5 Rules of Social Media Optimization (SMO)

For years now, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for websites has
been honed into a fine art with entire companies devoting considerable
effort to defining best practices and touting the value of SEO for
raising a site’s performance on organic search listings.  While I
believe in the power of SEO, there is a new offering we have started
providing to clients which we call Social Media Optimization
(SMO).  The concept behind SMO is simple: implement changes to
optimize a site so that it is more easily linked to, more highly
visible in social media searches on custom search engines (such as
Technorati), and more frequently included in relevant posts on blogs,
podcasts and vlogs.  Here are 5 rules we use to help guide our
thinking with conducting an SMO for a client’s website:

  1. Increase your linkability – This is the first
    and most important priority for websites.  Many sites are “static”
    – meaning they are rarely updated and used simply for a
    storefront.  To optimize a site for social media, we need to
    increase the linkability of the content.  Adding a blog is a great
    step, however there are many other ways such as creating white papers
    and thought pieces, or even simply aggregating content that exists elsewhere into a useful format.
  2. Make tagging and bookmarking easy – Adding content
    features like quick buttons to “add to” are one way to make
    the process of tagging pages easier, but we go beyond this, making sure
    pages include a list of relevant tags, suggested notes for a link
    (which come up automatically when you go to tag a site), and making
    sure to tag our pages first on popular social bookmarking sites
    (including more than just the homepage).
  3. Reward inbound links – Often used as a barometer
    for success of a blog (as well as a website), inbound links are
    paramount to rising in search results and overall rankings.  To
    encourage more of them, we need to make it easy and provide clear
    rewards.  From using Permalinks to recreating Similarly, listing
    recent linking blogs on your site provides the reward of visibility for
    those who link to you
  4. Help your content travel – Unlike much of SEO, SMO
    is not just about making changes to a site.  When you have content
    that can be portable (such as PDFs, video files and audio files),
    submitting them to relevant sites will help your content travel
    further, and ultimately drive links back to your site.   
  5. Encourage the mashup – In a world of co-creation, it pays to be more open about letting others use your content (within reason).  YouTube’s
    idea of providing code to cut and paste so you can imbed videos from
    their site has fueled their growth.  Syndicating your content
    through RSS also makes it easy for others to create mashups that can drive traffic or augment your content.

There are many other “rules” and techniques that we are starting to
uncover as this idea gets more sophisticated.  In the meantime we
are always on the lookout for new ideas in Social Media Optimization to
encourage even better thinking.  Perhaps we may even see the rise
of entire groups or agencies devoted to SMO in the future …

Update (8/13/06): Jeremiah Owyang has added Rules 6 and 7

Update (08/15/06): Cameron Olthuis has added Rules 8, 9, 10, and 11

Update (08/16/06): Loren Baker has added Rules 12 and 13

Update (08/17/06): Lee Odden has added Rules 14, 15 and 16

Learn Notes

Express pay may be the way

According to a 2005 Forrester
survey, 43 percent of U.S. online consumers rely on PayPal’s services.
Of these shoppers, 80 percent say they are more likely to buy from a
merchant that offers PayPal, and these are shoppers that merchants
desire. Sixty percent of PayPal users are high-net-worth individuals,
ages 35 to 64, and 75 percent are college educated.

Checkout the competition

PayPal’s overwhelming market share is likely to diminish with the introduction of Google Checkout (
Like PayPal, Google Checkout offers a checkout process that makes
online shopping faster, more convenient, and more secure for online
shoppers. Google Checkout allows shoppers to complete transactions
faster by entering their login information and avoiding the hassle of
filling out multiple forms.

Like PayPal, Google Checkout improves a shopper’s security by
concealing the buyer’s credit card number and providing reimbursement
for unauthorized purchases. Google Checkout also lets shoppers choose

Learn Notes

The Order Process Tested

How can we improve? How can we simplify the online buying experience? To answer that question we need to examine 9 key principles.

What are the 9 principles of an effective order process?

  1. Track the customer’s buying experience.
  2. Avoid surprising the customer with negative information.
  3. Help the customer understand.
  4. Save the customer time.
  5. Give the customer options.
  6. Help the customer feel safe.
  7. Incentivize the customer to continue.
  8. Help the customer select everything they need.
  9. Solve the customer’s credit card problems.

So these are the principles, but how do you apply
them? We have prepared a list of 29 ways to improve your order process.
We know that the average merchant cannot implement all of these ideas,
but we suggest that you take time to consider each point.

How can we track the customer’s buying experience?

This is one of the MOST significant improvements you can make to the order process.

