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25 Things to try for your Holiday eCommerce Business

Posted on December 26, 2013 by Jessica

'Tis the season for shoppers to be hitting the internet hard and fast in their quest to find the must-have products at the must-have prices. And if you're a savvy business, you'll have spent months preparing for the best time of year for any merchant: Black Friday and beyond, when most businesses are able to make sure they end the year in the black by offering killer deals that just can't be passed up. With online sales on Black Friday now surpassing 1 billion dollars, and holiday shopping during the months of November and December resulting in significant profits for businesses, you want to make sure that your website, as well as your sales and marketing staff, are ready for festive business. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and make the most of the holiday shopping season:

Plan ahead. Always plan ahead by getting as early of a start as possible on your ecommerce plans for the holiday shopping season. Begin making tentative plans and product and sale listing schedules as early as June and July.

Don't panic. Even if you didn't optimally plan for the holiday shopping season, you can still make the most of things. Jump in with some festive decor for your website, renewed interest in corresponding with customers on Facebook, and the offerings of holiday sales and promotions.

Give your site a festive makeover. With as much as 41 percent of holiday spending being done during the Black Friday weekend, make sure your site is ready to go with its holiday look no later than the week of Thanksgiving. Simple touches like adding a bundle of ornaments to your logo, setting a jaunty Santa Claus hat onto the corner of the first letter in your business name, or changing link colors from blue to red or green can go a long way in showing your holiday spirit. And on the SEO end of things, you'll definitely want to incorporate such search-engine-grabbing keywords like "Black Friday Sale" and "Cyber Monday Sale". Use these in headings, links, site content, and even as the ALT descriptions for relevant images.

Set up PPC campaigns. The opportunity to earn traffic, visitors and ultimately sales from PPC campaigns is at its best during the holiday shopping season. Utilize Black Friday and Cyber Monday keywords and banners to get the most clicks.

Add a holiday countdown ticker. Create a fun yet slightly panicky sense of urgency on your site by showcasing a holiday countdown ticker. Set the ticker to show how many days there are until Christmas. Additionally, consider placing brief information about your shipping info nearby - for example, underneath a holiday ticker you could have wordage such as, "Order by 12/20 and select 2-3 day shipping to get your package by December 24th!"

Promote gift cards. There isn't a better time than the holiday season to promote your gift cards. Gift cards are a so-so buy during most of the year, but at Christmastime, when there are plenty of parents, adult siblings, and co-workers who have no idea what to get one another, gift cards are sure to be a big hit. Offer expedited shipping on gift cards or even e-mail delivery to further entice buyers.

Show off the clearance merchandise. You may be able to finally move clearance merchandise off the shelves by showcasing some of the good, gift-worthy stuff to your holiday shoppers. Dedicate a spot on your page or within a product listing grid for your clearance items. Be sure to highlight the ultra-low prices on these items, which will attract frugal shoppers.

Offer gift wrapping and Secret Santa shipping. Many holiday shoppers don't have the time or desire to wrap gifts, especially if they have to then pay to ship those wrapped gifts to their final destination. Throw in free gift wrapping on orders of a minimum price, and be sure to include Secret Santa shipping - with this option, the recipient receives a receipt with the item, but no prices are listed.

Highlight holiday shipping deadlines. The biggest question holiday shoppers have in regards to purchasing online merchandise is, "Will I get it in time for Christmas?" Put together a simple table that lists product ship dates on the left, and product delivery dates on the right. Encourage shoppers to choose shorter shipping options (though these are usually a bit costlier) or do their shopping sooner in order to avoid stalking the postal service mercilessly in the days leading up to Christmas.

Clearly state payment and shipping info. Going hand in hand with what has already been mentioned - always be clear with stating costs and times associated with preparing orders for shipment and the actual shipment of those products. If there are daytime deadlines for placing orders that will ship on that same day, make sure you are clear with this, too. And if you offer free shipping or a free product on orders that meet a certain threshold, make sure this is clearly explained, so that you don't have disappointed customers walking away from their shopping cards.

Offer free shipping. Eat some of the shipping costs your customers will have to deal with by offering to cover it yourself. Reasonable exclusions make sense, but you should be willing to offer free shipping on smaller purchases, like jewelry, makeup, clothing, and toys.

