After being neglected for years, suddenly people are
talking about it like they’ve found the Holy Grail or
something. It’s become the latest new tune on the block,
“Get usability right and all your e-commerce problems
are over.” Hate to break it to ya, but usability is not
the end; it's simply a big step in the right direction.
Usability by itself only reduces your customers’
frustration level. That’s important, of course, but
still a far cry from guiding your customers into doing
what they want to do and you want them to do: buying. Try
getting Usability to say, “May I take your order?"
or, “What colors do you prefer?” or, “Would you like
to use VISA or MasterCard?”
the stuff on “usability this” and “usability that”
these days, it actually it isn't all that easy to find a
definition of usability out there. I guess some writers
think we're just supposed to know what it means. Internet
Business Network does offer a definition. Succinctly,
"Usability means ease of use." Connecting Online
offers a more value-laden meaning: "the quality of
enabling your users' productivity." To be sure,
Connecting Online understands the online business world's
general confusion when it comes to usability:
businesses today look at Web site usability like a
foreign object that crash-landed from outer space into
their backyards [hey, lots of great things come from
outer space! -The Grok]. They've poked and prodded at
it, trying to figure out just what it is. Most
businesses aren't accustomed to adapting their
communications to how their audiences interact with
your website easy for your visitors to use, and they'll
become more proficient users. But if you want them to
become customers, you have to think beyond usability.
Think of it like taking a road trip. Usability gets rid
of the obstacles to driving: the potholes, the bad
signage, the dead ends. It makes it easy for your
customers to go places comfortably, smoothly, with
minimal interruption, but it can't intrinsically tell
them where they ought to be going much less how
to get to where they want to go in the quickest,
don't just want your customers to take any road. You
want them focused on a destination: buying. And you want
them to take the road that leads them to, and through,
buying what they want in a way that is not only quick
and easy but also comfortable and delightful. To
accomplish this, you not only have to remove the
obstacles, you must also guide, encourage,
persuade, influence and motivate your customers in a
specific direction. That you accomplish through
Information Architecture, layout, choice and function of
graphics and icons, applying your understanding of
consumer psychology, embodying a systematic selling
process into your site design, remembering AIDAS (see
our archives), and at least as important, choosing
powerful and compelling words. Your web copy
matters a whole lot more, and your web graphics matter a
whole lot less, than most designers and developers would
have you believe.
your usability stuff, and do it well. But you can’t
stop there or your customers will cruise around easily
but aimlessly, until they finally leave. You still have
to do one more thing: sell them!
Internet Business Network, <http://www.interbiznet.com/capabilities/form.html>
ii "The Future Just Ain't What it Used to
Be: Innovation and Usability." Connecting Online, <http://www.connectingonline.com/articles/980617a.html>.
click here for a printable version of this whole article
E-Business the Old Fashioned Way?
other day I made a not-so-nice comment to someone, and the
guy was none too pleased. My buddy Bryan nudged me,
winked, and said, "How to win friends and influence
people, huh, Grok?" I raised one of my many eyebrows
questioningly. "Dale Carnegie. 1937," came his
reply. Turns out it’s not simply one of those sayings
that have entered mainstream speech; it’s the name of a
book. A runaway best seller, in fact, since its first
publication. The granddaddy of people skills books.
offices we talk non-stop about "e-business the
old-fashioned way." What we mean is that success in
e-tailing depends on building solid relationships with
live human beings, just like in the real world. We are
fanatical about this idea (you have noticed, haven't
you?), even though it’s hardly revolutionary. You see,
Carnegie wrote about the same stuff 63 years ago with an
understanding that will never be outdated.
got to musing on how Carnegie's thoughts could improve how
you manage your web business.
Win Friends and Influence People
has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. It’s been
translated into a bunch of other languages (I’ve offered
to do the Martian translation - expecting a callback any
day now), and it’s still in print, as timeless now as it
was when it first came out. Read it!
believed financial success was due 15 percent to
professional knowledge and 85 percent to "the ability
to express ideas, to assume leadership, and to arouse
enthusiasm among people." That's the stuff of retail
dreams and the goal of any e-business. You don't just want
someone to arrive at your site. You want them to arrive,
experience a sensation of "Wow! Oh boy! At
last!" And you want every tiny bit of your site to
reinforce their sense of delight at having discovered you.
