Ping-Pong and a Paradigm Shift in Online Marketing

“One of the things I hate the most is when they change the rules of something.” Arjan Haring

Especially when nobody tells you they’ve changed the game.Take table tennis for example (also known as ping-pong). In 2001 the International Table Tennis Federation changed the rules on how you must serve to prevent a player from hiding the ball during service. My service was my secret weapon, I was an expert in giving a variety of spin to the ball without people seeing it. It’s why I won games*. I played my last official tournament in 1992, if you don’t count Pong Friday of course. You can tell where this is going. Last time I wanted to play a serious game of table tennis was at the opening of our new office, with table tennis table, this summer. I was unpleasantly surprised by the new rule that completely messed up my game.

I think I made it very clear with this example that it can be rather annoying when someone changes the rules of your favorite game. Especially when nobody has the decency to tell you. I want to spare you from getting yourself in this type of situation and that’s why I am here to tell you about the new rules of Online Marketing. We have entered the decade that we can persuasion profile customers on our websites and that we can predict how they react to specific persuasion tactics we use. How we played the game of online marketing some years ago has fundamentally changed. Out with the old and in with the new. These 3 rules are a heads up. Hopefully you won’t have any unpleasant surprises in the nearby future during a game of Online Marketing.

New Rule #1: Less is More
Dear Mister So and So, you should buy this product because all your friends bought it, world experts say it’s smart to buy it and the 50% discount only applies today. Not a piece of copy that you would write every day. But also not that different from what everybody is doing online today. Adding multiple persuasion tactics to increase conversion doesn’t work. It’s kind of a weakest link type of idea. The total effect of the persuasion tactics that you use is equal to the effect of the poorest performing persuasion tactic for a given individual. Rule number 1: Less persuasion tactics is more conversion.

New Rule #2: Individuals triumph the group
Rule number 2 is about personalizing. In itself a known feature of online marketing. But combine personalizing with persuasion and online marketing becomes a whole other ball game. With A/B tests we measure what version works best for the group that you are testing. But group level effects don’t inform us on what persuasion works best for individuals. We are missing out on essential information, not closing deals because we don’t personalize our persuasion. When you know which persuasion tactics work best for every given individual, your total conversion will reach epic heights.

New Rule #3: Learning beats testing
Have you ever thought about the cost of testing? How informed are your decisions and what are you assumptions? AB testing (or multivariate testing for that matter) is not optimal. It can be very costly. What you want to do is make a choice between version A and version B (if one is better) in a way that minimizes learning costs. This will mean a shift from content creation => test => decision cycles to content creation and continuous optimization. A paradigm shift, or game changer if you wish.

My talk at our friends of #ConvCon in Ft. Lauderdale October 10th (register as Early Bird and save $600) will focus on how persuasion profiling works in real life. As said this was a heads up, giving you the bigger picture. Hopefully you are now better prepared next time somebody throws you a curve ball.

Did I get your attention, want to know more? Let Maurits “Bad Hairday” Kaptein tell you more on personalized online persuasion profiles.

* When times got rough, hustling ping-pong games was the only means I had to get by.

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Digital Seduction: Why Customers buy your Product

Maurits Kaptein (Special Guest of the 6th Design for Conversion in Cologne) will launch his book: Digital Seduction [Dutch] at the 7th DfC in Amsterdam. And that’s why we asked him to write an guest blogpost.

Economists at some point decided that consumers make informed product purchases: A good balance between price and quality. For decades, however, this view is falling apart consumers’ decisions are not rational. In my opinion this explains the differences in conversion between online and offline stores.

Psychologists have been for decades sawing off the branch the rational economic man has been sitting on: the man who maximizes his utility over all possible choices. Kahneman [1] shows very convincingly that we not only have a rational system that steers our decisions (System 2), but also – perhaps more importantly – evolutionary system (System 1). This latter system ensures that we go along with the crowd, without figuring out if this is a good idea. It ensures that we listen to people with a lab coat, without checking whether they really are experts, and why we are very bad at estimating or assessing bets.

