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Learning to write copy for the Web

Copy. Words. We all need them. On a piece of paper. On your phone. On the Web. I recently decided to learn more about writing copy, particularly aimed at writing for the Web. The first question that I asked myself was “what makes effective copy?”

From The 5P Approach to Copy that Crushes It by Copyblogger I learned that:

“The most important aspect of copy that works is how well your message matches up with the way your prospective customer views things.” 

UK based copywriting expert Andy Maslen explains that before you do anything else, it’s important to think about your answers to these three questions:

  1. What keeps your prospect awake at three in the morning?
  2. What can you promise them to ease that pain?
  3. Why might they not believe you?

Andy then goes on to explain how answers to these three questions will help you create effective copy:

  • Answer question one and you have psychological insights into your prospect’s needs, desires and motivations.
  • Answer question two and you translate the features of your product into its deep underlying benefits.
  • Answer question three and you identify their objections, which you can then start to overcome.

I then delved deeper into Copyblogger’s 5P approach:

  1. Premise – The emotional concept that not only attracts attention, but maintains engagement throughout every element of your landing page copy and imagery. The ultimate outcome of the premise is the desired action that you would like the reader of your copy to take (see Fig. 1 below). Copyblogger explains this as follows: “The premise connects you to the emotional centre of your prospect’s brain, stimulates desire, maintains credibility, and results in the opening of the wallet. It’s the unification of the prospect’s worldview + the market + the benefits + the proof + a call to action into one simple, compelling message.”
  2. Promise – Using the so-called “Pyramid of Benefits”, you can come up with numerous befits of your product or service (see Fig. 2 below). However, it’s the ultimate benefit you discover by working through the benefits pyramid that equates to your premise.
  3. Picture – The picture phase is all about using images, storytelling, and tangible language as a way to hold the reader’s emotional interest while you nudge them down the path to acceptance. I’m learning that the way to best retain the reader’s attention is to get her to imagine herself enjoying the ultimate benefit or desired outcome. Then you get very specific about how your proposed solution or idea makes that benefit happen. A great example is “The Man in a Hathaway Shirt” by advertising guru David Ogilvy (see Fig. 3 below). The key aspect of the “picture” element is that the reader has to tell herself their own story based on the picture you create in their head with the elements of your landing page or imagery.
  4. Proof – Statistics, studies, graphs, charts, third-party facts, testimonials, a demonstration that the features of your product deliver the benefits you’ve promised—these are all part of the “proof” section of your piece. The main thing to remember here is to ensure that your premise (see Point 1. above) shines through every bit of your copy and is also reflected in the proof that you provide.
  5. Push – The “push” phase is more than just a call to action. It’s about communicating an outstanding offer in a clear, credible, and compelling way, and then asking for action. Persuasive writing begins with the desired outcome in mind, so during the push you’re tying the beneficial premise and the vivid picture to solid acceptance and concrete action.

Main learning point: I found it really helpful to learn about the “5P” approach to writing copy on the web. It may sound obvious to some, but thinking about the reader of your copy, their needs and objectives, is an easy thing to lose sight of. Considering the 5Ps before, during and after writing your copy will no doubt help to get your content read or applied more widely!

Fig. 1 – Elements of a Premise – Taken from: http://my.copyblogger.com/basic/5p-copy/

  1. Be unpredictable – The first thing you absolutely must have is attention. Without initial attention for your content, nothing else you’ve done matters. And nothing kills attention faster than if your prospective reader, listener, or viewer thinks they already know where you’re going. Beyond curiosity, a great premise delivers an unpredictable and unexpected element that makes it irresistible. It all comes back to knowing at an intimate level who you’re talking to and what they’re used to seeing in the market. What messages are they getting from your competition? This is what you must use as the benchmark to create your own unique and unexpected angle that forms the foundation of your premise.
  2. Be simple – Because a premise by definition is an unprecedented and grand idea, sometimes boiling it down to its essence is difficult, or worse, neglected. However, it’s important to always to try and keep your premise as short and powerful as possible.
  3. Be real – ‘Keeping it real’ in the copywriting sense means a couple of things. Firstly, by making sure that your premise is highly relevant to your intended audience. For example, when I write copy as part of my day job at carwow, I’ll need to make sure that my copy is perceived as relevant in the eyes of my target audience, i.e. buyers of new cars. The aim here is to inspire a desirable reaction from your target audience before triggering a desirable action. Secondly, your message must communicate meaningful benefits that are also tangible. In order to create a sense of “instant understanding” with your audience, you need to tell the story in a way that conveys information in a way that’s likely to resonate with your prospect.
  4. Be credible – If you’re writing to persuade, you have to hit the gut before you get anywhere near the brain. The part that decides “I want that” is emotional and often subconscious. If your premise doesn’t work emotionally, logic will never get a chance to weigh in. Credibility or “proof” needs to be baked into the premise as much as possible.

