher on the screen as the buyer
gets closer to the close.
truly comforting assurance any business can offer is
the positive experience of other customers. Throughout
their site, MagMall offers testimonials praising
various aspects of products and services - and what
prospective subscriber doesn't value knowing there are
folks out there who are happy with MagMall?
is great example of implementing a lot of the stuff I've
been yammering about for months. Does it work? You tell
me: since these changes have been implemented, MagMall has
seen its conversion ratio climb from 1.21% to 4.97%. Their
closing rate QUADRUPLED!! Best of all, from MagMall's
point of view, these numbers are still going up, their
revenues are going up, their average order size is going
up, and at the same time their marketing expenses are
it work for you? Do Martians come from Outer Space?
you next month, same Grok-time, same Grok-channel, for a
whole new Case Study that will help you make more money
from your online business.
Let's face it. A gal arrives in your store, doesn't
find what she's looking for, and leaves. Or a guy selects
several items, drops 'em in his shopping cart and then
decides he doesn't need them after all (you can count your
blessings, 'cause in the real world he probably leaves his
cart in the aisle, and then you have to return the
merchandise to its proper location!). You can do
everything right, and still folks can exit stage left
without buying. Hey, even in the bricks-and-mortar world,
conversion ratios aren't perfect!
But lots of e-tailers out there aren't doing everything
right (if they were, I could just book a return spaceship
to Mars) and as a consequence, their closing ratios aren't
what they could be! Many of the things e-tailers aren't
doing right are ticking off customers and giving them darn
good reasons to abandon the site super-quick. You'd do
everything you could to prevent a customer from reaching
the Bail-Out Boiling Point, wouldn't you? So make sure you
are doing everything!
I know I'm going to start sounding like an MP3 player
with a perpetual feedback loop, but you've got lots of
online competition out there. If you don't have your act
together, your customers are going to find someone who
does. So let's solve some of the key sticking points in
the sales process that lead most folks to ditch you in
favor of someone else.
Get the Cash (GTC). Engrave this on the center of
your forehead! Sing it in the shower! This is the single
biggest bug-a-boo in online retailing. You simply must
give your customers all and sundry payment options so you
can get the cash. On top of that, you've got to let them
know any form of financial transaction with you is safe,
secure, confidential and reliable!
- Offer secure online credit
transactions that accept a variety of credit cards.
- Give your clients offline
options that include faxing an order form or
snail-mailing with payment by check or credit card.
- Consider if there is an
advantage to hooking up with third-party payment
managers (such as AOL Payment Services, Beenz, etc.).
- Make sure you have a
telephone contact number (ideally toll-free) displayed
prominently on all your pages, so folks can dial up
and order that way (or talk to a human for help).
Policies. Folks want to know the deal. They want
to know what they are going to get charged for, if their
purchases are going to come with your guarantee, how you
handle returns or exchanges. At the point they are most
likely to wonder these things (see my article
on POA), give them the
answers they need.
- Post complete and accurate
- Promise you have no hidden
charges (and make sure you don't).
- Display your guarantees.
- Explain your policies for
returns, exchanges and whether you offer refunds or
Convey trustworthiness. At every opportunity, in
lots of different ways from navigation to usability to
common sense, let your customers know you understand
their needs and value their patronage. Never make them
jump through hoops. Always treat them with respect.
Scads of elements contribute to how trustworthy you
appear; these are some that directly influence a
customer's decision to bail:
- Make sure your opt-in
forms (orders, subscriptions, account information,
etc.) ask only for relevant stuff, only for the
information necessary to manage the transaction. Don't
require a lady buying a digital camera from you to
specify how many kids of which ages she has at home -
invasive questions encourage folks to beat a hasty
retreat. If you want more background information on
your customers, come by it passively, or consider
employing an optional online survey subsequent to
- Have all your function
buttons right where the customer needs them,
especially your checkout and shopping cart buttons.
- Allow your customers to
edit any information they supply (and make this
process super-easy): member information, billing
information, shipping information, shopping cart
Realistically, you're never going to see conversion
ratios of 100%. What business ever will? But I guarantee
you can do better with your online sales when you start
using strategies that don't ignite your customers'
Bail-Out Boiling Point.