Despite the importance of psychology in our purchasing decisions, its use remains an underdeveloped element of online commerce compared to offline commerce. Offline we have good salesmen, people who know how other people react and how you can affect them. Online we reach more potential customers. We get them to our websites, but we have forgotten how we can convert them.

To reach people or to influence people?
Due to the shift from offline sales to online sales, we increased our reach. A good salesperson could talk with up to forty people in one day, a good website reaches millions of people. At the same time, our impact has decreased: the probability that an interaction actually leads to a sale has reduced dramatically.

Of course we are already working hard to increase our impact. We make sure we have the right products for people (recommender systems) and we ensure that we reach the right people: those who want to buy (SEO and SEA). But we forget one thing that a good salesmanl does very well: sell the product in the correct manner. A good salesperson can sell anything. Not because he knows a lot about the product, but because he, perhaps intuitively, can understand the psyche of his client.

The psychology behind human decisions
To know how people react, we need to embarce the notion of Kahneman’s System 2: people use mental shortcuts to make their decisions. People do not weigh all the pros and cons, but are affected by so-called ‘peripheral’ cues [2] . An example: Try to sell a book and say that you still have a whole pile of them lying around. Or try to sell the same book and say that you have only five left. This says more about your own purchasing procedures than about the book, but in the second case, people are still more inclined to buy the book [3] .

The six weapons of influence
Professor Cialdini [4] described a number of years ago six ways that successful salespeople use to influence people. He bundled them together to six principles of influence, six types of sellers using System 1 stimulate:

- Scarcity: people love things that are scarce or special. So, “only five products available”.

- Reciprocity: People return a favor. Online example: “Download our free whitepaper”.

- Social Proof: People do what others do. This is the main reason that everyone is collecting Likes on their company website.

- Authority: People follow the advice of authorities. So ‘recommended by the editor’, or the man in the lab coat in the toothpaste commercial. (See also Figure 1)

- Liking: People listen to people they like. This is why a good salesperson asks you how your holiday was and why he finds it so interesting that you also kite surf.

- Consistency: People try to be consistent. The wish lists of some online retailers are a nice implementation of this: by letting know that you want to have some specific thing, you are more likely to eventually buy it.

Figure 1: The use of authority arguments

Cialdini and hundreds of other social scientists – clearly show that the qualities of the product that you are selling only account for a small part of the real story: people buy products because they are using System 1, and are tempted by the six weapons of influence.

Effective influence
In recent years we have scantily applied influencing theories online. Offline salespersons are experts in applying these theories: hence the large differences between online and offline conversion.

A first step towards increasing the impact are implementing the principles of Cialdini on your website. But even so, we are not nearly as good as our offline counterpart: to get there, we need to selecte the appropriate aproach (the right influencing strategy) selected for each individual customer. That is what it means to really know why your visitors buy your products.

[1] Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

[2] Petty, E. P., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). The Elaboration Likelihood Model of Persuasion. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 19.

[3] Verhallen, T. M. M., & Robben, H. S. J. (1994). Scarcity and preference: An experiment on unavailability and product evaluation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 15(2), 315-331.

[4] Cialdini, R. (2001). Influence, Science and Practice. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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DfC becomes Df|Conversion

We are very proud to announce a major change for the DfC. Some of us got a bit tired of “Conversion”, because there are so many other interesting topics, that would be worth a DfC action conference. So we decided to leave the “C” out and rebrand the good old DfC to the Df Conference Series!
Do not fear! We’ll continue with the concept and structure of the DfC – everything what brought so much fun will be kept alive. So, stay tuned for more changes in the next months.

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Design for Conversion will be back in Amsterdam November 28

We are very happy to announce Design for Conversion Amsterdam 2012!

For now mark your agenda’s for November 28 and follow us on twitter. And if your a die hard DfC fan, we could really use your help in organizing the best DfC until now. Leave a comment or drop us a line.

