Shopping or browse pages tend to be the domain of the usability team, with utility and efficiency being the primary goals for optimization. There’s good reason for this as conveying the important product attributes can help users make purchasing choices, guiding them down the sales funnel. And click through rate to the product’s detail page is a critical performance indicator. But the browse page can also be an opportunity to deliver and reinforce value statements about your brand too. Visual clues on the product listings deliver brand messages with repetition, which aids in comprehension and recall.
Have a look at this browse page for Red Wing work boots.
They have codes that indicate the features of each pair of boots in relation to workplace needs. Filtering options include insulation against electricity, waterproofing, etc. Besides helping a customer navigate the site, displaying these product attributes sends a message to users that this brand is serious about work and their boots are purpose-built for the task. Visitors get this information at a glance, without having to read.
Compare to another shoe site NikeID, that is more geared toward the fashion-conscious and those the like to express a unique personality.
This site allows for color personalization and notes each product that is eligible for the feature. The addition of color wheels to each product image reinforces their brand’s commitment to co-creation and personalization.
The outdoor retailer REI uses a different browse page template for their outlet versus their main store. Here is their main store’s listing of jackets.
The outlet “REI Garage” displays products in a similar way but emphasizes the bargains by using strike-through pricing and calculating the percentage savings.
Because they’re delivering a different message in their outlet, they use a different template.
Messages can extend beyond the products to include store policies and content marketing. Bulk Reef Supply serves the DIY reefing community and has invested heavily in tutorial and product review videos. They add value to customers by offering lots of helpful guidance and infuse their product listings with visual cues to remind visitors that help is available.
In addition to badges, product images themselves provide an opportunity to lay out value drivers. In this case SCOTTeVEST offers an ‘x-ray’ of their apparel on mouseover. Besides being somewhat functional for browsing, it delivers the idea that you can carry a lot of stuff in these closes without looking bulky, which is the center of their value proposition.
The fact that these visual brand messages are native and repetitive is the key to this opportunity. Product listing pages with 50 or more products listed at a time offer a chance to drum key attributes into visitors’ heads as they scroll, in a way that feels natural.
Tactics for delivering brand statements are often at odds with usability tools designed with utility in mind. But the browse page for a product catalog offer a rare chance to do both in the same place.
There is a mental cost to making purchase decisions and having to process options can take its toll, especially when contending with a field that isn’t familiar.
A higher cost purchase can be a factor but the mental energy involved doesn’t necessarily line up with the dollars involved. Consider a few especially tricky decisions and some easy ones, at all different costs.
Buying a new car $$$$
Selecting a new phone and plan $$
Hiring a contractor to work on your house $$$
Picking a gift for a new girlfriend $
Vacation souvenirs $$
Specialized products with a clear leader (e.g. WeatherTech car floor liners) $-$$$
Renewing existing services like insurance $$ (Conversely, selecting a new provider can be very taxing.)
Favorite dishes at known restaurants $
Certain purchases can feel like an ordeal. For brands in e-Commerce, the goal is to remove as much of the mental labor required to make a purchase decision. Some of the things that exasperate users and contribute to mental weight include:
Opaque costs and terms – it’s mentally taxing to try and figure out where the catches are and how we might be getting taken advantage of.
Unfamiliar settings – making decisions in a new city or in an industry new to you can leave you feeling disadvantaged.
Convoluted options and dependencies – if it’s too difficult to consider various scenarios, the customer starts to feel overwhelmed.
Visibility – if your purchase choice is very public there’s added pressure to get it right.
Incomplete information – it’s tougher to make a confident decision with unknowns in play.
Unclear product lineup – sorting through tiers of service, model generations and variations can be tough if the differences aren’t well communicated.
Mapping user personas and customer journeys can help to illustrate the state of mind of those who might be considering a specific product or service. Consider how hard they need to work at making a buying choice and how you can reduce some of the mental energy required.
And there are new business opportunities for companies that find a way to make high dollar purchases with difficult purchase processes more enjoyable.
Frequency is a key element of campaign design, especially in retargeting efforts. Multiple touches usually do better than one-off messages. But additional impressions will increase the rate of spend too. It’s a balancing act to find an efficient rate of spend and a satisfactory return on investment.
That’s if you’re paying for additional impressions. It works better if you can get them for free.
While adding external impressions will increase costs, mental repetitions are free. By developing creative specifically designed to enhance recall, you can increase the returns on your campaigns without breaking the budget.
Mental recall by design
There are myriad techniques for improving recall including classic advertising tactics like repetition and setting slogans to music. For more creative ideas, and to get the most drastic effects, we can look to memory champions and the mnemonics they use.
Each year the top mental performers in the US gather to compete in the USA Memory Championships. Performing feats of memorization such as recalling entire blocks of poetry upon a single exposure to it and committing hundreds of digits of random numbers to memory, they use mental tricks to help enhance recall. Our target audiences may not be focused on memorizing details but we can still employ some of the techniques used.
