Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How Persuasive Are Your Product Pages?

Tim Ash | April 1, 2014 | Comments

Your homepage - especially if you have an online catalog site - is basically a glorified street sign. Consumers don't read it so much as glance at it in the hopes that it will tell them how to find what they are looking for. Its job is to get people out of there, onto whatever it is they're looking for. And usually what they're looking for on your site isn't your seasonal promotion, flash sale, or news releases - it's your products.

But what is it that makes a product page successful?

Obviously, focus helps, but why is it that Online Deals's product pages - which break almost all the conventional rules by having dozens of links, a ton of clutter, and pushing useful features buried several screens below the fold - survive years of tests and tuning? Evidently, putting useful information about the product helps, but why is it that large companies like Walmart get away with putting so little information about the product?

Hopes, Fears, and Your Product Page

B.J. Fogg, author of Persuasive Technology, might have part of the answer. His research into motivation sheds some light on technology, in this case, the product page. He organizes motivation this way: pleasure and pain, hopes and fears, social acceptance and rejection. Obviously, that's useful for the product page, the last point before the purchase, the point where you convince your visitor to shake on the deal.

Let's start with Amazon. The online giant has tons of usability issues. It's difficult to cite a better example of clutter than more than a dozen pages worth of scrolling on one page, especially when research says that about 80 percent of visitors never see anything below the fold.

And yet Amazon delivers just that. For a Nexus 7 page, the site has 17 pages worth of scrolls.

So is it a bad product page? It certainly deprioritizes useful features like "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought," for starters. It also looks like it takes the spaghetti-to-the-wall approach to Web design.

But let's take a look at the elements above the fold:

The higher price is there so the visitor can see the reward of purchasing. It's available, so there's hope of acquiring the item, but you can clearly see (in prominent text) that there are only eight left, so you better act soon. It has social trust elements, it states the reward, and has a prominent, established call to action.

What Amazon is using above the fold is rooted heavily in persuasive design; e-commerce product pages use this to varying degrees of effectiveness.

If you search for a Nexus 7 on HSN or Staples, you'll encounter many of the same elements, although neither one has the entire set.

Rewards, Anchoring, and the Use of Free

Anchoring is prescribed for product pages because we have an irrational brain. We perceive the first thing we're shown and we anchor expectations against that. It's a reflex; we hardly think about doing it. That's very useful when showing price points.

Free items like shipping further capitalize on that work on pleasure and delight.

If you have pleasure and pain taken care of, if you have hopes and fears down, that just leaves social acceptance and rejection on the Fogg model for motivation.

If you've ever taken a look at Walmart's product pages and wondered how it can get away with putting so little information about the product off the bat, this partly explains why. For the same product, here's what Walmart has:

Social Proof

Now try and answer these questions: What's the resolution of the screen? How much does it weigh? How powerful is the processor?

If you can't answer any of that with a quick glance, that's an issue. But this is exactly the trade-off Walmart is making. The price, call to action, and store availability get all the focus, and the other elements (except social proof) are de-emphasized.

The examples here, without exception, have serious usability flaws. None of them can answer everything you need about the product at a glance, while working with pleasures and hopes, pain and fears, social acceptance and rejection. But it's a difficult balance to strike.

If you use anchoring, rewards, and scarcity while keeping the high-level information available and the call to action clear, you're that much closer to having a more persuasive - and usable - product page.

Getting It Right

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Discounts on shoes from Nike, Timberland and Steve Madden

Check out these latest discounts gathered up by Dealnews.com, including savings on Nike men's running shoes, Timberland women's boots and more.

By Marcy Bonebright, Guest blogger / March 22, 2014

Everyone needs a little retail therapy now and then, so you might as well buy something you'll get a lot of miles out of. But because we list a shockingly small amount of cars on DealNews, we decided to round up shoes instead! (Also, who buys cars on a whim? Don't do that.) The week's best shoe deals include five Editors' Choice offers from Steve Madden, Nike, Timberland, and more!