Fig. 2 – The Benefits Pyramid – Taken from: http://www.somethinggreat.com/promotion-events/

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Fig. 3 – “The Man in The Hathaway Shirt” ad by David Ogilvy – Taken from: http://www.directmarketinginstitute.com/HathawayShirtAd.htm

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.makepeacetotalpackage.com/archives/make-your-products-benefits-sparkle/
 
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Posted by on April 25, 2015 in Digital Content

 

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CarStory and its ways to enhance your car inventory

The other day I came across CarStory. Since I’ve started with car comparison site carwow I’ll always keep an eye out for similar sites, changing the way in which consumer buy new or used cars. Given that I’m not a US based car dealer, my testing of the CarStory site and app is limited. I did, however, learn quite a lot about CarStory’s service by reading reviews and watching videos.

These are the main things that I learned about CarStory:

  1. Mission statement – “Turn car shoppers into customers” is CarStory’s main tagline. On its homepage, there’s a succinct description of CarStory’s value proposition. The service is aimed at car dealers, providing them with a “CarStory” to their inventories. A CarStory is a market report which “tells a story”, highlighting your cars’ unique features and value in the local market (see an example in Fig. 1 below). CarStory’s goals are to (1) build consumer confidence and (2) accelerate purchase decisions.
  2. Use cases – I guess the main benefit for dealers using CarStory is that they will have a good bit of car specific info at hand, not having to check multiple sources to answer customer questions about e.g. fuel consumption, features or alternative models (see Fig. 2 below). From a customer’s perspective, dealers are likely to be set up well for specific questions e.g. about price comparison or the most popular features on a specific car.
  3. Infographics – Apart from vehicle specific ‘story cards’, dealers can also use CarStory’s infographics to provide their customers with more data and insight about a specific model. For example, I can look at high level supply and demand data for a specific model (see Fig. 3 below).

Main learning point: CarStory offers an interesting way of creating market reports and integrating these reports into a dealer’s daily workflow. It currently only seems to apply to used cars and it would be good to find out from a customer’s perspective how the CarStory data and insights help in making purchasing decisions, whether it’s for a new or a used car.

Fig.1 – Screenshots of a sample CarStory – Taken from: https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf

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Fig. 2 – CarStory use cases – Adapted from: http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/

  • Identify other cars in your inventory to match customer needs – A dealer is on the phone with a customer and can use CarStory to check his inventory to see if there are any cars in the other to meet a customer’s requirements.
  • Provide car specific info on the phone, email or on text – With the data included in a CarStory for a specific vehicle, dealers will be able to answer specific customer questions on the phone, email or on text. The idea is that customers don’t necessarily need to come into the dealership to find out certain details about a car.

Fig. 3 – Example of a CarStory infographic – Taken from: http://blog.carstory.com/market-reports-dodge-caravan-infographic/

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Related links for further learning:

  1. http://www.dealerrefresh.com/carstory-app-interview-with-vast/
  2. http://www.autoremarketing.com/trends/features-info-used-car-buyers-want-most
  3. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-3-vehicle-condition-is-key/
  4. http://blog.carstory.com/business-development-sell-more-with-carstory/
  5. https://www.carstory.com/static/img/market_sample.pdf
  6. http://blog.carstory.com/getting-to-know-carstory-part-1-can-you-trust-the-data/
  7. http://blog.carstory.com/get-to-know-carstory-part-2-good-deal-great-deal/
  8. http://blog.carstory.com/top-10-carstory-market-report-tips-and-tricks/
 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Data, Digital Content, Uncategorized

 

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Book review: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”

In 2012, Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D. with Sharon Begley, published The Emotional Life of Your Brain. Davidson is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” explores how the unique patterns of our brain affect the ways in which we think, feel and live – and how we can change these ways.