IMPROVEMENT 1: Set up a form that
notifies you the moment a customer begins the order process. If
possible, the form should collect the buyers contact information BEFORE
allowing them to proceed.

Visit the resource section of this report to see an HTML sample from the Journal.

————————————–Sample Step 1 Form

> Step 1 of 3

A. Tell us where to email your reports:


B. Please provide customer service with your phone number. This number is used ONLY if there is a problem completing your order.


We promise to protect your privacy! See our POLICY.

Here is a brief note Regarding Customer Support:

Dear Dr. McGlaughlin:

THANK YOU! I want to tell you how
much I appreciate your personal (and very timely!) attention to my
problems. I have to run right now, but just wanted to tell you,
immediately, how much of a difference your personal touch made to me in
cementing my interest in your site/research products.

Must run,

Kerin 🙂

——————————————–End Sample

The wording of this form helps to persuade the customer to provide the requested information. It is effective because:

  1. It indicates to the length of the order process
  2. It gives the buyer a specific reason to cooperate.
  3. It promises to protect the buyer’s privacy.
  4. It reassures the customer with a note regarding the quality of customer service.

This form might be further improved by adding a “Shop with confidence message.”
that is designed to resolve any latent doubts. It should emphasize the
guarantee, security, return, privacy, and shipping policies.

When you notice that a customer has not completed the order, contact them immediately. This enables you to:

  1. Save the order, by assisting with credit card problems, answering questions, or helping resolve the buyer’s hesitancy.
  2. (and)
    Discover any errors or problems with your order process. This is
    invaluable information that can be used to correct your system.

Merchant C, in our test, was able to save 18% of their orders with this improvement.

But how can you approach an “almost buyer” without giving him the impression you are attempting to sell him?

Here is a sample telephone script:

——————————–Sample Telephone Script


This is _________ with customer
support for We noticed that you had some difficulty
completing your order. We just wanted to call and see if there is any
way we can assist you…

——————————————–End Sample

Here is a sample email template:

———————————-Sample Email Template


Thanks for visiting

We noticed that you did not complete your order, and we are just curious as to what happened.

Did you change your mind, or did you experience difficulties with our system? 🙂

We’d love to hear from you. It helps us to improve our service.

Thanks for your consideration.

Customer Support For:

——————————————–End Sample

How can we avoid surprising the customer with negative information?

Negative surprises intensify customer frustration. We need to be very careful not promise anything we cannot deliver.

IMPROVEMENT 2: State any order limitations (i.e. available to U.S. customers only) early in the process.

IMPROVEMENT 3: Notify the customer of any inventory shortage before they proceed with the order.

IMPROVEMENT 4: Help the customer anticipate shipping costs. Do not surprise them with hidden or excessive charges.

Why do buyers abandon their order? 24% of the time,
it is because shipping and handling costs are higher than they
expected. (Stat provided by NPD Group and BizRate.Com)

IMPROVEMENT 5:Tell the customer how long it will take to complete the order.

At MEC, we have determined the average order time to be 74 seconds. We place that information beneath the order button.

How can we save the customer time?

IMPROVEMENT 6: Position the link to the cart so that it is easy to find for a customer who wants to review the items currently selected.

IMPROVEMENT 7: Minimize the number of required fields. The order form should not only be short and easy; it should “feel” short and easy.

IMPROVEMENT 8: Do not ask customers
to provide information that can be automatically collected. This
includes dates, or data, which can be propagated from other fields.

IMPROVEMENT 9: Remember the customer’s contact information so that subsequent orders require less manual entry.

How can we help the customer understand?

IMPROVEMENT 10: Carefully label
text fields so that the user clearly understands the required
information. Use terminology appropriate to your entire customer base.

For example, the term “state” is appropriate in the USA but not in Canada, where the word “province” is more suitable.

IMPROVEMENT 11: Whenever a form field is sensitive to formatting (like a cc expiration date). provide a drop-down menu.

IMPROVEMENT 12: Place extra notes
and instructions near “problem” areas on your form, i.e. the cc
expiration date field or the email address field.

You can find a link to an excellent example in the resource section of this report.

IMPROVEMENT 13: Use pop-up menus (judiciously) to provide extra clarification without cluttering the appearance of your form.

You can find a link to our preferred script in the resource section of this report.

IMPROVEMENT 14: Make it easy for the reader to determine which fields are required and which fields are optional.

