It can often seem that conversion optimization conflicts with brand and image marketing. In some cases, this is true. A recent infographic from the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Master in Business Administration program (NJIT) got us to thinking about the importance of branding to any conversion optimization effort.

How a Conversion Scientist Thinks of Brand-Building

For the purposes of conversion optimization, brand is critically important. If we’re talking about a landing page, a website, an email or an ad, brand can communicate some important information in the blink of an eye.

For us, brand is a container for trust, credibility and authority.
For us, brand is a container for trust, credibility and authority. Brand marketers will tell you to put the company logo and tag line on every communication. A Conversion Scientist uses brand symbols primarily to communicate authority and credibility.
A brand symbol is a hook on which brand experiences are hung. Conversion Sciences has benefited from its brand symbol — the lab coat — and we work diligently to hang positive brand experiences on this symbol when we write, teach, and speak. We give lab coats to our clients so they can associate our business-changing results with this important brand symbol.
Companies who have invested in brand recognition over decades and have protected their brand symbols have a significant advantage over less-known brands. These brand symbols communicate a complex set of impressions quickly.
From a budgeting standpoint, building brand is very expensive. It requires paying for millions of impressions with little expectation of short-term increases of revenue. It also takes time.
We believe that conversion optimization is a brand-building activity. Conversion-based brand building works on the assumption that there is no better brand experience than finding what you are looking for. As you improve the conversion rate and revenue per visit of your website, you are, by definition, giving your visitors better experiences. These experiences are associated with your brand symbols and build brand quickly and powerfully.

Brand Building in Digital Environments

Because conversion optimization relies on data, and since digital environments are data-rich, these digital environments are ideal for conversion-based brand building. Your investment in optimizing online properties is an investment in brand.
The infographic acknowledges that there are three moments in the buying process when companies come into contact with new and existing clients.

There are potential touchpoints with new and existing clients before, during, and after a purchase.

There are potential touchpoints with new and existing clients before, during, and after a purchase.

Each of these can be optimized to increase conversions and sales.


  1. Before purchase, using proper navigation, search and “affordances” to guide the visitor to their desired outcome.

  3. During purchase ensuring that completing the transaction is intuitive and surprise-free.

  5. After purchase optimization influences up-sells, repeat purchases, and enables sharing.

Be Careful with Consistency

The infographic tells us that “Consumers Expect Consistency” across channels and devices. This is a lie.

90 percent of customers expect their experience with a brand to be the same across every marketing channel

90% of customers expect their experience with a brand to be the same across every marketing channel

Consumers expect consistent quality of experiences and consistent use of brand symbols. However, our testing shows that they want very different experiences when they are in different contexts. Desktop visitors want a more intense experience with more choice and deeper information. Smartphone visitors want immediate access to solutions.
Quality experiences across devices become a consistent builder of brand value.

Optimizing Touchpoints

There are different kinds of people coming to each of your touchpoints. They are often the same person coming in different modes.
Search Engine Watch tells us that certain types of searches are more common on Bing than on Google – finance and automotive for instance. You probably already know that mobile iOS users behave differently than Android ones, but have you made the connection about how their searches differ?
Ninety-seven percent of Millennials touch at least two devices every 24 hours, and many of them interact with even more devices.

Millenials are multi-device creatures.

Millenials are multi-device creatures.

That’s a lot of opportunity for touchpoints just from search.

Social media platforms prime visitors in different ways meaning online experiences must be tailored to each. For example, Instagram is poised to be a better organic marketing option than Facebook for many companies.
Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 9.58.22 PM
Customers expect to find you on all of the major social media platforms, but how much effort should you use in maintaining your presence? Our answer is to be only on those platforms for which you have the resources to optimize the experience. The default social experience may negatively impact your brand.
Each platform has a distinct purpose that should dictate how much time and money you must invest in it. Your most important task when you invest in new digital marketing is to go back to the original concept of branding, no matter how complicated contemporary marketing may seem. Your new and existing customers will know what to expect from you based on past experience, and today’s experience is tomorrow’s past experience.
Thanks to NJIT’s MBA program for sharing.