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Steve Madden Men's Ditmars Shoes
Store: Steve Madden
Price: $49.99 with free shipping via Super Sale "SMFREE50" with padding over $50
Lowest By: $80

Is It Worth It?: Leather driving shoes are so comfortable, so easy to slip on and off ... so incredibly hot on warmer days. That is, unless the leather is perforated for maximum breathability, as is the case with the Steve Madden Ditmars. Available in five colors for just $49.99, these drivers also feature a textured sole for stability. At $80 off, we're pretty sure you just found your go-to summer shoe. Be sure to pad your order over $50 and apply coupon code "SMFREE50" to dodge the $7.95 shipping.

Steve Madden's got your back when it comes to stocking your shoe closet on the cheap. The site has cut an extra 50% off select clearance shoes, with prices starting at around $10. (Prices are as marked.) That's tied as the best extra discount we've seen on clearance merch from Steve Madden, yielding some huge price lows. Shipping adds $7.95, or bag free shipping on orders of $50 or more via coupon code "SMFREE50".

Nike Men's Roshe Running Shoes
Store: 6pm
Price: $45.99 with free shipping
Lowest By: $6

Is It Worth It?: These days, running shoes seem to have an inversely proportional weight-to-price ratio: the lighter they are, the more they cost. But that's not the case with the Nike Roshe running shoes, which weigh in at just 10oz. and are available in six colors for $46. That's the best price we've seen for these trainers outside of our Black Friday mention, which was for one color only.

Delli Aldo Men's Dragon Print Pull-On Boots
Store: Meritline
Price: $10.75 via coupon code "MLCDNEWS1403B" with $8.09
Lowest By: $22
Expires: March 23

Is It Worth It?: You don't need wild colors or uncomfortable construction to make a statement with your shoes. These Delli Aldo pull-on boots feature a unique dragon design on the toe, ideal for dragon-slayers who can't wear their chain mail to the office. Coupon code "MLCDNEWS1403B" drops them to just $11, making this the cheapest pair of Delli Aldo men's boots we've ever seen.

Timberland Women's Earthkeepers Savin Hill Tall Boots
Store: Journeys
Price: $99.99 with free shipping
Lowest By: $32

Is It Worth It?: It may not be boot season anymore, but that doesn't mean you should turn down a great pair of tall boots on sale. Available in Black or Tobacco, the Timberland Earthkeepers Savin Hill boots have dropped $6 since our previous mention to the all-time-low price of $100. That's $32 under what you'd pay elsewhere and a very good price for these full-grain leather riding boots, which feature a removable anti-fatigue insole. They come in sizes 6 to 10.

Body Central Women's Flat Shoes
Store: Body Central
Price: From $5.24 via coupon code "SPRINGFREE" with free shipping Expires: March 24

Is It Worth It?: Always comfy regardless of whether they're dressy or casual, a great pair of flats can also cost a ton. Not so with the styles in this shoe sale at Body Central, where you can get select pairs for as little as $5.24 via coupon code "SPRINGFREE". The same coupon bags free shipping, making this tied as the best sale we've ever seen on these styles. For example, you can get the Body Central Women's Knot Front Ballet Flats in 12 colors for $7.48 after the coupon above, a $3 savings. Act fast though, because sizes are severely limited.

Marcy Bonebright is a features writer for Dealnews.com, where this article first appeared.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pensacola company offers discount caskets for the masses

<Online Dealsp>It's hard to budget for misfortune.

Unexpected car repairs and medical bills often are an unpleasant fact of life, but at least in a pinch the costs can be worked around or put off.

The funeral of a lost loved one can't wait, however, and families often end up digging themselves into debt to provide a decent burial. The staff of a new business, Pensacola Caskets, says it wants to make funeral costs more manageable by offering discounted coffins.

"A lot of people don't have $20,000 and $30,000 insurance policies to cover funeral services," said Ellison Bennett, a spokesman for the company. "We try to ease that burden a little bit."