IMPROVEMENT 15: Guide the customer’s eye-path through the form. There are at least 5 ways:

  1. Alpha/Numeric Symbols (numbering the sections)
  2. Size
  3. Shape
  4. Position
  5. Color

IMPROVEMENT 16: Help the customer correct their errors with CGI messages that are clear, simple and polite.

According to marketing expert, Marty Foley: “The
quality of the error message often means the difference between a
successful purchase and a failed attempt”. (*3)

Marty cites an example from eToys: (*4)

eToys’ error message creates a good customer experience for three reasons:

  1. It is written politely: “Oops! Before we can go on, please see if you can fix this.”
  2. It is communicated clearly: The message is displayed in bright red text, beside a large graphic.
  3. It is worded simply: The message clearly explains how to fix the error and continue with the purchase.

eToys could improve the message further by moving the credit card number field closer to the error message itself.

Jeffrey Eisenburg, of adds, “When
composing these messages, take the blame for the error; don’t let the
customer feel it was their fault.”

How can we give the customer options?

IMPROVEMENT 17: Offer multiple
payment options. This means multiple credit card types; it also means
multiple payment methods. i.e. electronic check, or “pay by phone”.

IMPROVEMENT 18: Offer multiple order options. i.e. web, fax, phone.

IMPROVEMENT 19: Enable the customer
to change the item details in their shopping cart. Make certain that
the cart automatically recalculates, tax, shipping, etc.

How can we help the customer feel safe?

IMPROVEMENT 20: Assure the customer that their information will be kept confidential.

Bryan Eisenberg, (Jeffrey’s brother) of, recommends this simple phrase: “We value your
privacy.” You can read more in his article “The ABCS’s of GTC and POA”.
There is a link in the resource section of this report.

CAVEAT: Be careful that you do not send the buyer away from your order page to read your privacy statement.

IMPROVEMENT 21: Use an SSL encrypted server, but be careful to design your form so as to minimize secure server warning messages.

IMPROVEMENT 22: Place credibility indicators on the order page. These include:

  1. Certifications from a sanctioning body or association i.e. the Better Business Bureau
  2. A testimonial from a customer who has had a good experience with your support team

IMPROVEMENT 23: Reassure the customer while they are waiting for their transaction to clear.

We recommend using a Javascript submit button that
can generate a message. Tell the customer that their order is
processing and ask them to please be patient.

You can find a link to our preferred script in the resource section of this report.

IMPROVEMENT 24: Confirm all orders immediately. You should do this in two ways:

  1. With a thank you confirmation screen
  2. With a follow-up email

IMPROVEMENT 25: Place your toll free support number on every page of the order process.

How can we incentivize the customer to continue?

IMPROVEMENT 26: Surprise the customer with a bonus that is referenced only on the order form.

It is important to recognize key leverage points in
the buying process. These are the times you need to provide extra value
or assurance.

Here is an example from an order form used by Marty Foley:

——————————————-Sample Incentive

New Customer Bonus: 100 Extra Subscribers

We know that a certain percentage
who give List Builder a test run will be happy to use it over and over,
so we’re giving away 100 free subscribers to new List Builder clients,
just for trying it out. (Since this offer is just a test, we’re not
sure how long it’ll last.)

If you’ve never used our List
Builder service before, you can claim your 100 extra subscribers by
entering the words Trial Bonus: 100 in the Promotional Code field of
the web page that appears after this Order Form is submitted. (It may
be a good idea to write down Trial Bonus: 100 now on a piece of paper,
so you don’t forget to enter it on the next page.)

———————————————–End Sample

How can we help the customer select everything they need with their purchase?

IMPROVEMENT 27: Use the final
stages of the order process to offer your buyer ancillary products.
This simple connection from a present purchase to a potential purchase
can increase your revenues by as much as 30%. We may dedicate a future issue to this point. (*5)

How can we solve the customer’s credit card problem?

IMPROVEMENT 28: Note the error code
generated by the payment processor, and provide the customer with
specific instructions for correcting the problem…

This effort can be combined with the point outlined in IMPROVEMENT 1.

Here is the list of errors referenced earlier in the report:

0005 (The transaction was declined without explanation by the card issuer.)

0013 (The transaction amount is greater than the maximum the issuer allows.)

0014 (The issuer indicates that this card is not valid.)

0043 (The card has been reported stolen.)

0051 (The credit limit for this account has been exceeded.)

0054 (The card is expired.)

1015 (The credit card number was invalid.)

1511 (Duplicate transaction attempt.)

1899 (Timeout waiting for host response.)

2075 (Approval from the card issuer’s voice center is required to process this transaction.)