Feature image by Hanna_Elise via Compfight cc and adapted for this post.

You can find the most inane demographic information about Facebook users, the amount of time they waste on the site, how many of them are grandmothers, where to find a browser extension that will make all of those pictures of your friends’ kids turn into pictures of cats, and lots of other quasi-useful information that make for great click-bait.
Millions of people visit Facebook every single day without fail, and many of them are money-spending Millennials. Conventional wisdom says that, if you run a business, you probably should be on Facebook because that’s where the customers are.
Facebook has become an object beyond criticism. Or has it?
There’s also a lot of other data out there about how Facebook isn’t doing all that much for businesses. If you consider all of the time needed to build a following and curating content, it becomes too expensive to reach your Facebook members. There are alternatives, apparently.
An infographic from selfstartr makes the argument that Instagram is where you should be placing your bets on organic marketing instead of expending all your effort with Facebook. When a business posts on social media and doesn’t pay for it, that’s what we mean by organic marketing.

Facebook Organic Marketing is Dead or Dying

According to an article on Clickz, even people who defend marketing on Facebook aren’t saying organic marketing on social media helps increase conversion rates because “Most organic social media posts aren’t directly selling, because selling is rarely interesting enough to drive engagements.” This article lumps all social media sites together, including both Facebook and Instagram, but treating them the same way ignores a lot of data.

People actually really like interacting with brands on Instagram

People actually really like interacting with brands on Instagram.

Instagrammers engage at a much higher rate than Facebookers. Not only that, there’s a very strong chance that your followers aren’t even seeing what you post on Facebook since only 6% of your followers see each one.
Facebook's algorithm for what shows up in newsfeeds means that no matter how far someone scrolls, they may never see what you posted.

Facebook’s algorithm for the newsfeed means that no matter how far someone scrolls, they may never see what you posted.

Companies using Instagram have the potential to reach 100% of their followers. If your customers scroll far enough down on their feed, they’ll see what you shared. Keep in mind that when we say that engagement with brands is lower on Facebook, it’s not necessarily because people don’t see posts from brands. Millions of companies are creating content on both social media sites, but a much smaller group of people bother interacting with brands on Facebook.
Interactions on Instagram are more passive than on Facebook. Instagram has more barriers to content going viral, and you can’t see whether seven of your friends have double-tapped the same image (on Facebook, your newsfeed tells you what your friends Like). In other words, interacting with brands on Instagram isn’t as visibly social as it is on Facebook. Turns out, this model isn’t bad for business.
Engaged users are worth more on Instagram.

Engaged users are worth more on Instagram.

To sum up: Instagram users engage at higher rates and spend more money than their Facebook counterparts. How much time are you putting into creating content for your Facebook followers when only a handful of them see it and even fewer care?

There’s Still Time to Be An Early Adopter

How many of your competitors are on Instagram? The market on Facebook is pretty saturated, so your eCommerce company is probably one of many. That might not be the case on Instagram.

What's keeping you from using Instagram?

What’s keeping you from using Instagram?

Don’t dismiss Instagram because whatever you’re selling doesn’t photograph well. Kissmetrics makes a pretty persuasive argument that it doesn’t matter: you can find a creative way to get around that problem. It also addresses some other misunderstandings that might be keeping you from creating a business account.

Is Instagram the Way to Millennials’ Hearts?