Partners Bennett and businessman Jay Patel held the grand opening for Pensacola Caskets on Monday, and about two dozen people took a tour of the showroom at 3848 N. Davis Hwy.

The aim of the company was less about making money, and more about offering a service, Patel said.

Patel and Bennett smiled when someone at the grand opening asked the age-old question of smart shoppers everywhere, "So what's the catch?"

"There is no catch," Bennett said. "We came together because we want to give a service. ...We're telling the customers that even after you bury your loved one, you still have to keep living. We want people to put money back in their pockets, instead of in the ground."

There were about a dozen different caskets on display recently in a variety of colors, styles and thicknesses, with even more available online. The caskets are the same quality as those sold at funeral homes, but a fraction of the price, Bennett said.

"Normally, this casket would sell for $3,600," Bennett said, laying his hand on an 18-gauge, pink-and-white metal casket with pink roses. "We sell it for $1,795, which is basically our cost for the casket and shipping it here."

The caskets in the showroom range from about $1,000 to $3,500, with the majority falling between $1,500 and $2,000. All are metal and sealable with adjustable beds. They range from 16-gauge, the thickest, to 20-gauge, the thinnest.

Most of the caskets cost between a half and a third of what a customer would pay at a funeral home, Bennett said. Some online wholesalers offer prices comparable to Pensacola Caskets, but shipping costs often negate most of the savings.

The company accepts calls 24/7 and will deliver for free anywhere within 100 miles, including funeral homes. The business also offers payment plans.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Daily Troll

Met steals SAM superstar

Shocking announcement Friday morning from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met just stole Sandra Jackson-Dumont from the Seattle Art Museum. Jackson-Dumont has been with SAM since 2006 as its well-loved and well-respected Deputy Director for Education and Public Programs and adjunct curator for modern and contemporary art. "This is huge news and a huge loss for the city's cultural scene," says Crosscut's contributing arts editor Florangela Davila. "Facebook is going bonkers." More later. - M.B.

State budget deal

Lawmakers reached a budget agreement Thursday, paving the way for the Legislature to adjourn on time close to midnight. The agreement represents considerable compromise, adding extra money for schools but not nearly what Democrats and Gov. Jay Inslee wanted. Crosscut's John Stang will have full details on the budget and other last-day action. With the budget settled, no worries about the Legislature having to come back repeatedly like it did last year. We think. - J.C.

More time to fight over issues

With the budget deal out of the way, lawmakers left themselves a full half-day to fight over other issues. Among some of the ones that could provoke showdowns during the evening and night hours: controls on oil trains, preserving a fee on home-sale documents to help the homeless and requiring teacher evaluations to be partly based on student test scores. The test score measure is the state's last chance to prevent the loss of $40 million in federal education assistance. There's also a measure that could close medical marijuana dispensaries - forcing them to become part of the new state retail system. If that happens, expect plenty of smoke in the Legislature - and beyond. - J.C.

Bertha digs history

The state Department of Transportation says it has begun digging archeological holes to check for historical objects that could lie underground where workers will repair the stuck Bertha tunnel-boring machine. As Knute Berger wrote recently, the area near South Main Street conceivably holds considerable historical material. Crosscut's Bill Lucia has that story here. - J.C.

Promo Codes Prime gets exclusive

A price hike for Amazon Prime users is causing a stir in their members, Wall Street and Amazon's competitors. Amazon previously warned consumers of the rise in price, and ended up raising the new fee $20 to $99 a year, rather than an anticipated fee of as high as $119. According to GeekWire, there are mixed but fairly muted reactions among Prime members; competitor ShopRunner says it will offer a free shipping for a year to unhappy Amazon customers. GeekWire noted that at least one analyst predicts Amazon will have to add additional content to the service, with a streaming music service as one possibility. - H.W.

California lessons on wages?