Six dimensions of the so-called “Emotional Style” form the core of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”. Davidson describes an “Emotional Style” as “a consistent way of responding the experiences of our lives”. He makes the point that these responses are governed by specific, identifiable brain circuits and which can be measured as such. In other words, each person has an overall Emotional Style which is comprised of six different dimensions. These dimensions can influence the occurrence of feeling certain emotional states and ways in which we respond to life events.

The bulk of book is dedicated to explaining the six dimensions which make up one’s Emotional Style, investigating how these dimensions emerge, evolve and affect how we respond. Let’s have a closer look at these  six dimensions which comprise the Emotional Style:

  1. Resilience – How do you usually respond to setbacks or meltdowns? Do you carry on despite the setback or do you give up and surrender? People at one extreme of the “Resilience” dimension are Fast to Recover from adversity; those at the other extreme are Slow to Recover, crippled by adversity.
  2. Outlook – The “Outlook” dimension refers to one’s emotional disposition. Do you manage to maintain a positive outlook on life or do you tend to be more cynical and pessimistic, struggling to see any positives? People at one extreme of the Outlook dimension can be described as Positive types whilst those at the other extreme can be described as Negative types.
  3. Social Intuition – The ability to pick up on other people’s mental and emotional states is key to the “Social Intuition” dimension. Can you read people’s body language? Are you able to pick up on the signals that people give off, indicating for example that they are stressed or bored? Those at one extreme on the Social Intuition spectrum are Socially Intuitive types. Those at the other end of the spectrum are the Puzzled types.
  4. Self-Awareness – Are you aware of your own thoughts and feelings and attuned to the messages that your body sends you? Or do you act or respond without really knowing why? At one extreme of the “Self-Awareness” dimension are the people who are Self-Aware and at the other end the people that are Self-Opaque.
  5. Sensitivity to Context – The Sensitivity to Context dimension is all about being sensitive to a specific situation or context, understanding which behaviour is appropriate and which is not. Are you able to pick up on conventional rules of interaction or are you surprised when people tell you that your behaviour is inappropriate? People at one end of the Sensitivity to Context spectrum are Tuned In and those at the other end are Tuned Out.
  6. Attention – How sharp and clear is your focus? The “Attention” style hones in on people’s ability to stay focused and ignore any distractions. Are you so caught up in what you are doing that you do not notice anything that is happening around you? Or do you tend to flit between thoughts or emotions, unable to hold on to anything long enough? At one end of the Attention spectrum are people with a Focused style; at the other, those who are Unfocused.

In subsequent chapters of “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”, Davidson explores areas such as assessing your own Emotional Style and how your style – and its underlying dimensions – develop. The book’s chapters on “Assessing Your Emotional Style” and “The Brain Basis of Emotional Style” form in my opinion the heart of Davidson’s findings on Emotional Style.

In the chapter on “Assessing Your Emotional Style”, the book provides readers with ways to assess the different dimensions that form their Emotional Style. Davidson provides specific statements and scenarios to enable readers to find out where they sit on the spectrum of the different dimensions (see sample statements and scenarios in Fig. 1 below). He also provides more context around the various dimensions, explaining their role and significance in relation to one’s emotional responses.

One of the main points that Davidson makes in relation to the dimensions of the Emotional Style is that each dimension reflects activity in specific, identifiable brain circuits. Each dimension has two extremes. For example, the Outlook dimension has a Positive and Negative extreme (see the “Outlook” dimension above). These extremes are usually the result of heightened or reduced activity in the relevant brain circuits.

In the chapter on “The Brain Basis of Emotional Style”, the book delves into the specific parts of the brain that ‘power’ each dimension. For example, the left prefrontal cortex and amygdala allow the brain to bounce back from an upsetting experience, thus enabling people to be resilient (see the “Resilience” dimension above). The book contains numerous pictures of relevant brain circuits (see Fig. 2 for a sample illustration of the workings of the Resilient Brain) and explores in subsequent chapters what can be done to influence the activity in these brain circuits.

Main learning point: The Emotional Life of Your Brain is a fascinating book and a good read for anyone interested in understanding more about the inner workings of our brains and how we respond emotionally in certain situations.