Facebook began with exclusivity. Only students at certain colleges could join, and no one else was welcome. No parents, certainly no grandparents, and absolutely no businesses. People caught marketing their business ventures weren’t welcome and would be immediately reported.
If that’s Facebook’s origin story, maybe it’s not surprising that people react with derision when it feels like their newsfeed is bloated with paid and unpaid ads. It’s inauthentic when someone tries to sell you something in a setting that’s supposed to be just your friends. Facebook’s original model didn’t have a place for that kind of interaction.
Instagram, however, was born into a world where businesses were already an integral part of social media. By the time Instagram launched in 2010, Facebook was already trying to be an everything-to-everyone social media site. Instagram’s focus was more narrow. Just photos.
Facebook is so broad that you can post your Instagram photos to Facebook. People use Facebook as a catch-all, so when they need something more focused, they go elsewhere.
People tend to use Instagram to follow interests instead of friends. They can see what their friends are doing on Facebook. Remember that you can potentially reach 100% of your followers on Instagram since it’s just chronological instead of using an algorithm. That doesn’t work well when you’re trying to keep up with other people’s lives, especially if they don’t post often.
Keeping up with an interest is easier because someone can follow lots of similar users. That’s a real advantage for businesses because data exists on the best times to post. It’s more acceptable to re-post similar images because followers may not see both and get annoyed.
Instagram is fertile ground for attracting Millennial consumers. This generation loves transparency, engaging with people and organizations with similar interests, and creative marketing. This group is huge. More than half of US adults age 18-29 are already on Instagram.
My takeaway from this study is that people think Facebook is kind of a drag. It’s necessary, but not all that fun. Two thirds of users engage with brands on Instagram compared to less than a third of the users on Facebook. Stats like that make me think about the quality of engagement on Facebook versus Instagram.
There are countless articles about customer service and customer complaints on social media, but it’s tough to find any information about using Instagram as a platform for complaints. Maybe Instagram will bring you higher-valued conversions and make social media enjoyable again.
Thanks to selfstartr for sharing.

Everybody wants to be the llmpany that came up with the brilliantly clever video or ad or Tweet that got shared by millions. The one where, if you dare to admit you haven’t seen it, everyone else at the party will jump on you demanding, “You haven’t SEEN it?” But here’s the thing: While there are many companies that have made such ads that quickly translated into rapid sales, other companies with viral videos and other funny content never increased their sales at all, despite millions of shares. The bottom line is humor can create sales, but it has to be done right.
Unfortunately, it’s so easy to do it wrong.
Inc. published case studies on two products. One, the Orabrush, was designed to remove the tongue bacteria that cause bad breath. Inventor Dr. Robert Wagner was only pulling in about $30 a month, selling 10 Orabrushes, until he created a funny video. Within six weeks, Orabrush sold about 10,000 tongue cleaners (and gave many away free). Within two years, the company sold more than a million Orabrushes online and the video was viewed more than 15 million times. You can now buy the tongue cleaner at stores like Walmart. What was so great about the video was that, in addition to being funny, it clearly explained what causes bad breath and why the Orabrush is the best solution. It also had a call to action and a free Orabrush for responding.
In the same article, though, the reporter talked about EZ Grill which made a video in which it grilled various smart phones to see which would last longest. The video quickly got over a million views but didn’t translate into sales. There might have been a lot of reasons for this.

  • The focus was more on the phones than on the grill.
  • There was no explanation about why one would buy a portable grill or what made EZ Grill a better option.
  • The video revealed the little aluminum grill’s occasional inferno-like action.
  • There was no connection to the company’s website or any other outlet, so consumers had to figure out where to get one on their own: friction.
  • There was cognitive dissonance between something high tech, like smart phones, and the music, which sounded like something from a Charlie Chaplin movie. Cognitive dissonance can be good or bad. In this case, it was difficult to tell who the audience was or what they should do.

The truth is, humor is complicated. Consider that most comedians will work a joke over and over before they bring it to audiences. Nielsen reports that, in the U.S. and Europe at least, 50 percent of people surveyed rank humorous ads as most effective. But myriad studies have failed to find a direct correlation between a funny ad and widgets flying out the door. A study on funny Superbowl ads showed that sales didn’t immediately go up on the products with the funniest ads. And yet we all know about the ones that worked. The Dollar Shave Club, which got 12,000 people to sign up for the service in the first 48 hours after they first aired their comic video, for example. So what makes the difference?
The first rule of humor probably should be:

