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  1. #1
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    Site Design - talking heads
    Heya gang,
    We are *always* looking for ways to improve the visitor shopping experience. Recently we've been seeing these "talking head" things ... www.sitepal.com around. Sitepal claims it helps with conversions and we think it would help in particular because our shopping cart is a bit complicated at first.

    I'm wondering if anyone can vouch for if these things help? or if they are annoying to most people?

    I was thinking that it might help people figure out how to make that critical click to purchase.

  2. #2
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Wow. I love it! I think it is revolutionary to an extent. I can see how it can be annoying - particularly when your visitor shops from his work computer - but I really think it might do as much good too.

    Geno

  3. #3
    A Real *and* Darn Cool Member! lstolze's Avatar
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    I think it's sort of neat (although I've seen some knockoffs that were just awful). Of course my husband is an IT guy, and informs me that no one he knows (also mostly IT type people) likes them. So maybe techies find them lame...? That would be interesting...to find out what groups of people a tool like that appeals to most. I would guess that women may be a large majority of the 'I like it' group. Women are more interested in getting helpful interaction, while I think men know what they want and don't want to be bothered. LOL!
    ~Lisa - Brilliant Mastermind, or Nut? You decide!

  4. #4
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    Being a techy myself, I don't really like them. However, I think if it can be integrated in a non-offensive (i.e. not like circuit city) manner... then I think it could help.

    I wanted to get some other opinions.

    Our biggest headache is that people don't always understand how to use our cart because it's tailored specifically to our business. 98% of them like it once they understand it. It's very very fast for it's intended purpose. Custom apparel is also a complicated purchase and we answer the same questions repeatedly. So my idea was to use this to be "available" to answer common questions about screenprinting, buying t-shirts, etc. I figure it's worth it if it saves a phone call a week and improves the customer experience.

  5. #5
    Not Verif-Lidated infoTim's Avatar
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    As soon as I see one of those things pop, I shop somewhere else. If I want annoying "help" I'll go to the mall.
    Tim
    consultant by day, affiliate by night

  6. #6
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by infoTim
    As soon as I see one of those things pop, I shop somewhere else. If I want annoying "help" I'll go to the mall.
    That's exactly what I envisaged someone would say!

    Geno

  7. #7
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    So how could we make one available, but not annoying. I.e. ready to help. ?

  8. #8
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    So how could we make one available, but not annoying. I.e. ready to help. ?
    You'd want to "make (it) available" when it is requested. For example, from our experience with the "PHP LiveHelp" chat add-on we're using, only about 1-2% (and I am giving just a very approximate estimate) of visitors utilize the possibility of getting the live help. However, those that do, really appreciate it... So you'd want to make these "talking heads" talk on the customer's request. Then it would be both fun and useful.

    Geno

  9. #9
    Not Verif-Lidated infoTim's Avatar
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    A clearly written and illustrated help pop-up window, tied to a "?" button is all most people need/want. I suppose a big red "panic" button for those totally befuddled shoppers with a fat wallet that calls in the big guns to complete the order for them could be handy.
    Tim
    consultant by day, affiliate by night

  10. #10
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    help buttons
    You know, it's really interesting that you say something about ? buttons. We tried that. The most amusing response was that the icons were confused with broken images. I even went to the trouble of making it database driven and using both tooltips and pop-up mini-windows. I called it kwik-help on top of all else. I made a point of putting the icons wherever they could be useful.

    I've also had calls from end-users who were confused about what "next: buy it with screenprinting" meant. I even had one who claimed not to know what a button that read "I have read the terms, agree, and wish to complete the order" meant. That lady happened to be a paralegal too!

    Anyway, some people like to have stuff explained to them in person and I see these as a way to augment our customer service. Specifically to address redundant (common) questions consistently and correctly without a phone call.

    This all ties back to studying user behavior and being customer (and affiliate) driven. I've been working for some time on improving usability, page loads per visit, and thus conversion. As part of that we've tried to address usability, layout, and functionality. Sometimes what appears to the developer to make sense is confusing to the end-user. My point here is that our conversion rate doesn't set any records. That said, we have a really complicated product. Apparel is simple enough, but it has sizes and colors. It also has feel, durability, thickness, comfort and a host of non-web capable qualities. Add to that it's a personal product (you wear it) and it's a wonder anyone buys it online. In fact the irony is that I didn't think in 2002 anyone would buy shirts sight-unseen. Fortunately, I was very wrong. Still, it's a complicated product and the two primary vectors are personal and group purchasing.

    I'm finding this board to be a really good resource. I appreciate all the input from Tim and Geno.

  11. #11
    AM Navigator Geno Prussakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    I'm finding this board to be a really good resource.
    It truly is, ntjock. With enough of diligence and time set apart to study, one can educate himself/herself about almost anything pertaining to Affiliate Marketing at ABW.