There are a lot of techniques that competitors use to store and recall large amounts of random information. One of the popular and effective is the Method of Ioci or constructing a mind palace. A mind palace is a mental image of a fictional place that contains rooms and other structure features that you can place items within. By leaving memorable items to trigger you memory within your palace, you can evoke memories by walking through your palace.
For example your palace may contain a kitchen, a pantry and a dining room among other rooms. To recall a 3 of clubs and 5 of hearts when memorizing a deck of cards, you might place 3 cavemen at the dining table, arguing about dinner. (Cavemen carry clubs.) They could be eating their favorite artichoke dip (fave = five, artichoke = hearts). And the story goes on from there as you walk from room to room through your palace.
According to memory experts the key to selecting effective characters and events is making them remarkable and out of the ordinary. The more absurd or emotional or personal the events the better. So cavemen are better than golfers because you don’t see them every day and artichoke dip is better for me than candy conversation hearts because I happen to actually like it. Those valentine hearts are nasty.
We can borrow that best practice for memory by using familiar settings in the creative, incorporating absurdities and using known personal preferences. Create visual ads that accomplish this by incorporating visuals that crazy, personal or emotional, or all three.
This one’s easy. Just make your creative a little more bizarre to add more potential for recall. You don’t have to go all the way to deranged, just make it something you don’t see every day.
Here’s a well put together ad campaign from Mutual Jewelers Insurance.
It takes what could be a mundane topic in insurance coverage and ads an absurd twist: a ring stealing crab. This campaign gets bonus points for using animated display ads, which grab attention, and for adding absurd words as well as visuals. There are a series of ads that each use an obscure vocabulary to describe the theft, with alliteration to boot. “Criminal crustaceans” and “beach bandits” are memorable because they’re unusual and kind of weird.
Adding emotion doesn’t have to mean making people weep or being overly serious. Your ad should evoke a feeling, the stronger the better, to boost memorability.
This image from Granite Gear is actually from their Instagram feed but is a good example of tapping into the emotions of the target audience.
The image is paired with the copy “Hang on summer, don’t leave just yet…”. Every backpacker knows the bittersweet feeling of summer winding down. Plus the image itself shows why summer is worth savoring. It depicts one of the rewards of a long hike: a peaceful sunrise after a good night’s rest in the tent. This makes good use of an emotional reaction unique to the target audience rather than going for a completely syrupy ad to try and make general consumers misty eyed.
The notorious Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl ad combined emotion (repulsion) with absurdity and got double the recall. But don’t let the desire to boost the stickiness of the ad overtake the brand message you’re trying to convey. It is possible to overdo it.
Memory champs incorporate their own meaningful spaces and memories into their palaces. Experiences unique to you are more likely to be recalled when referenced externally. If you’ve ever caught a whiff of a unique smell from your hometown’s factory or a special dish your mom used to make when you were young, you know how it can take you back to a host of memories.
It can be a challenge to pinpoint personal settings since everyone’s experience is unique. But you can work with experiences that are shared by your community, your experiences unique to a profession or your geography. SCUBA diving enthusiasts probably all remember the feeling of getting their certification card in the mail or downloading their underwater photos from their camera after a dive. If you are a real estate agent you probably know how it feels to cash a commission check on a hard-earned sale, memorable because of the hurdles overcome. And people within a local community probably have memories attached to the local landmarks that are popular within the area.
Spire Credit Union is squarely focused on the Midwest, and the Twin Cities in particular. Their storytelling ads are peppered with landmarks and any local will instantly recognize. This helps their brand connect as ‘one of us’ but it also helps their message stick. The next time someone in the neighborhood walks by a building or vista featured in an ad, it has the potential to trigger recall.
A little effort for a big return
Utilizing 3rd party organizations to power retargeting ads can be a great way to get feet wet and to leverage advanced segmenting tools. It’s tempting to also outsource the development of the ads themselves too. Take care not to accept the basic templated ad shells that are available out of the box. If you go beyond brand colors and logo as the extent of your customization, you have the chance to multiply the effectiveness of your campaign by leveraging mnemonics, just like a champion mental athlete.
I came across this example of price bracketing and thought it was inspired. Going beyond the good/better/best approach, they added a novel tactic to get the outcome they want.
Here’s the subscription page for Dollar Shave Club.
The center option is clearly bracketed between the super cheap version and the crazy advanced version. I normally wouldn’t consider a 4 blade razor… but it’s in the middle!
A closer look shows their tactic for nudging people thinking about the entry level option to the 4x blade: shipping costs.
If there’s a universal truth in e-commerce it’s that people hate to pay for shipping. Especially when the shipping is more than the product itself. Dollar Shave Club asks you to fill in a shipping address in a separate step before giving you the cost too, which reinforces the idea that it’s a separate cost from the product. As far as I could tell, the cost for shipping the cheap blade is a flat $2 regardless of the U.S. address.
So $1 razor plus $2 shipping equals 3 bucks. Even though the combined $3 price is less than the other options, the thought of two thirds of the payment going to shipping each month will rankle consumers, further motivating them to order the middle, more reasonable product.