Thoughts about media in Canada

How to Kill your Brand: Analogy of a Bad On-Site Customer Experience

Sometimes I want to cry. Or to break something. Or both.

For instance, I hate when the blame is put on the media placement when a campaign performs poorly & I clearly know it is the creative that fails miserably. And most of the time, I can’t prove it’s not because of media. Therefore, it is media’s fault de facto. And then I want to break things.

By the way, this can be fixed by zero targeting and compare to last year’s zero targeting or simply to your other placements.

Sometimes it IS the media fault. And then I want to cry.

Sometimes, it is not media nor creative related. It’s because the destination website sucks. I just had something happen to me today that describes perfectly how a Bad Site Experience can hurt your Brand.


Disclaimer #1: The opinions below are not allegations. They are opinions, based on personal experience that I share publicly for education purpose and is not intended to hurt the companies mentioned.

Disclaimer #2: The opinions expressed here are mine and not those of my employer. It is on the company’s blog as it aims at discussing a common issue related to my field of work.


So I’m on a plane yesterday, heading to NYC for an Analytics Summit (my life is hard, I know). I look at the magazines at hand. One is SkyMall. While I’m expecting over priced bling bling watches, I’m quite surprised about the quantity of different items they have to offer (ok still lots of bling bling, but whatever). Something catches my eye. My girlfriend will just love it and I decide I’ll order it later from the office.

So during a break, I go on site and proceed into the conversion funnel / shopping cart. They’re actually very good and I almost buy more stuff I don’t actually need. But then, the shipping fees are very high and discourage me from buying. That’s fine. Understandable, the thing is heavy. I decide to see if I can get a better deal elsewhere.

I find out SkyMall’s supplier for the item I want.

PS to my girlfriend: You are not allowed to look at these 2 sites until Christmas

I just hate the site. FAQ hard to locate, mobile supposedly friendly (but not really), visually unattractive, hiccup-ing shopping cart and so on…

But… they don’t seem to be charging shipping cost. A $52 discount. It sounds wrong, but I can’t find “shipping policy & rates” section so I think “meh, they’re going to add shipping cost at the last minute in the shopping cart funnel. That’s ok, I guess.”

So I proceed with checkout and I’m annoyed because they have PayPal but for US residents only. Sigh… ok

I complete the purchase, get confirmation, get my invoice receipt by email. It clearly shows: “Shipping $0”

Wow… nice!

Too good to be true right?


So this morning, I receive an email from the company:

Dear Mr. Thibault,

Thank you for your order.  The cost of shipping is $52.54. Please let us know if you wish to proceed with the order.

Wait. What?

So I write back to them. While I usually am very diplomatic in these situations, I’m pissed. Had I known yesterday, I would’ve asked for them to prepare the package as they seem to be based in NY (somehow I just can’t confirm that information… can’t find it on the site… argh..) and I would’ve picked it up somehow before flying back. Now it’s too late, because they used a very poor business practice.

So I write to them and tell them I expect a discount for the poor practice and the waste of my time. They reply promptly with the paragraph on their site that explains how the shipping fee process works.

We ship anywhere in the world. For orders outside the USA, shipping and processing costs are not added in until after the weight of the order is determined. For this reason, the shipping and processing cost on your Web order will show “0.00”. We accept only credit card or money orders drawn on U.S. Funds for foreign shipments. 

I have to copy paste that paragraph in Google to find out where on the site it was. The paragraph just above it relates to “Shipping in Canada” and doesn’t mention the explanation above, so I would not have read the policy anyway.

So I’m thinking… ok, I guess they just suck at Conversion Funnel efficiency. I guess they can’t do like their own distributor and state the $52 up front. The shipping indeed will be expensive for them. Maybe I should just pay the fee.

Or Maybe not.

I have a nice little addon to my Chrome Browser. Ghostery

What Ghostery does is tell you what trackers there are on a website and lets you block data transmission if you want to. I don’t care about data transmission. I use it because it’s a very neat little tool to make sure your Conversion Tags are implemented on site properly.

So I see 3 trackers.

McAfee Secure. That’s good, helps prevent fraud and whatnot.

Google Analytics. Ok, they DO measure their conversions to a certain extent. They’re not complete noobs. They likely don’t suck that much at Conversion Optimization. This annoys me a little.

LivePerson. Hmm… What’s this? Right away (the site is quite well designed), I locate what I want to look at.

Industry Solutions -> Retail

Here’s the content on that page:

Increase website conversion rates, order values and customer satisfaction
As shoppers spend more and more time and money online, there’s vast opportunity to transform your website from a place to learn about your products into an increasingly compelling sales channel. Forrester Research predicts that online sales will increase by at least 10% annually through 2015, but also reports that almost 60% of Internet users are dissatisfied with their experience of shopping online and even more regularly abandon shopping carts.
LivePerson solutions help retailers take advantage of the upward trend while avoiding the pitfalls. By optimizing how you connect with your online customers with LivePerson, you can sell to more of your website visitors, raise the average value of the orders they place there, and keep them coming back to buy more from your site.

So I went back to pissed mode.

Really? You guys work with a company that improves your Conversion Funnel?

Therefore I highly doubt that this is accidental. They must be aware? Are they, on purpose, avoiding putting shipping fees in the shopping cart process (Skymall does, everyone does, it’s not rocket science) not to discourage people to buy on their site? Did they figure out that it generates more sales uplift than it creates order cancellations?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they’re well intended. But it doesn’t change one fact: I’m having a terrible Customer Experience, and it’s hurting their Brand.

As a Brand, you should be aware of the frustration you are creating by using practices like this and you should work on fixing it.

So I wrote back to them, again requesting a substantial discount and explaining to them that I had a bad experience because of their Conversion mechanics & even more so because I work in the industry of digital optimization and I’m very irritated to see that they deal with a partner that is meant to prevent this kind of irritant.

My case is being escalated to management. Will I win? Maybe, maybe not. That’s not the point…

The point is: I think they will end up losing, by dealing with me, much more than $52.54 in labor costs alone. Leave alone the discount I’m asking for, the more than likely cancelled sale, the fact that I won’t be a returning visitor and the bad publicity this generates.The point is: Customer Experience is crucial. If you’re going to send people to your site (why would you have a site otherwise?), and you don’t work on making it a good experience, you endanger your Brand.

The point is: You pay big money to send someone to your site that is going to be a negative ambassador of your Brand.

Don’t endanger your Brand.

Analyze your Site.

Listen to Customers Feedback.

Fix your Site.

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