Fig. 1 – Sample statements and scenarios per dimension of the Emotional Style – Taken from: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J. Davidson, Ph. D., with Sharon Begley, Chapter 3, pp. 43 – 66

The Resilience dimension

The Resilience dimension is very much about how quickly or slowly people recover from setbacks.

  • When I have experienced profound grief, such as the death of someone close to me, it has interfered with my ability to function for many months.
  • If I make a mistake at work and get reprimanded for it, I can shrug it off and take it as a learning experience.

The Outlook dimension

The capacity to remain upbeat and to sustain positive emotion over time is the key measure of the Outlook dimension of your Emotional Style.

  • When evaluating a coworker, I focus on details about which areas he needs to improve rather than on his positive overall performance.
  • I believe the next ten years will be better for me than the last ten.

The Social Intuition dimension

This dimension of the Emotional Style looks at the extent to which a person’s social intuition is developed; how attuned are they to nonverbal cues from other people?

  • I often find myself noting facial expressions and body language.
  • I find it uncomfortable when someone I barely know looks directly into my eyes during a conversation.

The Self-Awareness dimension

Self-Awareness is all about being in touch with one’s feelings and thoughts. Some people have a hard time “feeling” their feelings whilst others are acutely conscious of their thoughts and feelings.

  • I am strongly oriented to the external world and rarely take note of what’s happening in my body.
  • I am usually sure enough about how I am feeling that I can put my emotions into words.

The Sensitivity to Context dimension

Sensitivity to the rules of social engagement and the capacity to regulate our emotions and behaviour accordingly varies enormously among people.

  • I have frequently been reminded when in public to avoid mentioning the names of people who might be around.
  • When I am in a public setting like a restaurant, I am especially aware of modulating how loudly I speak.

The Attention dimension

The Attention dimension is about one’s ability to focus, explaining how focused people can concentrate despite emotion-laden intrusions, whilst the unfocused cannot.

  • I can concentrate in a noisy environment.
  • My attention tends to get captured by stimuli and events in the environment, and it is difficult for me to disengage once it happens.

Fig. 2 – Sample illustration of the Resilient Brain – Taken from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201309/violence-the-media-and-your-brain

 

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Resilience: Signals from the prefrontal cortex to the amygdala, and from the amygdala to the prefrontal cortex, determine how quickly the brain will recover from an upsetting experience. Taken from: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” by Richard J. Davidson, Ph. D., with Sharon Begley, Chapter 4, p. 71

 
 

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Book Review: “Big Bang Disruption”

After reading “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey A. Moore, I read “Big Bang Disruption: Strategy in the age of Devastating Innovation” by Larry Downes and Paul Nunes.

I could stop the book review right here by saying that the product lifecycle of a traditional product looks very different to that of a “Big Bang Disruptor”. The traditional market adoption model looks more like a Bell curve, whereas the Big Bang adoption model looks more like a cliff (see Fig. 1 below). Let’s delve into the characteristics of a “Big Bang Disruptor” a bit more:

  1. What defines a “Big Bang Disruptor”? – The book mentions three broadly defined characteristics which define a “Big Bang Disruptor”: (1) Undisciplined Strategy (2) Unconstrained Growth and (3) Unencumbered Development. The words “undisciplined”, “unconstrained” and “unencumbered” clearly indicate that Big Bang Disruptors don’t follow the stages of the traditional market adoption model. Forget about the gradual steps from “early adoption” to “market maturity”, it’s very much about entering the market with a big bang (see Fig. 2 below).
  2. Four stages of Big Bang disruption – The book talks about the four stages of Big Bang disruption: “Singularity”, “Big Bang”, “Big Crunch” and “Entropy”. The main thing I learned in this respect is the extremely rapid growth and decline patterns which characterises most Big Bang Disruptors.
  3. Customer focus – It was interesting to read in “Big Bang Disruption” about the changed role of the customer. Not only is the customer closely involved in product development (“experimentation”), the customer also actively drives marketing rather than the other way around (see Fig. 4 below). As I highlighted above, Big Bang Disruptors totally disrupt traditional market wisdom (see Fig. 5 below).

Main learning point: “Big Bang Disruption” is a great book that will help you to better understand the rapid rise (and decline) of certain companies. The book does a good job in explaining common characteristics of Big Bang Disruptors, showing how traditional market strategies are slowly becoming redundant.