1. Don’t Forget to Sell Your Product

A great example of this is Poo Purri, a company that makes a spray with essential oils that traps the odor of poop in the bowl. Really, hard to imagine how to sell this product without humor. But here’s a company that uses cognitive dissonance perfectly. It’s a visually attractive video of a gentile, British, girl-next-door, in elegant clothes, sitting on a toilet talking about the basest human functions.
But this video tells you exactly how Poo Pourri works, where to find it, what its Amazon rating is, has a “click here” call to action and a money back guarantee. The result was a 13,000 percent increase in visits to the site and more than double the company’s revenue.
One reason humor works is that it engages the brain in such a way that people kind of forget they’re being sold to. They might share the video over and over, watch it over and over, never realizing that they’re cheerfully and voluntarily propagandizing themselves and spreading your message. That’s because, from a scientific standpoint, humor provides all kinds of payoffs for the brain.
According to a paper published by the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, the beginning of a joke triggers your frontal cortex—the executive part of the brain—to look for pattern recognition. The minute we sense a joke is coming, we perk up. We pay attention, look for the payoff. And if the payoff is good, we’re flooded with good feeling neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These are the neurotransmitters that flood us when we’re in love or we accomplish a challenging goal. At the same time, laughter decreases stress hormones like serum cortisol or epinephrine. So just by the act of being funny, your blog, email, video and other content can reach through the screen and make customers feel good. That’s power.
A study on How Humor Breaks Resistance to Influence, conducted at a university in the Netherlands, show how humor distracts audiences from the fact they’re being sold to. Especially if the humor doesn’t tackle the sales goal head on. So it prevents the target audience from throwing up walls against being influenced.
Normally, any content that might cause us to spend money or make a decision triggers all kinds of defense mechanisms: skepticism, criticism, refusal to be moved. That’s especially true if we already have resistance to the brand. Humor has the effect of distracting us from resistance. And, the study said, even if consumers don’t consciously remember the association between the brand and the thing that made them laugh, it will positively impact brand perception and influence buying.

2. Distract Your Audience From the Hard Sell

One company that uses humor to distract is Yesware, which sends out the email below to customers who haven’t responded to sales pitches. The humor in it, of course, softens the fact that the email is essentially saying “What gives?” Typically, Yesware reports, replies to follow up emails are around 21 percent. But not this one:

This humorous email had a 46 percent response rate

This humorous email had a 46 percent response rate

But to make people laugh, you have to know your audience.

3. Be Relevant to Your Audience

Ikea wanted to boost its sales in Singapore and Malaysia. The trouble is, Singapore and Malaysia are crazy about technology and Ikea is a very low-tech company with furniture you build yourself. Its primary marketing tool is a paper catalog, which is about as low tech as they come. So, just before the release of the iPhone 6, Ikea posted a video that spoofed its own catalog.

Its commercial video used an Apple-like asthetic to show the simple navigation of its paper catalog

Its commercial video used an Apple-like asthetic to show the simple navigation of its paper catalog, touting catalog’s “eternal battery life” and “tactile touch technology you can actually feel.”

With The Ikea “bookbook”, the ad said “each crystal clear image loads instantaneously….”
It was the only commercial video that made it to Time Magazine’s top 10 viral videos of 2014, with 12 million views as of the end of 2014. The video—which was created BBH Asia Pacific marketing company—increased sales .8 percent in Singapore and 13 percent in Malaysia. A case study by London branding and marketing firm, Cream Global, showed the video also garnered articles in Time, WSJ, Buzzfeed, The Daily Mail, Mashable and more. It got nearly 500,000 share on Facebook. More than 6,000 people uploaded photos of themselves with their bookbooks on Instagram. Ikea’s revenues have climbed every year but global sales in 2014 were up nearly six percent from the previous year.
By contrast Ranker has a votable list of brands that try too hard to connect with the millennial generation, including Welch’s “Pour ‘em a glass of LOLs” and a myriad of brands who ultimately killed the expression “bae.”
Ikea’s ad did something else that is crucial to humor in content, it was self-deprecating. Making fun of others in ads just communicates that you’re mean-spirited. Take political ads, for example. But making fun of yourself engenders affection.