Promote your festivity on your blog and social media profiles. The Christmas season is everywhere, so even if you're less of a Santa Claus type and more of a Scrooge, it's important that you paste a smile on your face, plop a Santa hat on your head, and take to your blog and Facebook status and Twitter update with proclamations of how exciting this time of year is. Or, at the very least, showcase and highlight some of the more festive, holiday-oriented sections of your website.

Offer themed gift shopping pages. Just as many holiday shoppers will traipse up and down the aisles at department stores, trying to find that special someone just the right gift, plenty of shoppers will be aimlessly browsing your website, hoping to click upon the perfect item. By taking the time to put together gift guides for different recipients (co-workers, children, teenagers, men, women, etc.), you'll make it easier for your shoppers to find a gift, and then purchase that gift.

Show your holiday spirit by giving back. Many businesses are giving back to communities by donating proceeds of certain purchases to charity, or even by directly donating shipments of clothing, toys, or food to neighborhood programs. You too can get on board with this, and you'll definitely want to toot your own horn by mentioning your decision to give back on social media. You can promote your decision to give to those in need on your website by offering customers the chance to give to. Offer to add on $1 donations to their purchases, or let them select a charity to send an item to if they make a qualifying purchase. Holiday shoppers are quick to notice and talk about businesses who aren't just thinking about their profits during the holiday season - this is a group of businesses you definitely want to be among.

Be mobile ready. If you're not yet mobile ready, now's the time to make the necessary changes to your website so that your visitors can easily access and navigate your website, whether they're on a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. 30 percent of shoppers plan on shopping online, and more than half of the purchases they make are done on a mobile device. Don't lose out on sales because your website isn't designed to be responsive and adaptable to all mobile platforms.

Update your site regularly. Do daily check-ins to look for mis-priced merchandise, incorrect inventory, and even simple things like types or mis-aligned images that need tending to.

Check in on social media. Cross promote your site and its selection of holiday-perfect items on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and even Instagram. Use your company's name as a hashtag to make it easier for others to find and chime in on your conversations.

Hit the email marketing hard. Now's a good time to put together daily email newsletters. Each newsletter can have the latest and greatest must-have products listed, maybe a few DIY gift and baking ideas, and a handy countdown to Christmas ticker to motivate customers to click and buy.

Collect emails. While you're working on building traffic and sales, throw up a pop-up that offers new customers the opportunity to sign up for your newsletter with just one click. Many consumers will do so, even if for no other reason than to hope for coupons and exclusive discounts.

Utilize coupons. Coupon codes can be a saving grace during the holiday season, when tight budgets are stretched even tighter. Offer a simple 10 or even 15 percent coupon that has no conditions to be met, and watch how your customers will suddenly swarm your site to make purchases.

Hold a giveaway. Consider holding a giveaway for a high value item, or even a $50 or $100 gift certificate to your store. Set up the giveaway somewhere on your site or blog to draw traffic to your site, and encourage entrants to browse your site, follow you on Twitter, like you on Facebook, etc., to build your social media following.

Be there and be ready to chat. Set up a live chat service, and make sure that it's actually staffed by a person who can jump in to answer a customer's questions.

Prep staff. Prepare your staff for what they can expect during the holiday shopping season, and consider adding one or two more people, especially if you offer live chat and phone support.

Staff your site's back-end. Last but certainly not least, make sure that your website's server is equipped to handle the increased load from traffic and website purchases. Considering upgrading resources such as bandwidth, and even CPU and RAM, to make sure that your site will stay up and running at all times.

Are you in the eCommerce business?  What tips would you recommend following next year? 

3 Reasons to Choose a Responsive Design for Your Company Website

Posted on May 14, 2013 by Jessica

Businesses today must accommodate a wide variety of devices accessing website content; designing a website that caters to the biggest screen on the market just isn't a good idea anymore. Ideas of "responsive design" and how this approach to web design will ensure a page may be read on any type of device drives web design features and internet marketing projects for 2013. With smart phone sales exceeding desktop sales, the time for responsive design has come.