Fig. 1 – Big Bang Market Adoption vs ‘Classic’ product lifecycle – Taken from: http://www.accenture-blogpodium.nl/tag/big-bang-disruption/

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Fig. 2 – Characteristics of a Big Bang Disruptor – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • Undisciplined Strategy – Undisciplined Strategy means that, rather than concentrating one’s market entry strategy on a specific aspect – operational excellence, product leadership or customised offerings – Big Bang Disruptors will try to compete on all three strategic values at one. They will offer products or services that are both better and cheaper than the incumbents.
  • Unconstrained Growth – As highlighted in Fig. 1 above, the typical growth pattern of a Big Bang Disruptor is nearly vertical, a “winner takes all” model. This is in stark contrast with the more traditional Bell curve whereby growth tends to be more gradual. Big Bang Disruptors are typically fast-cycle products that often don’t have “early adopters”. Instead, there are effectively two user groups: “trial users” (who are closely involved in product development) and “everyone else”. Unconstrained Growth comes down to faster growth but also rapid obsolescence, hence the “cliff” like shape of the Big Bang model (see Fig. 1 above).
  • Unencumbered Development – In the book, Downes and Nunes describe a Big Bang Disruptor as “simply an experiment that goes very well”. They explain how the availability of off-the-shelve components enables companies to quickly build and launch a whole range of products, and see which of these products takes hold.

Fig. 3 – The four stages of big bang disruption – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • The Singularity – The key characteristic of this phase is the amount of failed product experiments which signal the change that’s about to arrive.
  • The Big Bang – Users abandon old products in favour of new products and services.
  • The Big Crunch – This phase signals a quick implosion of Big Bang Disruptors. At this stage, innovation becomes incremental and growth slows.
  • Entropy – This is the last phase of dying industries and the stage is set for the next bunch of disruptors to enter the market.

Fig. 4 – Comparison of conventional wisdom against Big Bang wisdom – Taken from: http://brandgenetics.com/big-bang-disruption-speed-summary/

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Fig. 5 – The 12 Rules of Big Bang Disruption – Taken from: Larry Downes and Paul Nunes – Big Bang Disruption

  • Rule 1. Consult Your Truth-Tellers Find industry visionaries who see the future more clearly than you do, and who won’t sugarcoat it even when you want them to.
  • Rule 2. Pinpoint Your Market Entry  Learn to separate the little bumps from the Big Bangs,choosing just the perfect moment to enter a new ecosystem.
  • Rule 3. Launch Seemingly Random Market Experiments – Practice combinatorial innovation directly in the market, collaborating with suppliers, customers, and investors – who may be one and the same.
  • Rule 4. Survive Catastrophic Success  Prepare to scale up from experiment to global brand in the space of months, if not weeks, and to redesign your technical and business architecture even while running at full speed. Watch for emerging standards that signal the maturing of winning technologies
  • Rule 5. Capture Winner-Take-All Markets  Sacrifice everything, including short-term profits, to ensure victory in winner-take-all markets, especially when success with one disruptor can be leveraged into follow-on products that can be created and launched even faster than the original.
  • Rule 6. Create Bullet Time  Judiciously employ litigation and legislation to slow the progress of disruptors, even as you proceed with your own experiments, partnerships, and well-timed acquisitions.
  • Rule 7. Anticipate Saturation  When consumers adopt and then abandon new products and services all at once, it’s essential not to be caught with excess capacity or inventory. You need to anticipate saturation before it happens and to scale down as quickly as you scaled up. Poorly timed purchases – whether of raw materials, inventories, or of companies whose value is about to peak – can wreak havoc with your balance sheet.
  • Rule 8. Shed Assets Before They Become Liabilities  As one generation of disruptors fades, related assets -factories, distribution networks, and intellectual property – can lose value, gradually and then suddenly. Knowing the right time to sell, and to whom, can mean the difference between your ability to develop the next disruptor and bankruptcy. Knowing which assets to keep for the next cycle of innovation is equally important.
  • Rule 9. Quit While You’re Ahead  Even if – especially if – you’ve dominated your industry for decades. The replacement of core technologies with new disruptors can wipe out all your retained earnings quickly if you allow it to. Courageous executives accept the inevitable, and announce their exit from current markets while they are still strong. Doing so gives you more time to move to a new ecosystem. Even better, it forces competitors to change on your schedule.
  • Rule 10. Escape Your Own Black Hole As the lone remaining incumbent, it may seem as if there’s no more competition to worry about. But beware the deadly behavior of your older products and services once better and cheaper alternatives are readily available. Legacy costs, legacy customers, and legacy regulation make it harder, not easier, to compete.
  • Rule 11. Become Someone Else’s Components  As humbling as the idea may sound, companies trapped in Entropy often find their best hope is to shut down retail business and transform into a supplier of parts and other resources for innovators in markets emerging elsewhere. When you’re losing the war, in other words, become an arms merchant.
  • Rule 12. Move to a New Singularity  Co-opt the tools of the disruptors and their investors, and use them to relocate your remaining assets to a healthier ecosystem. Sponsoring hackathons, opening innovation centers for entrepreneurs, and excelling at corporate venture capital can often buy you the access and equity you need to catch up for lost time and missed opportunities in the early stages.
 