Here is a sample email template:

———————————-Sample Email Template


We noticed that you experienced
some difficulty with your order and we have discovered a small problem
with your credit card. It is easy to correct.

  1. Just click on this link:
    (Insert link to order form)
  2. Now change the…
    (Insert recommended fix).

If you have any questions, you may contact: (Insert toll free phone number)

Thanks for your trust.

Customer Support
(insert company name)

P.S. We want to say thank you for taking the extra
time to complete your order. So… we’d like to offer you (insert extra

———————————————End Sample

IMPROVEMENT 29: Design your cart so
that it will save an uncompleted order. If a customer fails to complete
a transaction, send an email reminder with an extra incentive.


How Many Holes Are in Your Bucket?

In a recent article, I explained how once a user arrives on a Web site, the conversion process becomes a “sales funnel.”
At each step of the sales process, a site loses users. We use the leaky
bucket metaphor for a site that doesn’t successfully convert visitors
into buyers. Traffic fills the bucket but leaks out of holes. You need
to plug as many of these holes as possible.

Unfortunately, most people measure conversion
by the complete macro-action they want users to take (e.g., how many
people made a purchase, subscribed, registered, etc.). Every one of
these actions is composed of a series of smaller actions. Each
micro-action, or omission of one, is a potential hole in the bucket.

Take Microsoft.
Assume we need to get people to download Internet Explorer 6 — the
macro-action. At present, the top image in the center column of its
home page has the following text: “Download Internet Explorer 6 now.
Experience the latest in private, reliable and flexible Internet
browsing.” Our ultimate goal is to get Jane Consumer to download and
install the browser on her PC. Here’s an outline of the necessary

  1. She finds the link for IE 6 on the home page.
  2. She understands it.
  3. She clicks on it.
  4. From the main Internet Explorer page, she chooses to download immediately, order a CD, or learn more.
  5. If she chooses to learn more, the goal still is to get her back on track to download or order a CD.
  6. If she then chooses to download IE 6:
    1. Her first action is to select which language she wants.
    2. Then she must click on the link to start downloading the setup file.
  7. If she instead chooses to order a CD:
    1. She must decide which CD she wants to order (there are 2 options).
    2. Once the action of choosing the CD is complete, she is taken to step one of the form.
    3. From there, she must continue filling out the form till the order is complete.

That’s a lot of micro-actions! Imagine measuring the drop-off of
activity every step of the way. How do you plug the holes in the leaky
bucket? First, understand and account for every step in the process.
Second, design effective calls to action.

page on your site should focus on getting the visitor to take an action
— even if that action is simply to move on to the next step in the
process. Conversion rates suffer when sites fail to drive customer
micro-actions and maintain momentum through the sales path. Once the path is defined and each of the micro-actions described, you can work on optimizing the most effective call to action for each step.

Back to
Microsoft. On the home page, there’s a link: “Download Internet
Explorer 6 now. Experience the latest in private, reliable and flexible
Internet browsing.” This call to action is done well. Why? Simple. The
sentence contains an active verb (“download”) plus an implied benefit
(“private, reliable and flexible Internet browsing”) Action-benefit
interactions work quite effectively. That’s why they’ve been used by
marketers for over three decades. Take the Columbia House Music Club
pitch: “Join the Music Club: 12 CDs for Free!” Action to benefit.
Energetic. Engaging. Compelling. The technique works particularly well
with people who scan information, namely, Web users. Using well-placed blue, underlined text links within the page attracts attention.

rules apply equally when you want a visitor to fill out a form. Display
the form (a call to action itself) and specify the benefits. And specify the benefits at the point of action. Finally, when visitors accept a call to action, their expectations must be satisfied. Deliver the benefits!

How well
have you mapped the actions you want your prospect to take? How well is
she guided, step by step? Are you letting her slip through any of those


20 Tips to Minimize Shopping Cart Abandonment

research shows up to 75 percent of shoppers abandon their online
shopping carts before completing the checkout process. I’m not sure how
comfortable I am with that statistic, but shopping cart abandonment is
a significant problem. Numerous factors influence this rate, but I’ll address those that move the lever in the right direction this week and next.

  • How many steps are in your checkout process?
    This is usually what most people focus on. Our clients’ checkout
    processes range from one to seven steps. We’ve discovered the number of
    steps is not all that critical. One client was able to bring the
    checkout process from six steps down to one; we found no correlation
    between reduction of steps and reduction in abandonment rate. Once
    people found what they came for, they found the time to check out no
    matter how many steps were involved.

