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    ARCHIVE: Web Marketing Psychology Report

        December 2000
        JOHN and JESSE own an eyewear store. They
      wanted to use their Web site to build store traffic,
      but it hasn't worked well. They have generated a
      growing number of visitors, but most of them only
      come once, and few of them become store
      "We've tried to make our site sticky," said Jesse.
      "What's wrong?"
      "Maybe we're so close to our business that we
      can't see the forest for the trees," said John. "Let's
      get someone else to look at it."
      They asked several friends to look at their site.
      The answer surprised them. Most people said they
      had the strong impression that John and Jesse
      sold vision care, not eyeglasses. One of their
      friends was a psychologist, who told John, "The
      problem is in the perception you're creating.
      You've tried to make your site sticky by giving a lot
      of eye-related facts and pictures on your home
      page. That leads people to the idea you are an
      optometrist who sells glasses, not an eyewear
      boutique. People see what they expect to see
      based on their initial impressions. You're creating
      the wrong first impression."
      John told Jesse, "We've got to carefully control
      WHAT is presented, WHEN it is presented, and
      HOW it is presented on our site. By manipulating
      those variables, we can not only create the right
      impression of our store, but create the sort of
      upscale image we want."
      Jesse revised their site, focusing on their special
      frames, personalized service, and partnership with
      vision care professionals. And he used more
      pictures of happy customers wearing their frames,
      knowing that pictures can make a stronger
      impression than words. When visitors started
      getting the right impression of the business, they
      started calling the store -- and they already had a
      positive image in their mind.
      LESSON: A person's initial perception of a Web
      site helps to color every other idea and impression
      they have. If you give the wrong impression on your homepage, you'll
      lose or confuse many of
      your visitors. Every element plays a part in
      creating the overall image visitors have of your
      business. The best home pages clearly show
      visitors the benefits they can have in simple, direct
      words and pictures which reflect the type of image
      they want to present.
      LUCIA and PHIL have a carpet cleaning business.
      Their Web site details services and prices, and
      shows pictures of their technician in action. While
      they have visitors, few of them have contacted the
      Lucia talked to a friend who understood human
      motivation. Jenny explained to her, "Your industry
      has a questionable image because of a few
      disreputable companies, and that colors the
      impression people bring to your Web site. What
      they want you to give them is confidence that
      you're different."
      "Most people haven't heard of us, so we're just so
      many electrons on a screen to them," Lucia told
      Phil. "We have to convince them we're one of the
      good companies."
      "How?" asked Phil. "We already tell them all the
      good services we provide, and we guarantee our
      "Jenny says we need third party credibility to build
      confidence in our visitors. We do that by getting
      testimonials from some of our customers. And, we
      especially try to get a testimonial from Mr. Johnson
      at the bank because he is a highly credible
      source," said Lucia.
      "Why don't we emphasize how long we've been in
      business, too? And that we're members of the
      Chamber of Commerce," suggested Phil.
      Lucia added the new information to their site, and
      even included a picture of Mr. Johnson at his bank.
      They not only got quotes from customers, but
      actually reproduced a couple of the letters to add more credibility.
      And they looked for other ways,
      too, like displaying the Customer Care award from
      a trade association they had won, and showing the
      results of a survey they did with customers, who
      gave them high rankings in several "Customer
      Satisfaction" categories.
      The changes made a difference. More visitors
      began calling the store, and many of them
      mentioned Mr. Johnson's name or their Chamber
      membership. It gave them confidence.
      LESSON: People make buying decisions based
      on both logic and emotion. Believing you build up
      their confidence by simply telling them what you
      sell can be a big mistake. Unless you or your
      company already have credibility in their minds,
      your customers will want to know what others think
      about you -- your other customers, your peers, the
      business community, and so on. This is especially
      important on the Internet where a garage-based
      business can create the same professional
      storefront as a major corporation.
      @@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@Back to Top
      January 2001
      If you find this Report useful, please consider
      forwarding it to a friend or two. A Realtor in Texas did, and
      received a listing in return for her thoughtfulness.
      Several readers have suggested we broaden the
      scope of these Reports to include offline marketing
      because they have both Web sites and brick-and-
      mortar companies. Please let me know if you like the
      new approach.
      JAMIE AND OSCAR own a furniture store and
      also sell home decorations online. Their high-end
      stock isn't selling well despite foot traffic and Web
      visitors. And they don't know why.
      Jamie talked to a marketing psychologist friend
      who explained their store image and Web site didn't fit
      their pricing structure. The store has a very ordinary
      appearance, but their stock is high quality and is
      priced high accordingly. The same problems are seen
      in their Web site.