 

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Site review: ao.com

Looking at eCommerce sites helps me to learn more about effective User Experience design and user journeys. I recently looked at ao.com, a UK website specialised in selling white goods.

  1. How did this site come to my attention? – I recently read a great article by David Kyle titled “What ecommerce managers can learn from AO.com” . David’s article triggered me to have a closer look at this well known website.
  2. My quick summary of the site (before using it) – A site dedicated to selling washing machines, dishwashers, etc. Not the most sexy stuff, but ao.com has been doing particularly well in this segment, resulting in a successful stock listing last year.
  3. How does the site explain itself in the first minute? – By scrolling down the homepage, I get the impression that ao.com is all about getting the best deals for products such as fridges and hoovers (see Fig. 1 below).
  4. Getting started, what is the process like? – Let’s say, I was looking to buy a new fridge, there are number of ways to navigate the site to discover the fridges that ao.com has to offer. I’ve outlined the different ways in Fig. 2 below. However, the “product overview” was the feature on ao.com which I was most impressed with. I believe that product pages are critical to any self-respecting eCommerce site and ao.com does a great job in this respect; well written, easy to understand, practical and a good use of imagery (see Fig. 3 below).
  5. How easy to use was the site? – Very. It’s easy to find out about the service that ao.com offers to its customers. For example, both in the header and the footer of each page you’ll find the key tenets of ao’s service: “Price match promise”, “Pay on finance”, “Free delivery”; “We’ll recycle your old”; “We’ll connect your new” and “14 day returns” (see Fig. 4 below). Using site search on terms like “finance” and “delivery” was also pretty straightforward, I got direct to a finance and delivery page respectively (see Fig. 4 below).
  6. How did I feel while exploring the site? – Again, ao.com did feel very easy to use and to navigate. The page design and structures felt intuitive and not too overwhelming.
  7. How does this site compare to similar sites? – I looked at Currys site, which felt similar to ao.com. However, I felt that the site navigation and use of imagery throughout the Currys site could be improved substantially. From my initial browsing, Currys’ site didn’t feel as intuitive and easy to use as ao.com. However, “Things to consider when buying a …” is a feature that I particularly liked on Currys as it felt very informative and practical (see Fig. 5 below). In comparison, when I shop for fridges on BestBuy the navigation is similar to ao.com. For example, on the fridges landing page, I can choose between “Shop by Type”, “Featured Refrigerator Innovations” and “Shop by Brand”.
  8. Did the site deliver on my expectations? – ao.com definitely did deliver on my expectations as it was easy to find out about good deals and compare products. The site doesn’t feel over-engineered and instead provides a clear and easy to use site structure. The way in which ao.com executes its product pages is great and something which I believe lots of other eCommerce sites can learn from.

Fig. 1 – Screenshots of the homepage of AO.com

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Fig. 2 – Different ways to discover fridges on AO.com

Way 1 – Via top level navigation: I select the “Fridges & Freezers” tab in the top level navigation. This opens up a clean and well presented overlay, which displays five self-explanatory product categories within the “Fridges & Freezers” category. For example, the “Fridges” categories has been broken down into three sub-categories: Freestanding Fridges, Under Counter Fridges and Best Buys.