    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    Anyway, some people like to have stuff explained to them in person and I see these as a way to augment our customer service. Specifically to address redundant (common) questions consistently and correctly without a phone call.
    Very true. And the "talking heads" can be of good help in it. Many people, however, would prefer the simple easy-to-navigate good ole FAQs, finding them more helpful. Take your time to compile them (you may also have a brief and a more detailed version of them too), and you will be thankful in the future you did (especially with your a "really complicated product"; oh, sizing can be very-very complicated indeed, I totally agree).

    Good luck!

    Geno

  12. #12
    Not Verif-Lidated infoTim's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    You know, it's really interesting that you say something about ? buttons. We tried that. The most amusing response was that the icons were confused with broken images.
    That's kind of funny, but it doesn't suprise me. :-) Way back pre-internet I remember working on a desktop application that our company was trying to sell and our GUI guy was wracking his brain trying to design icons that represented some functions of the product. When we got something that everyone in the office (secretaries included) understood we sent it out to a few testers. Sure enough, one of them complained that a certain icon was very offensive to his religion. Didn't mean anything to any of us though.
    Tim
    consultant by day, affiliate by night

  13. #13
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    ntjock,

    Dr Ralph Wilson did a study and in his report (I haven't read it in it's entirety) he said that sitepal did produce a slightly higher conversion rate, but I seriously doubt it was utilized in the manner you speak of above.

    I think an intuitive GUI will out perform any technology EVERY DAY. That said when your site gets back up I'll look at it and give you a call to discuss on how to make it work without the TalkingHeads
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  14. #14
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    Holy Sh!t .... F that!

    Kill the cart there is no saving that nightmare, not cool music nor talkingheads!
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  15. #15
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    And some folks are already using this talking head stuff to spread spyware...

    http://netrn.net/spywareblog/archive...e-booby-prize/

  16. #16
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    and their technology uses Flash.... hmmmm....

  17. #17
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    here's another twist on animation... make it cute and sucker people in...

    http://www.logogram.com/2005/buddyprogram.asp

    "The Branding Buddy™ program is a completely new and innovative persistent branding tool conceptualized and developed exclusively by Logogram Incorporated. The Branding Buddy™ program will provide your company an avenue to promote your brand through persistent PC desktop placement of a customized, lively animated character that will both entertain and perform functional activities for the end user. The Branding Buddy™ program allows your company to enjoy logo placement on both the Branding Buddy™ character and in the Windows system tray. The Branding Buddy™ will convert text to voice for email, instant messages, notes, etc. and will directly notify the end-user of incoming announcements and scheduled events. Additional features include real time updates based on permission marketing to end-users via the Branding Buddy™. Further capabilities include the use of data mining and business rules to completely customize the end-user experience and personalize target marketing campaigns."

  18. #18
    Lite On The Do, Heavy On The Nuts Donuts's Avatar
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    If they can't make their cart a smooth experience or provide straightforward help, I argue that dressing it in animation won't help.

    And when branding gets carried away, you end up going from sitepal's little talking head, to logogram's branding buddy to this...
    http://www.installermagicbuddy.com/

  19. #19
    MasterMike HardwareGeek's Avatar
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    I hate those things and most people I know turn their speakers off when a site starts to talk to them.

  20. #20
    Affiliate Manager
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    Heya gang,
    We are *always* looking for ways to improve the visitor shopping experience. Recently we've been seeing these "talking head" things ... www.sitepal.com around. Sitepal claims it helps with conversions
    I would be interested in seeing their data and the methodology used to derive it. While I don't have hard data on this specifically, there's plenty of research about the impact of distractors in the buying process; my hunch is that it risks being more of a distraction than a closer.

    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    and we think it would help in particular because our shopping cart is a bit complicated at first.
    It's a nifty gadget, but before I looked to doing something like that I'd first just simplify the buying process. If the cart is complicated you've already found the root problem. Working on anything other than cleaning up the cart may be worth pursuing later, but I suspect nothing will help sales more today than boosting the usability of the cart.

    For tips on enhancing usability here are two of the best resources in the field:

    Jakob Nielsen:
    http://www.useit.com/

    Jarod Spool & Co:
    http://uie.com/articles/

    Both of these gentlemen have pedigrees a mile long with proven results for some of the world's largest companies. Nielsen's consulting rate is $5k/day, and the companies who gladly pay it get much more back from his results. It's a good thing for the rest of us that these folks publish so much of their research for free.
    Richard Gaskin
    Developer of WebMerge: Publish any data feed on any site
    http://www.fourthworld.com

  21. #21
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    I think it's very interesting although weird. You can create your own "talking head" which is kinda fun. But I can see how it would be annoying ... kinda like the perfume bandits in department stores.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

    Rexanne.com
    Loving Everyone's Child Creates Magic


  22. #22
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    Okay, I agree with nearly everything mentioned. However, it's really easy to attack the cart when you sell hardgoods or single simple skus. When your skus have 3 dimensions and the dimensions are a critical aspect of how the product is purchased you have to accomodate them. 100% of our experience and feedback is that the cart is different, but once people understand it they like it. We did attack the cart issue by studying why people use the cart and building an alternate cart.