      The psychologist told them,
      "All consumers want a fair price, but fairness is not
      objective. It is subconsciously influenced by many unrelated
      factors. The look of the store influences the buyer's expected
      price range for your furniture. When its in the upper end of
      that range, buyers look for value-added features to justify
      what they perceive of as a high price. It is entirely possible to
      create the impression of "low cost" or "high value" with little or
      no change in the actual price you charge. In a fancy furniture
      store your mid-priced recliners would be at the low end of the
       range buyers expected to pay, and be seen as a bargain."
      Jamie first upgraded the look of their Web site to
      favorably compare with those of exclusive furniture and
      department stores. They worked with an interior designer
      to remake the look of their store that created an image of
       high-quality in the minds of customers. And it worked.
      Now they sell more online and offline, and do it without
      lowering their prices.
      LESSON: A fair price is in the mind of the beholder.
      A $1.75 cup of coffee at IHOP seems high to most customers,
      but at Starbucks its a good value. That change in judgment is
      influenced by Starbucks's high-end image, expected price range
      for its coffees, and the fact that plain coffee is the cheapest thing
      on the menu. Be aware of all the unrelated factors that influence
      buyers' perception of your product's price.
      Here are some psychological influences on the buyer's
       perception of an item's price which are not related to the
      item's quality:
    • Price comparisons you use in the ad. ["Compare at $..."]
    • Appearance of the store or Web site, including layout
    • Display of the merchandise. Any gem placed on dark velvet in a glass case and lit well seems
      to be of higher value than the same gem in a cardboard box.
    • Appearance and demeanor of the sales staff
    • An "On Sale" sign
    • Offered discounts ["20% Off"]
    • Setting a time limit for a price.
    • Using the words "Only" or "Just" in the ad. ["Only $39.95 for a limited time"]
    • Contrasting the price to a higher price for a similar item. For example, a $499 recliner seems more reasonable when it is sitting next to a $699 recliner.]
      JUAN AND SYLVIA own a small fast food restaurant. Since
      they are close to many businesses, they have a Web site where
      customers can order ahead at lunch. But they're having trouble
      competing with nearby chains despite their unique look.
      "Our restaurant is beautiful," said Juan, looking over
      their dining area. The crisp white tablecloths were warmly
      colored by a series of small chandeliers, which made the real
      wood walls gleam. "Why don't we have more customers?"
      Sylvia asked a marketing psychologist about their problem.
      "You advertise yourself as a fast food place, not a restaurant,"
      he told Sylvia. "One problem you have is the public's image of
      the fast food industry. They expect acceptable food fast and at a
      reasonably low price. They expect to make a tradeoff for that --
      they eat in a plastic, utilitarian setting. Your place doesn't
      fit into their expectations.
      "Looking at all the work you've done on the outside and inside of
      your place may lead some people to expect higher prices.
      I know your prices are competitive. That will lead others to
      think the fancy setting will be balanced out by lower quality
      food. In other words, you are a victim of your industry's image.
      And it is very hard to change an industry's image.
      It will probably cost you a lot of extra money to try to overcome that image."
      Juan took off the tablecloths, painted the walls blue
      and yellow, and replaced the chandeliers with inexpensive
      lighting fixtures. The outside of their place now looks more like
      competing franchise operations. Sylvia revamped the look of their
      Web site to match the look of their restaurant, clean, attractive and
      utilitarian. They have gradually built up their business. And more
      than one customer has commented that the quality of the food
      seems to have improved.
      LESSON: You can't fight city hall. Your business is
      influenced by your industry's image. While you can position
      yourself at the lower, middle or upper end of that image, it is
      hard to go beyond that. Its very difficult to create
      the image of a high class operation if you're selling fast food,
      aluminum siding, taxi services, used cars, used furniture, etc.
      Instead, use that image to help sell your products.
      Take Dwayne's Discount Barn. His store is as utilitarian
      as a Sam's Club warehouse. To sell his jewelry, he doesn't
      run full-color ads featuring models in Dior gowns. He uses
      the image of his industry to influence his buyers' perceptions.
      Dwayne's ad for diamonds reads:
      "Hi, Neighbor: We just got in a big shipment of fine quality diamond rings from
      Spain, and your True Love can be wearing one on her pretty little finger tonight!
      You can get her a real European Diamond at a price you won't believe!
      We got 'em in all sizes to fit all budgets. We got 'em set in gold,
      silver, platinum and clear plastic. Bring in your Honey and we'll
      give you an ice cold Pepsi while you look around.
      Your friend, Dwayne."
      Dwayne sells more diamonds this way than he would with an
      upscale ad, which would scare off the customers who will buy from
      him, and would not attract those who refuse to buy a diamond from
      any place that offers plastic settings. Dwayne's ad reinforces the
      target buyers' belief that they can get good bargains from Discount stores.
      Do your ads and Web site reinforce your customers' expectations?
    Back to Top

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