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When I click on “Best Buys”, I’m directed to landing page for fridges. It becomes clear from looking at the banner at the top of this page, titled “Best Buys Fridges”, that the fridges displayed on this page represent good value for money.

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Way 2 –  Via “Looking for the best appliance” landing page: On the homepage, I click on the call to action in the “Looking for the best appliance” tile. The “shop now” call to action takes me to a landing pages which shows me an overview of the different product categories, with the promise that these are “Our best appliances, handpicked by our experts for: Best quality; Best price and Best features”.The sub-categories under fridges are nearly the same as when I navigate to fridges via the top level navigation (see Way 1 above: Fridges, Under counter fridges and Wine coolers. When I click on “Fridges” I automatically land on the “Best Buy Fridges” landing page (see screenshot above).

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Way 3 – Via “Best Sellers” section on homepage: Alternatively, I can select a fridge as featured in the “Best Sellers” section on the homepage. For example, when I click on the Hisense American Fridge Freezer featured in the section, I’m taken to the product page for this make and model (see screenshot below), where I can find out more about this fridge freezer and explore similar products.

 

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Way 4 – Via “Shop by brand” section on homepage: If you already know which brand you want for fridge, the the “Shop by brand” section at the bottom of the AO.com homepage is your place to go. For example, if I know that I want to buy an Indesit fridge, then I simple click on the Indesit logo and I’m taken to a landing page for all Indesit products on AO.com.

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Fig. 3 – Screenshots of the product overview for a Hisense American Fridge Freezer – Taken from: http://ao.com/product/rs731n4ac1-hisense-american-fridge-freezer-stainless-steel-28316-27.aspx

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Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 18.40.05

Fig. 4 – Screenshots of header and footer on AO.com:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 18.49.38

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 18.50.24

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 18.55.18

Fig. 5 – Screenshot of a “Things to consider when buying a fridge or freezer” section – Taken from: http://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/household-appliances/refrigeration-333-c.html

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 07.40.46

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://econsultancy.com/blog/66233-what-ecommerce-managers-can-learn-from-ao-com/
  2. https://econsultancy.com/blog/64902-13-ecommerce-best-practice-lessons-from-ao-com/
  3. https://econsultancy.com/blog/64704-25-effective-design-patterns-for-ecommerce-site-search-results

 

 

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SQL – Learning about the basic “SELECT” statement

I’m still doing my Stanford online course on relational databases. Today, I learned about the basics of SQL, a special programming language designed for managing data held in a relational database or from stream processing in a .

The teacher of the class, Jennifer Widom, kicked off the class by talking about the difference between a Data Definition Language (‘DDL’) and a Data Manipulation Language (‘DML’):

Data Definition Language (‘DDL’)

  • Create a table in the database
  • Drop a table from the database

Data Manipulation Language (‘DML’)

  • Query the database -> “Select” statement
  • Modify the database -> “Insert”, “Alert” or “Update” statement

Jennifer then told us about the Basic “Select” statement (see Fig. 1 below), explaining that the result of such a statement is to return a relation with a set of data attributes. For example, when you take a simple college admissions database as a starting point where there are 3 relations, each relation having its own set of unique attributes:

  • College ( College Name, State and Enrollment)
  • Student (Student ID, Student Name, GPA and Size High School)
  • Apply (Student ID, College Name, Major and Decisions)

Jennifer then gave us the following examples:

Query involving a single relation

select sID, sName, GPA

from Student

where > 3.6

This query will give you the name and student IDs of those applicants with a GPA higher than 3.6.

Query combining two relations

select sName, Major

from Student, Apply

where Student.sID = Apply.sID

This query will give you data on the names and student IDs for those students applied, filtered by Major.

Jennifer pointed out that SQL is a multi-set model and it therefore allows duplicates. You can eliminate duplicate values by adding the keyword “distinct” to your query. Jennifer also mentioned that SQL is an unordered model which means that you can sort results.

You can include an “order by” clause in your query and add “descending” to order the results of your query:

where Apply.sID = Student.sID

and Apply.cName = College.cName

order by GPA desc, Enrollment;

Main learning point: I found this class about creating a basic “select” statement particularly helpful, as it helped me to get a better understanding of how basic SQL queries are constructed.