1. User interface setups continue to expand

The significant sales of smart phones have clearly driven the focus on responsive design for today's website designers, but it's not just tiny smart phones that are starting to serve as a person's portal to the internet. Many people run a system with multiple monitors, and this might cause problems with a website that can't accommodate more than one screen. Websites must be designed for anything from a 3 inch smart phone screen to a 70 inch HDTV screen.

2. Your website always looks terrific

About a decade ago it wasn't uncommon for website designers to tell visitors that a particular site was "best viewed" upon a specific screen size or with a particular browser. Good web design techniques have always included a design that would look good on any desktop computer, but the addition of smart phones, tablet computers, and even phablets (that's a tablet that's a little too big to be a smart phone) has forced web designers to accommodate tiny screens and greatly reduced user interfaces.

One of the only ways around the requirement of designing a site for a smart phone is the creation of an actual application designed to be used on the smart phone instead of the company's website. This technique works, but a business should usually have a responsive website and an application, instead of one or the other.

3. Google likes responsive design

When Google recommends something, internet marketers and web designers tend to listen due to the dominance that this company has over everything searchable on the internet. Google suggests that utilizing responsive web design is the best way to design a website and that creating separate websites for each type of user interface just won't cut it anymore.

The reason why Google likes responsive design is that an entire website through which its spider must crawl will have only one URL and a single library of pages instead of many separately designed pages and multiple URLs that all offer the same exact content.
 
Do you utilize responsive design for your company website? Why or why not?  Let us know in the comments below! 

5 Easy Ways to Improve Outreach Emails

Posted on March 4, 2013 by Jessica

While businesses thrive on the ability of the consumer to purchase its products, sometimes an invisible barrier exists that hampers this exchange, specifically, if consumers are not aware of the product or the business. For those interested in e-commerce, outreach emails are a great opportunity for making connections with potential customers and directing them to your wares. Knowing that though, what are the most effective steps for crafting the perfect outreach email?

1) Branding is Key - As any marketing executive can attest to, branding is one of the most important steps in creating an attractive business. Just as you wouldn't call clients and ask them to purchase products from your garage, it's important when sending outreach emails that you do so from a branded domain. Spam comprises a large percent of people's inboxes these days, meaning that their first inclination upon seeing an email from a domain they don't recognize is to simply delete it and move on. This is obviously contrary to the aims of an outreach email.

2) Reach the Right People - This might seem like an obvious point, but contacting the right people is crucial to the success of an outreach email. When researching viable clients, be sure to send your email to the people most likely in charge of purchasing your product. The most persuasive and informative email you've ever crafted means nothing if it doesn't go to the person with the power to make the decisions you need.

3) Attractive Subject Lines - Going along a similar vein as crafting a brand for your email, it's also important to make an accurate and persuasive subject line. Since people often delete first and ask questions later, the subject line is your first line of defense against an unwarranted deletion. To create a strong subject line it's important to specifically address the person you're emailing and be sure to phrase your goal in the form of a question. For example, "isn't this interesting?" can be a great way of tempting people to open your email and get into the meat of your content.

4) Keep it Simple - Once you're working on the general body of your email, you'll find it's helpful to keep it as short as possible. Five hundred characters is a good general guideline, as people prefer something just short enough to tantalize them than a long essay they have to work through.

5) Get Personal - Make sure the opening of every email personally greets whoever your email is directed towards, if no name is available it can be as simple as a general greeting to the department or company you're contacting.

With these tips in mind, it won't be long before you've crafted the perfect outreach email, and from there it's just a matter of sending it out to as many potential clients as possible. Are there any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments!

Tips for Effective eCommerce Website Design

Posted on February 21, 2012 by Josh Mc

Designing a website that customers will want to use over and over again is critical to the success of your company. If you do not use proper design attributes, then your repeat traffic will suffer and you will have a difficult time reaching your revenue goals. There are some simple design attributes that will help retain traffic and drive referrals to your site from other sites as well.

- Watch Your Colors
Every color on your website is critical to attracting new clients and retaining buying customers. The background images and colors need to be subtle and the text needs to be easily read against the background. Using a dark background and dark text is going to make it too difficult for visitors to navigate your site and will not encourage return visits. Bright colors make it difficult to look at the site for any extended period of time which discourages browsing. Make sure to pick good neutral colors that are easy to read and do not hurt your eyes to stare at.

