Applying Lessons from Why We Buy by Paco Underhill

to Your Own Online Business

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Applying Lessons

This ebook was created from a series of posts at my blog, “Kicking Over My Traces,” as an exercise in applying the findings reported by Paco Underhill in regards to field research he and his company have conducted for the retail industry about the habits of people in brick-andmortar retail settings. I thought that it would be interesting and instructive to take those findings and apply them to websites. I hope that you find something here to use on your own website.
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Introduction

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and more detailed when the customer reaches a point where details are appreciated. except for Harry Potter or other movie tieins).5 License. Underhill points to retailers that successfully exploit this method (giving customers a reason to return) by engaging their customers (video and music stores that promote upcoming new releases) and those that do not (bookstores. How can websites give their visitors a reason to return? Mr. He points out that this should be done at least at two levels: big and bold and quick when the customer first enters.Discussion Point #1: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Page 3 A Reason to Return .

Even better if the fresh content arrives dependably or predictably — then your visitor can schedule a return in anticipation of the fresh content. you need fresh content.Discussion Point #1: If you aim at all for repeat visits. A Reason to Return Note that we’re talking here about visitors at your website right now — an emailed newsletter can serve for customers who aren’t currently visiting. How can websites inform their visitors of this fresh content? This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Page 4 .5 License.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. A calendar of upcoming events — even a headline doubling as a link to more details. but not the only answer. and more detailed information. News portals can provide both big & bold. in a high traffic area of the website could increase repeat traffic. such as while an online sale is confirmed.” Displaying useful information about upcoming events might even prevent your visitors from repeatedly clicking the Confirm button out of frustration and boredom. though. so be ready to make that commitment. give your visitor something to look at besides a whirling candy or “Please wait. A Reason to Return Page 5 .5 License. A blog must itself present fresh content in the form of new posts.Discussion Point #1: Blogs are one obvious answer. If your website has a point where everything grinds to a halt.

employ special greeters at the door.5 License.Discussion Point #2: Mr. Interception Rate Others train and reward employees to notice customers who need help. and to respond in a timely fashion. Page 6 . such as Wal-Mart. Underhill points out that successful retailers have a high interception rate: the number of customers entering the store who are contacted in some fashion by an employee is high. What does “interception rate” mean in an online context? This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Some stores.

Interception Rate This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. A live chatroom is much less frequent because difficult to staff 24/7. Much more common is the interaction taking place in email and comment boxes. A well-written FAQ helps.Discussion Point #2: One of the usual characteristics of online interaction is asynchronicity. Civil email and comments should be encouraged ahead-of-time by solicitations. Community forums are difficult to jumpstart and to monitor. and after-the-fact by a pertinent response. we don’t expect a live person to be available behind the screen. Generally speaking. Page 7 .5 License.

to draw customers’s initial attention. What does “display” mean in an online context? Page 8 . second.Discussion Point #3: Mr.5 License. to draw customers into the store. He also emphasizes that displays are never seen under optimal conditions: if the message to be conveyed is not big and bold and short and simple and memorable. your effort is wasted. first. Underhill points out that successful retailers make good use of display windows. Display Windows This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.

Is your signage taking that into consideration? Page 9 Display Windows This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Nielsen has a bias towards text content which I think is a bit overdone these days. In retail. She doesn’t see the rest of the store until the medication is paid for and she’s pointed toward the front door. or by clicking on the result of a search. I recommend starting with Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir.Discussion Point #3: The obvious answer is a website homepage. and a lot has been written about good homepage design. If you stop with your website’s homepage. you’ve stopped way too soon. Most people won’t come to your site through your homepage. .5 License. but his suggestions for usefully organizing a homepage are solid. Mr. that’s rather like the single-minded customer heading to the pharmacy at the back of the drugstore to pick up her son’s asthma medication refill. though. They’ll land on interior pages through a referral from another website.

Page 10 . when a visitor lands on an interior page you want to present them with a cohesive view of the site in terms of design and ways of getting around. Quickly.5 License. Crumb navigation frequently takes a form similar to this: The visitor is four levels down from the website’s homepage. and he can click on any of the links to reach a higher level. Display Windows Home > Book Lists > 2006 > 01 > 03 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. (None of the example links is live. A visitor to your website should always be able to tell where he is in relation to the homepage.Discussion Point #3: In the case of a website. In particular. it’s a Very Good Thing to let them know where they’ve landed: “crumb navigation” is useful. Without a Flash™ or other plugin. and the purpose of the currently displayed webpage. viewing a booklist for January 3.) Note that such crumb navigation is in addition to links that might jump “horizontally” from one interior page to another. 2006.

Discussion Point #3: Three good books on general website usability concerns: Display Windows • Designing Web Usability by Jakob Nielsen (though I think he leans a tad heavily on text content). Even if you’re going to hire a website designer — and you want a website designer.5 License. Page 11 . not just a graphic designer — you should be aware of the issues involved. • Information Architecture for the World Wide Web by Louis Rosenfeld & Peter Morville (more geeky than the others). • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.

trial or other sensory stimuli 2. Underhill lists three things in particular that he says stores can do. immediate gratification 3. touch.Discussion Point #4: Mr.5 License. Page 12 . but that websites can’t: 1. social interaction What Websites Can’t Do This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. We’ll look at each one individually.

touch. Underhill has in mind the aroma wafting through the mall from a Cinnabon™ store. What Websites Can’t Do Page 13 . This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Both can be abused.5 License.Discussion Point #4: 1. trial or other sensory stimuli Mr. That doesn’t mean you site must be silent or visually bland. merely that you must design it with your customer’s goals in mind as well as your own. and frequently are. Websites have only two senses available to them: sight and sound. or the appeal of touching a silk blouse.