    At any rate, we decided to take a conservative, low-key approach. We utilize some tools made possible by visitlab. Www.visitlab.com. It's primarily a ppc-fraud tool, but it also does clickstream analysis and visitor analysis. Our stats for the week were 12000 visits with an average time on site of 134 seconds and 3 pageviews and just under 1% (.9) conversion factor. The stats today so far are 4 pageviews and 275s on page per visit. If it accomplishes nothing else it's earned it's keep.

    I agree with the other techies, I personally laugh at these and consider it an intrusion. However, I've personally taken enough phone calls to know who uses the site. I decided to set it to only talk once per session unless you tell it to talk more. That keeps it quiet and prevents it from being a halloween creature. The text-to-speech is okay, but not ideal. We have the ability to call in and record a message to use so we will do that or upload audio once we get the message tuned.

    We put it online at 10am and 4 hours later I haven't heard of a single nasty comment. That in and of itself is remarkable. I went and asked all the folks who answer the phone if they'd had any comments. I think the key so far is conservative deployment, no cheesy comments, and making it simple. By the way, we decided to play the virtual part and gave it a name, Susan. No offense to anyone intended. ( I can hear the nails on the chalkboard now). It may be gone in 48 hours, but it's a cheap ($20) expirement and if it converts one extra sale a week or prevents a couple of frustrated users it is well worth it.

  23. #23
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Haiko de Poel, Jr.
    ntjock,

    I think an intuitive GUI will out perform any technology EVERY DAY. That said when your site gets back up I'll look at it and give you a call to discuss on how to make it work without the TalkingHeads
    I think you are dead on. However, as a coder I know that intuitive to me is not intuitive to Grandma buying shirties for kiddies. I'd fail my customers miserably if I didn't at least consider and test tools that have the potential to unsnag the process. I'll underscore that our feedback from customers is that it is intuitive and simple to use. As a point, once you know what it does you can buy 3 or 4,000 shirts (or more) with 3 locations of printing, special finishing, shipping options, and be checked out in under 3 minutes on a dialup connection. I can do it in about 45 seconds... but I wrote it so I know what's coming next and that's not a fair test.

  24. #24
    Life is Supposed to be Fun! Rexanne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ntjock
    Okay, I agree with nearly everything mentioned. However, it's really easy to attack the cart when you sell hardgoods or single simple skus. When your skus have 3 dimensions and the dimensions are a critical aspect of how the product is purchased you have to accomodate them. 100% of our experience and feedback is that the cart is different, but once people understand it they like it. We did attack the cart issue by studying why people use the cart and building an alternate cart.

    At any rate, we decided to take a conservative, low-key approach. We utilize some tools made possible by visitlab. Www.visitlab.com. It's primarily a ppc-fraud tool, but it also does clickstream analysis and visitor analysis. Our stats for the week were 12000 visits with an average time on site of 134 seconds and 3 pageviews and just under 1% (.9) conversion factor. The stats today so far are 4 pageviews and 275s on page per visit. If it accomplishes nothing else it's earned it's keep.
    Seems to be working for you.I can see how it would if your cart is necessarily tricky.

    I think the biggest issue with these talking heads and voices on phones is the quality of the voice and the imagined condescending attitude of them. I, personally, get horribly annoyed by phone recordings to "guide" me through a business' maze of "options." I especially dislike having to actually have a freaking conversation with the damn thing and have it reply! Grrrrrrrrrr

    I think if a talking head helps guide a visitor through a tricky ordering process, it will be welcomed and not an annoyance plus if it shows that conversions are higher with it, by all means let the head speak.
    Peace,

    Rexanne

    Rexanne.com
    Loving Everyone's Child Creates Magic


  25. #25
    Member ntjock's Avatar
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    the data so far is that it has about doubled are conversion rate and increased site visit length and number of pages viewed per visit. Returning visitors seems to have increased as well.

    In person data is that it was responsible for a $1000 sale the other day. Customer called to ask a question and inquired if it was an actress. Said he loved it and it was very useful information. Our approach has been to keep it low key, speak once per session per presence, and keep it focused on explaining where things are on the page.

    yes, Haiko is right, GUI is good, but every site has a bit different look and feel.

    At any rate, we are still waiting for the affiliate program to sell something. I have 3 programs I'm managing, each with nearly 50 affiliates who generate NO traffic. grrr.

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