    Should you change the number of steps? Yes! But if you don’t have an
    inexpensive and simple way to test, it may not be worth the time,
    effort, and expense of reducing the number of steps in the checkout
    process. Try some of these other ideas first.

  • Include a progress indicator on each checkout page. No
    matter how many steps in your checkout process, let customers know
    where they are in the process. Number the steps, and label the task
    clearly for each step. Give shoppers an opportunity to review what they
    did in previous steps and a way to return to their current step if they
    go back.

  • Provide a link back to the product. When an item is
    placed in the shopping cart, include a link back to the product page.
    Shoppers can then easily jump back to make sure they selected the right
    item. I was shopping for a printer and wanted to know how many and what
    color cartridges come with the printer. It wasn’t obvious where I
    should click to review the product description. I had to navigate using
    my back button until I got my questions answered.

  • Add pictures inside the basket. Placing a thumbnail image of the product increases conversions by as much as 10 percent.
  • Provide shipping costs early in the process. If
    possible, provide an estimated cost while visitors browse. They want to
    buy but want the answers to all their questions when they want them.
    Total cost is one of those critical questions. Also, if the shipping
    information is the same as the billing information, include a checkbox
    to automatically fill in the same information.

  • Show stock availability on the product page. Shoppers
    should not have to wait until checkout to learn if a product is out of
    stock. Also, give an estimated delivery date. Deal with the “I want it
    now” mentality, and let them know when they should expect to get their

  • Make it obvious what to click next. Include a prominent
    “Next Step” or “Continue With Checkout” button on each checkout page.
    Make the button you want them to click next the most obvious. One top
    50 e-tailer mistakenly placed its “remove from cart” and checkout
    buttons next to each other. Neither stood out. Many people ended up
    clearing their carts. When they went to check out, they found nothing
    in there and immediately abandoned the site in frustration.

  • Make editing the shopping cart easy. It should be
    simple to change quantities or options, or delete an item from the
    shopping cart. If a product comes in multiple sizes or colors, make it
    easy to select or change values in the shopping cart.

  • Make it your fault. If information is missing or filled
    out incorrectly during checkout, give a meaningful error message that’s
    obvious to see. It should clearly tell visitors what needs to be
    corrected. The tone should be the system was unable to understand what
    was entered, not the visitor made a foolish mistake.

  • Show them you’re a real entity. People’s concerns start
    to flare up during checkout. Let them know you’re a real company by
    giving full contact info during the checkout process.

  • Offer the option to call.
    If visitors have a problem during checkout or feel uncomfortable using
    a credit card online, offer a phone number. Devote a dedicated
    toll-free line for tracking purposes. Also offer a printable order form
    so customers can complete orders by fax, if they prefer.

  • Make the most of cross- and up-sell. It isn’t always
    effective to up-sell on a product detail page; sometimes this is best
    left for checkout. Recommend items based on what’s already in the
    shopping cart. Look at how sells flowers and up-sells a vase, versus how does. Try interstitials or pop-ups to capture up- and cross-sell options.

  • It’s about new customers. Make the checkout process
    even easier for new visitors than registered customers. Acquiring new
    customers is much harder than selling to the loyal ones. Registered
    customers will find a way to sign in (if they don’t have a cookie).
    Don’t position registration and log-in as an obstacle between new
    visitors and checkout.

  • Add third-party reinforcement messages. VeriSign,
    Better Business Bureau, and credit card logos either greatly boost
    conversions or at least keep them neutral. In other words, they can’t
    hurt. A HACKER SAFE
    rating certification helps clients across the board, especially those
    with larger-than-average order sizes. Its maker, ScanAlert, claims the
    certification can increase average orders 15.7 percent.

  • Handle coupon codes with care. Don’t decrease your conversion rate90 percent, as my friend Brad did. Think carefully about where you present the option to enter codes and how you label it.
  • Offer a price guarantee. If you sell name-brand
    products and your store is price competitive or truly provides better
    value, try a “Lowest Price Match” guarantee.

  • Provide multiple payment options. Follow Wal-Mart’s lead and add more payment options. Allow visitors to pay by credit card, check, PayPal, or any other means you can.
  • Reassure customers at the right time and place. How
    often is critical information buried in tiny type at the bottom of the
    page or deep within a site? In a brick-and-mortar store, it’s fairly
    easy to find product warranty information. Offer customers this same
    opportunity online, at the point of action (POA). Link to product
    warranties, shipping costs, return policies, testimonials, even
    optional extended service plans. Or, provide the information in a
    pop-up. Make the best use of your assurances at the right time and place.