4. Be Self-Deprecating

Dissolve makes stock footage. Just showing how pretty their stock footage was would only serve to keep them in competition with every other stock footage company. But Dissolve decided to spoof itself on the fact that stock footage is designed to create mental associations that may or may not have anything to do with the actual product. The blatant honesty was surprising and funny. During the Generic Brand Video launch week, visits to the site increased by 9x and signups and sales revenue both increased by 6X.

Dissolve's self-deprecating humor about stock photos being generic worked well

Dissolve’s self-deprecating humor about stock photos being generic worked well.

Sam Elliott, in his gravelly, dead-pan voice nails the intention of the pictures of happy, beautiful people and scenery to influence viewers’ perception about the product being sold: “Lest you think we’re a faceless entity, look at all these attractive people. Here’s some of them talking and laughing and closeups of hands passing canned goods to each other….” As the saying goes: “It’s funny because it’s true.” It also communicates a sense of transparency and humility on Dissolve’s part.
The video generated articles in Fast Company, Ad Age, Adweek, Mashable, Gizmodo, Mediaite and TIME, according to the Shorty Awards where it won Best of B2B.
One of the brilliant things about the Dissolve video was that, while it was making fun of itself, it was also making the case that its beautiful footage sells powerfully. And it included a link to the company’s website.
Humor is difficult. Just listen to a lineup of comedians and it’s clear that some people know how to do it and others don’t. Poo Pourri founder Suzi Batiz said in several interviews that some of the writing for that first viral ad made her cringe. But it worked. So find someone who knows how to do it right, and don’t forget that the whole point is to get people to buy your product or service.

About the Author

Susan Lahey headshotSusan Lahey is a journalist, copywriter, author and all around multipotentialite wordsmith who loves to write about brave people doing cool things.
Feature image by S.Hart Photography, licensed through Creative Commons and adapted for this post.

If it’s backed by data, it’s not sexist. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. If the data says it’s true, it’s not stereotyping. We all know men and women shop differently. Except when they don’t. So this daring infographic, conspiring with the numbers to perpetuate some of our favorite stereotypes definitely caught our eye.
We were intrigued because you could replace the word “Men” with “Relational Shopppers” and the word “Women” with “Transactional Shoppers” and this infographic would still make sense.
We’ve written about relational versus transactional buying behaviors before. Did you tune us out? Just like a man, amiright ladies?
If we were to take the low road, we’d gleefully embrace the stereotypes presented here. However, we’ve chosen to take this opportunity to redirect our attention to two important buying behaviors that you can use to increase sales on your website.
Yes, there are real differences between men and women. Take a few deep breathes if this comes as a shock.
The infographic from eCommerce Platforms affords us the view that men and women tend to fall on either side of the transactional/relational buying divide. Women tend to be more transactional whereas men are more relational.
What’s transactional about women’s shopping preferences? According to the infographic:


  • They are responsive to marketing emails, coupons, and sales.

  • They are more selective about products and are more likely to buy something that fits all of their requirements.

And what’s relational about men’s shopping preferences?


  • They need detailed product descriptions and product comparisons.

  • Their need is immediate, so they’re less likely to be shopping just for the sake of shopping.

  • They are less interested in discounts.

Different buying behaviors of men versus women

Different buying behaviors of men versus women (women are pink and men teal)

Some statistics that sum it up best tell us that price is less important to men that it is to women. The greatest fear of a transactional shopper is paying too much and, as women are more likely to do, will shop longer to get a bargain. Relational shoppers see the shopping process as part of the cost. Like men, they will pay more to reduce shopping time.
Shopping behaviors of men versus women

Women’s behaviors are in pink; men’s in teal.