Keep in mind that your visitor may be viewing the site from work. Make sure it’s easy to figure out how to turn the sound on — and off! Sight is the biggest sensory stimulus the web has to offer. Page 14 .5 License.Discussion Point #4: Almost never should a site start blasting sound the instant a connection is made. Providing a choice for a visitor to hear sound once oriented is more appropriate. and your site-appropriate sound could prove embarrassing or worse. What Websites Can’t Do This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. you can’t hand out free samples like See’s™ does at their stores — but you can present an irresistible graphic of a chocolate truffle front and center that will make your visitors’ mouth water so they can almost taste that truffle on their tongue. If you’re selling chocolate truffles. You should make the most of it by keeping things simple and appealing.

so immediate gratification of. a desire for an mp3 of the latest by the Lascivious Biddies is a click or two away.5 License. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. However. immediate gratification What Websites Can’t Do Anything that can be digitized can be downloaded. for instance. anything non-digitizable cannot provide immediate gratification through the web. Page 15 .Discussion Point #4: 2. Visitors will have to wait at least for overnight delivery until someone figures out how to shove the latest Manolo Blahnik shoes through a broadband link.

there are many ways to promote social interaction. Page 16 . This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. social interaction What Websites Can’t Do Can anyone say: comments? bulletin boards? topic-oriented forums? live chat? If you want to build up a community of repeat customers who feel invested in your website.Discussion Point #4: 3.5 License. But be forewarned: most of them require a moderator. and moderating takes more time than you’d like.

We’ll look at each one individually. Page 17 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. 2. (Sometimes irrational combinations will also work. Don’t let your information go stale or dated.) 3. 4. For each webpage. A sensible. . Underhill discusses four things about adjacencies: Adjacencies 1.Discussion Point #5: Mr. ask: what else is on the visitor’s mind here? Whatever it is. logical order of presentation will increase sales. there should be a link. Items need to be displayed grouped as people use them.

A sensible. Items need to be displayed grouped as people use them.) Adjacencies adjacencies: placing one item next to another to create some spark and sell more of both. the camera sensibly comes first. followed by items that naturally might be added subsequently once the decision is made over the particular brand and model of camera. (But sometimes irrational combinations will also work. For instance. group them with their accessories such as lenses and flashcards. 2.5 License. logical order of presentation will increase sales. if you’re selling digital SLR cameras.Discussion Point #5: 1. What else might be paired? How about a good introductory photography book. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. In the camera example above. or a magazine? Page 18 .

might seem odd? How about travel posters? Or newborn baby items? This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Page 19 .5 License. initially.Discussion Point #5: Adjacencies What might be paired with a digital camera that.

Don’t let your information go stale or dated. in an informational webpage illustrated with low-resolution photographs. or a cross-link that leads nowhere. Keeping even a modest website up-todate is challenging. Underhill’s cited yellowing magazines and outdated single-sided posters is a blog or community forum with the latest post dated weeks ago.Discussion Point #5: 3. Adjacencies The analogy on a website to Mr. ask: what else is on the visitor’s mind here? Whatever it is. For each webpage. Page 20 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. 4. Or. in a blog post reporting the passing of an author. post links to that author’s books. but should not be neglected.5 License. there should be a link. . tell the visitor where high-resolution digital copies may be purchased. For example. adjacencies: placing one item next to another to create some spark and sell more of both.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. and Operations Mr. We’ll look at each one individually. 2. operations: what employees do. Underhill defines these terms: 1. merchandising: choosing what you put in the premises. design: the premises (physical accomodations). 3. but for websites rather than brick-and-mortar shops. Page 21 .Discussion Point #6: Design. Merchandising.5 License.

Design. nobody will drop by to read your editorial content.Discussion Point #5: 1. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License. employ a website designer (not just a graphic designer) who understands workflow and information architecture. they’ll be gone without even the tinkle of a bell to alert you. Design. Merchandising. Page 22 . or drool over your product photography. If your website’s visitors can’t navigate confidently to either find what they’re looking for or poke around to see what there is to see. and Operations Some suggestions for reading about web design: • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug Website design is crucial — for instance. • Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob Nielsen If you can afford it. Your life will be better. if visitors can’t find your website (because search engines can’t index the site).

Design. Merchandising. and bogs down if the photo gets too big. product photography on the web doesn’t require a greater resolution than 72 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. Falk • Inspired Retail Space by Corinna Dean Page 23 . For example.) Some titles to flip through: • Visual Merchandising by Robert Colborne • 1001 Ideas to Create Retail Excitement by Edgar A. So paying for larger fancier pix is a waste of money. Merchandising. dpi.5 License. (Always remember cost effectiveness. most geared to brick-and-mortar — flip through them to see what can be cost-effectively adapted to a website.Discussion Point #6: 2. and Operations What are you selling? Why? Who wants it? Who needs it? How do you present it attractively? How can you organize it to increase sales? There are bushel-baskets of books on merchandising.

Thought needs to be applied to all aspects. workers comp for employees… I don’t have any suggested titles for this topic because all the ones I looked at are four to six years old.5 License. Page 24 . Operations. and the online landscape has changed so much that I’d like to see updated editions. taxes. A Reason to Return This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. or you’ll be a slave to your website. Workflow is critical.Discussion Point #1: 3. from website updates to order fulfilment to scouting for new stuff to start the cycle again and keep visitors returning. Don’t forget the paperwork: business licenses.

I would love to hear from anyone who puts these ideas to work.5 License. hearye@cehwiedel. or who comes up with variations. either.com Email me: Page 25 . But that’s not the end of my interest. or who knows a good book to add to the lists.Applying Lessons End Note your visitors. but it shouldn’t be the end of your deep thinking about how to make your website easier and more useful for This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2. That’s the end of this ebook. and more tightly focused on your goals for it.

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