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Get the Golden Ticket

Update: And the Golden Ticket goes to

Our “Lady Luck” has rolled the dice and Dominik Schwarz is the winner! Congratulations! The ticket is right on the way to you! For the others: There will be another DfC.

We’re sold out for the 6th DfC. We are very happy about this and are looking forward to a great conference on Friday. But there is one last chance for you to join us. Our premium sponsor Cortal Consors is giving away one last ticket!

What do you have to do, to claim it?

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Schedule 6th Design for Conversion

Here’s the schedule for the 6th Design for Conversion on July 1. Make sure that you arrive on time, otherwise contact us. If you haven’t bought your ticket by now, there are still some available!

08:30 Onsite Registration and breakfast
09:30 Opening Speech

09:45 Martin Kupp – Organizational Creativity – Learnings From the World of Arts
10:30 Team Setup – nobody is left behind
10:45 Workshop-Session 1: Getting to know the challenge and going wild

12:15 Andy Budd – Persuasive Web Design
13:00 Lunch break and open discussion (let you settle down and get real)

13:30 Dan Lockton – Design, Mental Models and Behaviour Change
14:15 Workshop-Session 2 – Off the wall ideas (decide on one idea and develop it)

15:30 Eric Reiss – Of buttons and brains: four keys to successful conversion
16:15 Workshop-Session 3 – Making your ideas stick (prepare your idea for presentation)

17:30 Semi finals: Presentation of ideas to casestudy-owners
18:00 Short entertainment

18:15 Grand finale: Presentation of ideas to Keynote-Speakers
18:45 Special Talk: Arjan Haring & Maurits Kaptein- Persuasion Profiling

19:00 Closing Speech and announcing the winners
19:15 Barbecue and open discussion
22:00 Afterparty

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Presenting the 2nd Casestudy for 6th DfC

Merely four weeks to go, till we lift of with the 6th Design for Conversion, we proudly announce the second casestudy, by our premium sponsor Cortal Consors. Wouldn’t it be interesting enough, that a bank opens up to a format like the Design for Conversion conference, it even gets better. They attended last year as participants, just to return fully engaged. Expect a striking casestudy with insights and challenges.

The case owners, coming from the user experience team of Cortal Consors, will be present and introduce the challenge and the themselves to you. Be ready to drive them nuts with your questions. So, please welcome our premium sponsor and casestudy-owner Cortal Consors! We’re very happy to have them with us.

If you missed out before our first casestudy – it will be coming from the WWF (World Wildlife Fund). They’re also up to a true conversion challenge. Hits me, that I can’t be a participant. Let’s see, what you will make out of these two casestudies.

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DfC und Pecha Kucha Köln

Pecha Kucha, ist japanisch für “wildes Gebrabbel” – und genau das kann schnell entstehen, wenn man auf der Bühne steht, auf der Leinwand hinter einem 20 Bilder ablaufen und man zu jedem Bild genau 20 Sekunden etwas erzählen darf. Gnadenlos folgt der Bildwechsel und eh man es sich versieht, sind die 400 Sekunden rum.

Ich kannte Pecha Kucha nicht und war bass erstaunt, als sich am 27. Mai im Kölner Stadtgarten etwa 250 Leute einfanden, um dem wilden Gebrabbel über Donaldisten, Wohnungssuche, Nasenoperationen, Horrorcomics, öffentliche Toiletten und andere Themen zu lauschen, zu bestaunen und zu bejubeln. Ich brabbelte über die Design for Conversion – Rockstar für 400 Sekunden!

Ich liebe herausforderende Konzepte und so fiel die Entscheidung nicht schwer, selber herauszufinden, wie wild der Vortrag wird, wenn man versucht die Design for Conversion in 20×20 Sekunden einem sehr gemischten Publikum zu erklären. Vorweg, es wurde “charmant” und wer die korrekte Zahl meiner “Ähms” rausfindet, bekommt auf der Design for Conversion Afterparty von mir ein Bier ausgegeben.