  • Track your mistakes. Develop a system to keep you
    notified of errors during the checkout process. One client noticed a
    portion of his visitors had cookies turned off. He developed a
    cookie-free checkout option. His conversion rate and sales jumped.

  • Use an exit survey. If a visitor abandons checkout,
    offer an incentive to complete an exit survey. She may tell you why she
    didn’t complete that order.

Now you
have 20 different ways to reduce shopping cart abandonment. Every site
is different, of course, with its own environment and issues. Don’t
obsess about abandonment rates. Many people use shopping carts as place
holders for considering items. Help those who want to check out and may
have questions, doubts, or obstacles holding them back.

Some of
these tips will result in dramatic improvements, others may not do much
at all. Test each one that’s appropriate. Improve conversion rate one
step at a time.


Volusion 1 page checkout


How to Avoid Abandonment of Your Online Payment Page

First, we ask customers to provide only their first name, email
address, and shipping country on Step 1 of our two-step checkout
process. We ask for country because we want to show the total price,
including the cost of shipping, upfront. When the customer selects a
country, the shipping price gets automatically updated underneath the
product cost.

The customer can then click on their preferred payment method to
complete the checkout process. In this next step they are asked to
provide the rest of their details including their shipping address and
billing information.

We are careful not to ask for too much personal information and get only what is absolutely necessary.

Between these two steps, something interesting is happening in the background.

We keep track of the customer’s first name and email address submitted during Step 1.

If they arrive at Step 2 and then abandon the cart, we still have
their email address and first name captured. If the purchase is not
completed within 3 hours, the customer is sent a personalized email by
our autoresponder reminding them of their incomplete purchase.

The email politely asks if we could help them complete their order,
as well as clarifies some common misconceptions about the product and
fears about ordering online. We also provide a link back to the
shopping cart for them to complete their order.


Thanks to this simple email, our sales jumped by 4.5%. Sending this
email makes customers feel reassured and more confident about their
purchase, and it helps our bottom line without any additional

The email template we use is below.

From: Customer Support 

To: Jacob
Date: 11-5-2005 

SUBJECT: Jacob, Did something go wrong?

Hi Jacob,

My name is Jill, and I write the ’Internet Marketing For
Your Online Business’ bi-monthly Newsletter. I also provide
support for users of our website.

I noticed that you tried to order the Online Payment Systems home study course, but did not complete the process.

Did anything go wrong and is there anything I can do to help?

There are six commonly asked questions we get about ordering the
course – just in case you had any of these questions before ordering, I
have added the answers below.

You can always send me an email if you have any questions or need further assistance. I look forward to hearing form you.


Jill Magso
Customer Happiness Manager

The Six Most Common Questions about the Online Payment Course.

1. What other options do I have if I choose not to order using the secure online order form?

{answer comes here}

2. Can I get the home study course if I live outside the US/Canada?

{answer comes here}

3. How long does it take to receive my home study course?

{answer comes here}

4. Should I get the Online Payment home study course or attend an Online Payment seminar instead?

{answer comes here}

5. Do you have the home study course in a different language?

{answer comes here}

6. Can I buy the course directly from the publisher?

{answer comes here}

P.S. – If you wish to reorder online, you can quickly do so from this page http:///

With this email we attempt to answer the customer’s questions in a friendly, personalized manner.

We picked 6 questions to answer. You should come up with a similar
list of problems or fears your customers may face and then offer your
solutions to them. You can use the Global Millenia Survey Results above
to identify common issues or, if available, review customer feedback.

In our case, we identified these 6 questions simply by speaking to
our customer support reps and noting the most commonly asked questions
they had been receiving from customers. This is a path we strongly

Speak to your customer support reps and identify the most
commonly asked questions and problems associated with your site’s
ordering process. Then aim to address them in your email message.

Another strategy to use in your “What Went Wrong?” email
is to offer the customer a coupon. For example, they could get 10% off
if they complete their order. It is well worth testing such promotions
with your customer base.

Now you may be thinking that this tactic is worth trying – but how
do you implement this and what type of software do you need to buy?

Well, as long as you own a good autoresponder you do not need any
other software. You can implement this system by simply taking
advantage of existing functionality within your autoresponder system.