The debate over the $15 minimum wage rages on. To many economists, the 61 percent increase in Seattle's minimum wage is unprecedented and unwise: it might force smaller businesses and non-profits to cut budgets/employees. Seattle Times' Lynn Thompson looks to other cities to inform the debate, finding that San Francisco and Santa Fe tell a different story. Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, holds that "you do not see a net decline in employment as a result of [their] minimum-wage ordinances." Such comparisons are undoubtedly complicated, which is why Mayor Ed Murray has assembled a 23-member committee of business, labor, and civic leaders to research the consequences of a $15 minimum wage in Seattle. The committee is expected to deliver a proposal to Murray by the end of April. - K.H.

2 media departures

After two and a half years at Seattle-based eco media source Grist, editor-in-chief Scott Rosenberg says that he is leaving the organization. The founder of Mediabugs.com and cofounder of Salon.com, Rosenberg spent most of his time at Grist as an executive editor; he will return to his Bay Area base and plans to write regularly on his blog Wordyard.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Be Wary of Online Deals for Over-the-Counter Drugs

Sounds like a great online deal - over the counter drugs at deeply discounted prices. But buying those pills might be dangerous to your health.

Pepcid... Tylenol... Advil... these piles of pill boxes look like they belong in the stock room of your local drug store.

In reality all of these over the counter drugs were stolen in an elaborate shoplifting ring.

David Arminio, US Postal Inspector, said, "Shop lifters will go into stores. They will steal the product. Ultimately they will sell it to a middle man..."

That person will then try to sell the product online. Sometimes for 30-percent less than retail stores.

But this is a crime that poses a real physical danger.

"A lot of these products have temperature requirements, they have to be stored within a certain degree, when they are stolen they are either stored in big warehouses, cars in hot weather," explained Arminio.

Postal inspectors say the criminals involved in these schemes are focused on money-- not temperatures or expiration dates.

"If someone consumes a product that is possibly spoiled they can get sick and one of our main concerns was a lot of products in this scheme were baby formula," said Arminio.

Some advice--be wary of Deal Now with price tags far below typical market value.

"When it is that much cheaper than the store, you kind of have to wonder 'where is that product from?' No one has more buying power than the National Retail chain," Arminio said.

The suspect in this case were discovered from leads provided by some retail stores and then developed with undercover purchases made by postal inspectors.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NFL rookies who got short end of new CBA deal now close to payday

By Dave Campbell, Associated Press

Posted: 03/07/2014 05:06:53 PM PST

Updated: 03/07/2014 05:07:02 PM PST

With 36 1/2 sacks over his first three seasons, plus five more over four playoff games, Houston defensive end J.J. Watt has quickly become one of the NFL's premier pass rushers.

The mega-contract to match his market value likely won't materialize as fast.

At the quarter mark of the new collective bargaining agreement the financial picture for both sides is still forming, but Watt's case is a sign of one potentially significant advantage for the owners.

At not quite 25 years old, Watt would probably prompt offers of $100 million deals on the open market this month if he were eligible for it, and become the NFL's richest defensive player. Watt has exhibited the work ethic of an overachieving former walk-on at Wisconsin, the speed to match his prototypical size, and the durability to maximize his never-more-important skill of pressuring the quarterback. He has not missed a game as a pro.

Timing is everything, though, for the first draft class of the current CBA. Watt isn't even in the top 30 money makers at his position. While the Texans can now negotiate an extension with the 11th overall pick from 2011, the only obvious immediate motivation to do so would be for good will toward a vital player.

[ 2011 NFL Draft board]

Texans general manager Rick Smith, asked last month at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis about Watt's status, said no such contract talks have begun.

"This being first year that those deals can open up, I think you will see any number of positions that clubs will take," Smith said. "Again, we are in the process of determining how we are going to handle that as well. It's an important piece. It's an element that obviously needs to be thought through and carefully considered."

Owners sought to stem the soar of signing bonuses for high draft picks, and their allies in those labor talks were veterans bothered by staggering contracts given to guys yet to play an NFL game.

"The biggest part is getting those rookie contracts under control, and that's why you see so much movement in the first round," Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman said, adding: "No one ever wanted to get into the top five because of the financial commitment. You were just stuck."