Zählen könnt ihr die “Ähms”, wenn ihr euch den Vortrag samt O-Ton hier anschaut und -hört: Pecha Kucha Vortrag Design for Conversion. Auch alle anderen Vorträge sind mit O-Ton digital verewigt und in diesem Blogbeitrag über die Vorträge der 10. Pecha Kucha Köln zusammengefasst.

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Wish I Were There

Editor’s note: We’re a very glad to have found a hardcore fan in Adana Washington, a professional writer living in Michigan, USA. Here’s her take on the Design for Conversion. She even wanted to write it without us promising to return to the USA. Isn’t she great?

As someone who loves to learn new things, I have become enamored with persuasion design and online media lately. Working with Arjan Haring and Maurits Kaptein after connecting over their PersuasionAPI has really opened my eyes to the vast possibilities that await us all when we combine marketing and technology. So, as a person who thrives on generating new ideas, after hearing about Design for Conversion, I must say: I am envious.
I have not been to any of the previous conventions, so I can not judge Design for Conversion. Yet from the impression I get from reading about past events, I would love to be a part of the open-forum, brainstorming typhoon that is Design for Conversion. But alas, I am just a humble writer (and office assistant) in Michigan. I can’t afford to hop a plane to Cologne for a day to join the competition. I can only daydream of being able to join the dynamic workshops, the free-spirited experts, and the attendees hailing from all different disciplines and walks of life. I am a huge advocate for generating and sharing ideas, and I am passionate about creative thinking and problem solving. Those attending Design for Convention will be able to work with like-minded people — under the guidance of industry experts, no less. To have the opportunity to participate in consecutive workshops, facilitated by high class, world-renowned experts, while reflecting on design process and persuasion technology? It is sure to be an intellectual utopia.
The best part, in my opinion, is the competition that weaves its way into the Design for Conversion conference. Having just read an article on using contests to spur creativity and innovation, I can definitely see how competition can bring out the best in people – especially if you have to present your ideas and solutions on stage. Not only would you be presenting your ideas to the case owners, but you would also be competing in the semi-finals, in hopes of presenting to the conference speakers in the grand finale. To witness these industry experts competing against one another to present comprehensive, compelling and behaviour-changing solutions is a treat in and of itself. Competition always engages people even further, because no one wants to present anything less than stellar work to their peers and case owners.
If only there was a way that I could participate in the Design for Conversion workshops. I already have a list of speakers that I want to meet. And I’ll be watching the DfC news feed to find out more about the case studies. I’ve already started brainstorming solutions for the WWF case study. Part of the motivation may have been my obsession with pandas, but can you blame me?

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Four big challenges for designing for conversion

[Update 1 - 2011-05-24 - Editor's note: Added the fourth challenge by Martin Kupp.]

A little more than a month away from the nicest conference I have ever been to, I asked the keynote speakers what they think is the biggest challenge in their field right now. This is what they told me. And I will add some thoughts of my own to make me look good ;-)

Andy Budd: Designing for the ever increasing number of devices and platforms

I’d say that one of the biggest challenges is designing for the ever increasing number of devices and platforms. Back in the day we only really had to worry about the website or web app. Now we have to consider the mobile experience, the tablet experience and the app experience across several devices. Pretty soon we will have to consider the interactive TV experience as well.

Some of the troubles include how much functionality to replicate across platforms and how much UI consistency do you need. Should you consider all of these platforms and simply different UI into the same service, or should you consider them separate products in and of themselves. All very tricky questions and all with the same answer, “it depends”.

Source: Logic + Emotion

Arjan’s commentary: excellent choice of challenge. Start mixing this up with a multichannel persuasion strategy and you know what lies ahead. Every device has it’s own role to play. It can be the case that a mobile phone app is a great start to connect with your brand the first time. And the app can be used to persuade you to register to the email newsletter and so on and so on.
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