7 Steps to Improve your Customers Buying Experience

you’re accepting credit cards online, there are several
other ways that you can improve the buying experience,
particularly for those who are new to the Internet
and may be apprehensive about completing a transaction

– Explain what will happen during checkout and keep
the customer informed during the buying process.

a brief description of the process, reassures the
customer that they’re on the right track to a successful
purchase and let them know when the transaction is
complete. For many people, buying online is something
they do with great hesitancy; anything you can do
to lessen their concerns will be appreciated by your

– Let your customers know that their information is
protected and their transaction is taking place on
a secure server.

that your payment page can be clearly identified as
a secure site. The components of a secure site include
a web address that starts with https; that indicates
that the payment page is located on a secure server,
and the display of a padlock symbol or logo that can
be ‘clicked on’ to confirm that there is a valid secure
certificate associated with the secure server.

can also help if your secure page starts with the
word “secure” as the first part of the web

– Send automated Thank You Notes and Personal Receipts
to your customers

transaction isn’t necessarily over when your customer
has paid their money and collected their goods. One
of the ways you can follow up with your client is
to send them an automated note thanking them for their
business, as well as a means to contact you after
the sale. This also allows you to mention other services
and products that you sell, that your customer may
be interested in at a later date. Many merchants don’t
do this – going the extra mile sets you apart from
the crowd.

to the thank you note, give your clients another indication
that you’ve received their order, by sending a personalized
receipt once the order is complete. That way, they
have an immediate record of what they’ve bought and
can print it for their records.

– Brand your Payment Pages

a branded payment page not only makes you look more
professional, it will increase your ‘conversion rate’
and reduce your ‘abandonment rate’. Customers will
be more trusting and therefore more likely to complete
a purchase online if your payment page has the look
and feel of your web site. This is especially true
of individuals buying online for the first time and
those who are buying from you for the first time.
Trust, comfort and confidence play a major role in
the buying decision of all online customers.

branded payment page will also allow you to determine
what information your customer must provide to complete
a purchase rather than having to provide account numbers
and other extraneous information that generic payment
services require. The simpler and more intuitive your
checkout process is, the less likely it is that a
potential customer will ‘abandon’ a purchase mid sale
because they were confused or didn’t understand what
was required to complete a purchase.

– Place your Logo on your Payment Pages

generic payment page can imply a generic company.
You want your company to stand out in your customer’s
mind so that they will remember you and buy from you
again. There are millions of generic payment pages
online; no-one remembers them. Take every opportunity
to brand yourself and your business. Generic is grey
in a colored world; branded done right, gets noticed
and remembered.

– Put your business name on your customer’s credit
card receipt

important part of accepting online payments is ensuring
that your customers can tell to whom they made a payment
when they receive their credit card or bank statement.
Ensure that your payment services provider can put
your business name on your client’s credit card or
bank statement. This will save you from dealing with
chargebacks and provide you with another way to reinforce
your brand and keep it in the mind’s of your customers.

– Make Checkout Simple

easier it is to take an order from you, the less likely
it is that the customer will abandon the sale at the
ordering page. Simple is best; simple and branded
is better.

those guidelines in mind will enhance the purchasing
experience at your site. All that remains is finding
your next customer.


Payment Page Abandonment

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, the average
Abandonment Rate for shopping carts is 41%.  On many sites it is
much worse, especially for contact forms. If you’ve never
examined the Abandonment Rate for your forms, don’t be surprised
if you find it is over 90%.  You can easily calculate your
Abandonment Rate for a form by comparing the number of views of the
form with the number of views of the Thank You page, or whatever page
it is the visitor gets when they submit the form.  If you have no
discrete, measurable page, which is served when someone fills in a
form, then change the site design so you have something to measure.

The basic rule for reducing abandonment on forms is to ask fewer
questions.  Many people treat contact forms as an opportunity to
engage in some market research.  They may ask questions like “how
much is your budget?” or “where did you find our site?”  Each of
these questions will be a reason for someone not to complete the
forms.  Remember what the form is for – to get the contact
information from a potential customer so your sales team can start
talking to them.  Is losing a potential customer a reasonable
price for a little market research?

For sales systems with abandonment issues, the lesson is to keep
selling.  Don’t assume that once a visitor has put something
in the shopping basket they’re committed to buying it. 
They’re only committed when you’ve got their money. 
Many people have second thoughts about buying a product once
they’re asked to put in their credit card information.  This
is the time to remind them what they’re going to get for their
commitment, why they liked the product in the first place.  Some
shopping sites in the USA go one step further.  If you attempt to
leave their sites from the credit card payment page, they’ll
offer you a discount on the spot.