Players approved the rookie wage scale to allocate more money under the salary cap for veterans. They received unrestricted free agency after four years in return and got the league to agree to minimum annual spending. For first-round picks, however, the owners secured a big win with this portion of Article 7, Section 7, of the CBA:

"A club has the unilateral right to extend from four years to five years the term of any Rookie Contract of a player selected in the first round of the Draft (the "Fifth-Year Option"). To do so, the Club must give written notice to the player after the final regular-season game of the player's third season but prior to May 3 of the following League Year (i.e., year four of the contract)."

Under the fifth-year salary formula, Watt would make about $5.5 million, an under-market salary for his resume. Teams also can use the franchise tag to further stave off free agency should a player balk at an extension offer. No renegotiations are allowed for the first three years of any rookie Discount.

The fifth-year options are guaranteed only in case of injury, so a team could pick that up now and still cut the player before the 2015 season without owing him any more money. This will make for an intriguing dynamic over the next few months around the league as teams weigh their options.

Publicly, nobody has griped yet. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been a bargain for the Panthers with a contract worth half as much as the top pick in the 2010 draft, quarterback Sam Bradford, whose career in St. Louis has been beset by injuries. Newton has said he's not worried about the extension.

Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. Green, the fourth selection in 2011, has acknowledged he's not in a rush.

"It'll be interesting to see," Spielman said. "If you do just do the option, why not? Potentially, what does it hurt? You've got a guy under contract, and then you go from there."

That means even the Vikings, who plan to add a veteran quarterback and draft a rookie, too, with Christian Ponder no longer in the long-term plans, could still pick up the option on Ponder, one of the biggest busts from that 2011 first round.

Seattle general manager John Schneider's ability to maintain the roster of the Super Bowl champions will be boosted by cap-friendly salaries carried by several Seahawks stars drafted in the last three years. Shrewd mid-round drafting was a gold mine in the old CBA, too. But while quarterback Russell Wilson is eligible for unrestricted free agency sooner than a third-round pick would've been previously, the Seahawks aren't even allowed to touch his contract until after his third year.

"It's a big deal for us. We've been able to acquire other players, and they were definitely players we were able to acquire that helped us get over the top this year," Schneider said. "It really is what it is. Those are the rules that are set up, and we have to abide by them."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Internet radio services: iTunes Radio v Pandora

Digital Life News

Fresh but frustrating: iTunes Radio.

Online radio stations, tailored for you, could forever change the way you listen to music.

Neither Apple's iTunes Radio nor pandora app let you listen to an album from start to end. Instead you nominate an artist, track or genre and they generate a mixed playlist of similar artists.

iTunes Radio is hand-curated by Apple staff, while Pandora relies on music-matching algorithms. As a result iTunes Radio features a range of Australian stations such as Hot Today, Hot Alternative, Workout and Unwind. You'll also find the iTunes Top 40 and a hit list drawn from Australian Twitter feeds. Dig through Pandora and you'll find Australian custom playlists, but they're not quite as fresh and dynamic.

Matchmaker: Pandora.

The tables turn when it comes to creating stations based on artists, tracks or genres. Apple's hand-picked recommendations offer an eclectic mix of similar artists, fine if you're looking for a general playlist, but frustrating if you're trying to home in. Too many songs feel out of place and you'll spend a long time approving and discarding before you find a good balance.

Pandora also lets you give tracks the thumbs up or down, but its music-matching does a better job of style matching. Choose a song such as The Doors' Roadhouse Blues and iTunes Radio plays a range of '60s classics such as Creedence Clearwater Revival. Meanwhile, Pandora studies the song and goes in search of more Blues tracks from the likes of John Lee Hooker.

iTunes radio comes via the iTunes mobile or desktop app. Pandora plays in any desktop browser with apps for Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry.

The verdict

iTunes Radio does a good job of creating mixed playlists of songs you love, but Pandora does a better job of paring down a playlist when chasing a certain sound or feel.

iTunes Radio
Free ($35 per year removes ads)
Free ($US36 per year removes ads)