Fig. 1 – Elements of the basic “Select” statement in SQL – Taken from: http://www.w3resource.com/sql/sql-syntax.php

 

Select SQL

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2015 in Data, Measuring

 

App review: Meerkat

The other day is saw a discussion about whether Meerkat will or won’t last. Meerkat is a simple video app which lets people stream live to their Twitters. It launched about two weeks ago and has been talked about (and used) a lot since. Let’s do a quick review of the app:

  1. How did the app come to my attention? – Simple. My wife told me about Meerkat about a week ago. I also came across the app on ProductHunt.
  2. My quick summary of the app (before using it) – This app lets me stream live to my Twitter follows.
  3. How does the app explain itself in the first minute? – The first time I open the app, there’s a screen that introduces Meerkat’s ‘rules of conduct’, explaining that “Everything that happens on Meerkat, happens on Meerkat” and thus making it clear that my Meerkat recordings will be shared on Twitter (see Fig. 1 below).
  4. How does the app explain itself in the first minute – The Meerkat login screen says “Tweet Live Video”, which clearly suggests that I’ll be able to tweet live video streams. At the top of my personalised screen I see a text field which says “Write what’s happening …” with two big calls to action – “schedule” and “stream” – underneath (see Fig. 2 below). I’m not quite clear about what will happen when I write something in the text box, or what to expect when I click on “schedule” or “stream”. Nor am I clear on why certain posts appear under the “upcoming” header; I’ve got three upcoming streams from Index Ventures in there, but I don’t understand where these posts have come from. Are they based on Twitter accounts that I follow or are they just placeholders to deal with an initial ‘cold start’ problem? Also, I know I’m not a designer but the light grey font used for the “upcoming” header doesn’t work particularly well against a dark grey background in my opinion.
  5. Getting started, what’s the process like – I type in “Playing with Meerkat” (see Fig. 3 below) and then click on “schedule” to put in a time that works for me (see Fig. 4 below). Et voila, a tweet announces my live stream and off we go (see Fig. 5 below).
  6. How easy to use was the app? – Fairly easy. I guess I personally could have done with a bit more to better understand how Meerkat works and perhaps see some examples of other live streams. For people like me who don’t do video that frequently or who are who conscious of the things they share on Twitter, a bit more context on the app would be helpful. For instance, I can see on the Meerkat leaderboard that Nir Eyal, who I know and trust, is an avid Meerkat user (see Fig. 6 below). It would be good to see some of Nir’s video streams directly from the app.
  7. How does the app compare to similar apps?Qik, which is now part of Skype, and Periscope, which is currently in private Beta are similar to Meerkat in a sense that enable live video streaming from a multitude of devices. It will be interesting to see what Periscope will look like when it goes live and to learn how easy to use the app is in comparison to Meerkat.
  8. Did the app deliver on my expectations? – Yes. The app is simple – perhaps a bit too simple in places – and does exactly what it says on the tin, nothing more and nothing less.

Main learning point: It will be interesting to see what Meerkat’s usage is like once the current hype has subsided and once competitors like Periscope have entered the fray. The app is easy to use, but I feel it could yet do more in terms of its explanatory interface and enabling users to discover content. Considering that this is only the first release of Meerkat, it feels like a good and effective product.

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of the Meerkat screen which introduces the Rules of Meerkat

Meerkat 1

 

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of my personalised screen on Meerkat 

Meerkat 2

Fig. 3 – Screenshot of my personalised screen on Meerkat after I’ve typed in something in the free text field

Meerkat A

Fig. 4 – Scheduling my live video stream via the Meerkat app

Meerkat 5

Fig. 5 – Screenshot of my tweet announcing my live video stream on Meerkat to my Twitter followers

Meerkat B

Fig. 6 – Screenshot of the leaderboard on the Meerkat app 

Meerkat C

Related links for further learning:

  1. http://quibb.com/links/on-meerkat-and-why-it-won-t-last
  2. http://www.theverge.com/2015/3/9/8164893/meerkat-live-video-streaming-twitter-yevvo-periscope
  3. http://www.producthunt.com/posts/meerkat
  4. http://www.wsj.com/articles/twitter-acquires-live-video-streaming-startup-periscope-1425938498
  5. http://hunterwalk.com/2015/03/14/meerkat-the-value-of-slow-graphs/
 

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