Get a 2nd Life

The Web has been the home for
many virtual world communities over the past decade, but with
the advent of broadband access and speedy PCs virtual worlds
have been booming. These 3-D online simulations filled with
thousands of people moving about in attractive digital

draw in not only the gaming community but people
looking for a whole virtual lifestyle and social

, the hottest of these virtual communities, has more
than a million “inhabitants” and an economic system that offers
more than play money for participants. People can buy and sell
real and virtual goods, services and real estate in the Second
life economy, using “Linden Dollars” that members can buy –
complete with
their own
currency exchange market data feeds
. Media companies have
joined the bandwagon with kiosks to promote music and video
downloads from real and virtual artists as well as news from a

Reuters virtual news bureau
reporting on happenings in
Second Life.

In other words the view of cyberspace as a world unto itself
is growing into a more multi-dimensional venue that provides
many virtual equivalents of the physical world to satisfy its
would-be residents. Advertisers have been

quick to pick up on this
, building “islands” for their
marketing campaigns that fit snugly into this fantasy world.
Instead of spending lavishly on ads and promotions to help
people imagine that their products can fulfill a buyer’s
fantasies, why not reach them when they are already inside
their fantasies? Hmm, was that car I just bought a virtual car
or a real one…? This is context that gets way inside the
psyches of consumers.

But if Second Life is pointing us more towards the future of
marketing online it’s a future that looks pretty familiar in
many ways. Look at an interactive map of its terrain and it
resembles a mashup view of Google Earth overlaid with
attractions and services. The game itself, while enhanced with
the depth of a global community of players and an “anything
goes” approach to designing experiences, doesn’t really cut new
territory in presenting an online experience. The most
compelling aspect of the game – everyone is equally artificial
and equally able to have an impact on others in their virtual
social circles – is straight out of the world of online
user-generated content, already enhanced with audio, video and
animated graphics.

The real significance of Second Life is not the great
virtual clothes and the instant online physique overhaul that
it offers members but rather the idea that there is a tool that
can act as a test bed for marketing and publishing in
real-world communities for digital natives. The experience of
shopping in a local store, for example, hasn’t progressed much
in the online era: you walk in, look at things, buy them (or
not) and then walk out. In the meantime simulated communities
are offering a far wider range of experiences for digital
natives that enhance both commerce and social networks in ways
that most local real-world marketers have not even begun to
think about – much less plan for.  The gap is not between
other online outlets and Second Life but rather between Second
Life and real life.

Think of Second Life-like online communities as a metaphor
for what’s possible right now in the real world – if publishers
were up to the challenge.  What are some of the huge gaps
that can be closed in the real world through Second Life-like
services? Try a few of these avatars on for size:

  • “Zooming in” to local services and events. While
    Google Maps has introduced the concept of overlaying
    real-world products and services onto satellite photos of
    actual locations the artificial world of Second Life suggests
    that audiences want to break through the map metaphor into a
    real experience transparently – like walking through a
    looking glass. Newspapers and other locally-oriented
    publishers need to consider how they can help local marketers
    to use online capabilities to act as a communications tool to
    let online shoppers experience the “who” and the “where” of
    local merchants and services providers in a way that doesn’t
    require either the merchant or the client feel that
    technology is getting in the way of a human experience.
  • Subscribing to lifestyles. While marketers and
    players have different end motives in mind by spending Second
    Life cybercash, the mechanism for both is essentially the
    same: prepayment for long-term and on-demand services.
    Publications have been built for years around the idea of
    someone subscribing to content that supports their personal
    or professional lifestyle, which may be amplified with
    real-world events. What if a subscription bought them not
    only a publication or an event but membership in a community
    that included access to actual online and real-world
    lifestyles? There’s a huge opportunity sitting between
    publications, associations and vendors that is poorly
    addressed at this point because each of these players has not
    been able to conceive of how to offer their services as the
    focus of a complete community experience.
  • Making electronic publishing more compelling. The
    strength of online game worlds like Second Life points
    towards a generation that finds even most online content
    rather dull. So we can download songs and videos online.
    Whoopee. We’ve had radio and TV doing that for decades, in
    essence, and now everyone can post video and audio online
    through just about any channel. Web pages may have better
    fonts and layouts than a decade ago but they’re still just
    flat text and graphics. Second Life amplifies the point that
    media companies have reached the end of a long run of
    increasingly second-rate content that cannot compete with our
    own individual and institutional imaginations. And perhaps
    that’s not a bad thing.

Second Life reminds us that it’s easy to get excited about
out-of-body experiences online to the point of forgetting the
in-body world where real people live and make decisions. As
compelling as it may be it’s just a crude reminder of how
incomplete electronic content’s penetration has been to date in
the real world. See you at the virtual mall – oh, if you see
Avery Sikorsky there say hello. He’s a nice guy.

John Blossom