That stereotype that women love the experience of shopping holds up if we’re to believe that they shop based on future needs and that they are more likely than men to be shopping for other people as well as themselves. It’s the opposite for relational shoppers and men. Shopping needs to be easy and uncomplicated.

Move Past the Stereotypes

Not every woman is a transactional shopper and not every man is relational. But designing for your stereotypically transactional woman will pay off for transactional men as well. Relational shoppers will respond to relational buying cues regardless of their sex.
As I studied this infographic, I couldn’t help but think about my own (female) shopping behaviors. I mentally went through a checklist for each item that supposedly applied to me and which did not. Turns out, I’m kind of a dude.
With this realization, I was immediately taken back to my middle school and high school days when my older, cooler brother asked me to go to the mall with him. If that was the road to his approval, obviously I was going to be into shopping. New favorite hobby, right? Wrong. I hate shopping!
I went back through the entire infographic, checking off his behaviors this time. Turns out, he’s kind of a girl.
For the most part, I’m pretty girly and he’s a bro, but we don’t fulfill gender expectations when it comes to online shopping. What stuck out the most to me is that my needs are immediate and his rarely are. If you don’t have an immediate need, why else would you be looking to spend money except that you enjoy the experience?
future vs immediate needs
It’s the same idea with impulse buying or being logical with your purchases. I almost always spend a lot of time mulling over whether I actually need something, and I try to think through all of the ways that buying a particular item is going to make my life easier or how often I’ll use it if I buy it.
impulse vs logic
A more subtle character trait is how we choose what we’re going to buy.How to choose which product to buy
Here are a few of my brother’s most trusted review sources.

My brother's review sources

My brother’s review sources

Nope, you don’t know these people. They’re just a bunch of his friends.  On the other hand, I used to be a librarian, so the reviews I trust look a little different.
My review sources

My review sources

I also noticed an area where marketers could easily get my brother to spend more money.
The online shopping experience
He has never really been into social media, but he recently joined Instagram, and it felt like our family dynamic changed overnight. I now get a play-by-play of his life complete with as many hashtags as he can imagine.
Documentation of a very successful shopping trip

Documentation of a very successful shopping trip

Since he’s still new to social media his hashtags are mostly jokes, but eventually he’s going to realize that he can use them so that they’re searchable. When that day comes, I’m sure I’ll be flooded with hashtags about Yeti coolers, Bud Lite with Lime, and whatever brand makes those flip-flops with the beer bottle opener in the sole. He will absolutely love sharing and being able to see how other people are using all of the things he loves.
Since I’m on the other end of the spectrum, I don’t have a Facebook screenshot to share about the Warby Parker at-home try-on sunglasses that just came in the mail. You just won’t find me posting about my online shopping experiences. Instead I’ll be posting cute pictures of my cat.
This is Frankie, and she's wearing a cute hat.

This is Frankie, and she’s wearing a cute hat.

What’s the moral of the story?

There is actual data to support the claim that, in general, the shopping behaviors of men and women are different. But there is also plenty of evidence that stereotypes don’t always hold up or that individuals are complex in their buying behaviors. And even that transactional versus relational shopping behaviors are situational.
When it comes to increasing conversions for your own business, being able to generalize about your buyers could be helpful, but not as helpful as using data specific to the visitors of your own website, not just the internet as a whole.  What if all of your customers are just like my brother and me?
Infographic describing the differences between men's and women's shopping behaviors
Thanks to for sharing.

Do Facebook posts, Tweets, and YouTube videos convert anything into sales? Are we wasting our time? Is there really any point in social commerce at all?

To better understand how social media is impacting the eCommerce industry, Shopify analyzed data from 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders. In the process, they uncovered loads of interesting statistics that you need to see.  Some surprising facts include:


  • 85% of all orders from social media belong to Facebook.

  • Vimeo and YouTube beat out Pinterest, Instagram, AND Twitter in conversions. Video content consistently converts at 1.16%.

  • Social orders drop by 10-15% on the weekend.

Social CommerceCourtesy of Conversion Sciences Web Optimizers