Think of seeing Disneyland or walking into a Sam's Club
for the first time. Awesome, huh? That's what you want to
shoot for when it comes to arousing enthusiasm.
on arrival” is hardly enough. Everything about the
shopping process, up to and including service after the
sale, must continue to knock your customers out. Remember,
this is a sales environment where the customer is
completely in control. Talk about the need to influence!
wise Mr. Carnegie observed, "Remember that a man's
name is, to him, the sweetest and most important
is a big deal these days. Humans are far more likely to
open personalized e-mail, are more likely to open these
messages first, and are more likely to read the content
(presuming it has something of real value to them and is
well-written). But that’s true only if the use of their
names makes sense in context, and is a name the person
would normally respond to. Since you can't get
face-to-face with your potential customers, including
their names seems a reasonable marketing compromise. But
suppose a visitor fills out information that includes her
name (Ms. Samantha Frances Jenkins) and then starts
receiving personalized promotional stuff or newsletters
that start with, "Dear Ms. Samantha Frances
Jenkins." How warm and fuzzy does that sound? Not
very. Especially if nobody except the guy behind the
counter at Motor Vehicle ever calls her that. The end
result to you (if you are the culprit here) is that unless
your site is phenomenally spectacular, Ms. Samantha
Frances Jenkins is going to be repelled by your phoniness,
which will most likely influence her never to return.
subscribe to this newsletter, you might have noticed it
arrives in your inbox with your name included in the
subject line. Hopefully, it catches your attention because
it is a name you like to be called. How does that happen?
Because the clever folks who manage my mail have asked
you how you like to be addressed. This may seem like small
stuff, but it is one of those things Carnegie says makes a
huge difference in the pursuit of Winning-and-Influencing.
in terms of the other man's interests." Another of
Mr. Carnegie’s nuggets of wisdom.
around here call it, "Your favorite radio station: WIIFM," or "What's in it for me?" (Check
out the archives - I have a whole article on this.)
Carnegie says you can make someone want to do what you
want them to do by looking at the situation from their
point of view and "arousing in the other person an
eager want." You are dead in the water if you can't
do this with your online customers. Why? Because
e-commerce by definition is consumer-centered. You may
think you call the shots, but that's an illusion. Your
heard me say before, the average conversion rate of
e-shoppers to buyers, well, sucks. In the
bricks-and-mortar world, where no one assumes expertise on
the part of the customer and everyone focuses on the sales
process and making the environment shopper-centered,
conversion rates run about 48%. On the web? It’s
somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.75%. That means at
least 98% of your visitors leave without making a purchase
(and by the way, about 75% of them tried to buy from you,
but got frustrated, bailed, and will never come back.).
And of those who do buy, only 10% return to buy again. Can
you say, “Big losses”?
a success of your web-business, you have to
Win-and-Influence by turning your
around. Give your visitors what they want; it’s
the only way you can get what you want. And
remember, people rationalize their purchases based on
facts, but they make their purchases based on feelings.
Plus, shoppers aren’t just bodies carrying credit cards.
They are “holistic” beings whose experiences, beliefs,
and values have a big influence on when, what, and also
from whom they will buy. You can provide the missing link
in e-commerce by engaging your shoppers' values and
feelings and create a HUGE win-win!
the other man do a great deal of the talking."
the coolest things I’ve noticed about humans is that
they always have opinions. And they usually aren't shy
about expressing them … they want to express
them! So don’t just give them the opportunity via the
teeny type at the bitter bottom of your web page that says
"Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Encourage feedback. Provide a forum for it. Ask
questions that require more than yes/no answers. Get them
talking. They’ll do it anyway, whether you like it or
not, so why not support it and learn from it?
only does this help you discover areas that need
improvement and also get some great ideas, but it also
means your potential clients will feel less like they've
been talked into anything (even if they have). More
important, this strategy touches other deep-rooted
psychological needs like wanting to feel part of
something. When we ask for and use their feedback, we
"let the other person feel that the idea is his or
hers." Helping them feel they are partners in the
process promotes lots of good will.
looking for that competitive edge in the web-world, right?
So think about what achieving that edge entails. And don’t
forget: you're a customer, too! How do you like
being treated? How do you like being addressed?
What gets your engines revving with excitement?
Between your own understanding of the consumer experience
and the priceless wisdom of geniuses like Dale Carnegie,
you've got the critical elements for winning friends and
influencing people even on the web. Can you say, “Nice