- Make the Navigation Simple
Every website designer should become familiar with the "three click rule" of website development. Your customers need to find what they are looking for in three clicks or less or else there is a chance that they will consider the site too difficult to navigate and go elsewhere. Make your site navigation easy to use and make sure customers have quick access to all products.

- Offer Help
If a customer cannot figure out how to use a part of your website or needs information on a product, then that information needs to be easily obtainable on your site. Every product needs to have its own specifications and buying information and there should be a library of help topics for visitors to access.

- Use Images Effectively
On an eCommerce website, you are going to want the images of your products to stand out from the other images on your site. If you want to use images on your website to enhance the content, then be certain that the images are relevant and professional. The most impressive images on your website should be your product images.

- Use Secure Pages
With identity theft being a concern for online consumers, it is essential that you use a secure order entry page for your eCommerce website. Any page where the customer is asked to input information should be secure. If you do not create a secure website, then consumers will most likely not buy from you.

- Put Customer Service Online
You should allow customers the option of using an online customer service process along with a toll free phone number. Offering something like a live chat service will allow your customers to have easy access to having their questions answered. Some online consumers do not want to pick up the phone to report a damaged or malfunctioning product. You can increase your consumer traffic if you include a customer service portion to your ecommerce website.

These are just a few tips to help you when designing a good online experience for your customers. If you have some additional suggestions make sure to leave them in the comments.

How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Arianna

As we start a new year, many of us will be working on New Year resolutions. For some it will be the same “lose weight” resolution, for others it might be “go back to school”, or “get a better job.” Focusing on the last resolution, many of us want better jobs and fail to go after them. Here at Gordian Project, we rejoice with those whom have left us and embrace the new co-workers who will soon become a part of our work family. However, many of us struggle to understand why people decide to quit their current job, especially in the economy we currently face. This blog is simply a collection of tips that will help you when moving from one job to the next. So read on and leave a comment if you agree or disagree.

There are several reasons why someone chooses to move on. Some leave for personal reasons, others financial, while others still have life events that cause changes to happen.  Barbara Safani wrote about why people quit their jobs in a tough economy, and the reasons are pretty good reasons. People often postpone quitting their jobs because not only is it a delicate subject between the employee and employer but it is often seen as a negative or bad decision. Safani ends her article explaining, “If you are unemployed or dissatisfied in your current position, you too may benefit from the surge of vacancies left by others who voluntarily resign. A job that is not a good match for another person may be the perfect match for you.”

With this said, I wanted to focus on the quitting process. We understand why people quit, and we understand that quitting a job is a natural part of career progress; however we also need to understand how to quit without burning bridges.

First you need to realize that though it is not a negative decision, it is a delicate subject. Knowing when to inform your employer that you are leaving will help you confirm your decision. Often times when an employee tells their superior that they are quitting due to extra benefits or increased salaries, the employer will want to counter-offer and meet those extra benefits to try and convince the employee to stay. This is why it is important for you to inform your employer of the benefits you are being offered before saying “I’m quitting.” If the company can make you a good counter-offer, then you may want to stay with them, and if they cannot, then that can help to make your decision easier.

Second, use your communication skills to make sure your announcement is said and received in a positive manner. Instead of explaining how you hate your job, explain how you found a position where you can use your skills and which is closer to your passion. Talk about how good the change is for you and how much you will miss those around you. Don’t burn bridges. Maybe the company cannot counter-offer the benefits you are looking for, but at a later time they may be able to provide you with an even better position. If you don’t burn bridges you may get a future employment offer, but at the very least you will have a positive recommendation as you move forward in your work career.

Third, be professional and provide a complete two week notice. Less and less people provide their employers with a notice, and the truth is that it can show how professional you are and how much you cared about your co-workers and the company by how much time you give them to prepare for your departure.  If you cannot provide a notice, provide your employer with a written letter explaining the circumstances and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Lastly, throw a farewell party. Any reason is a good reason to throw a party!  Invite all your co-workers, your bosses and managers. By including all of your co-workers, you are making sure you end your current relationship on a positive note.

Remember, quitting is not a big deal when it’s done right. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have other suggestions on how to quit without burning bridges.

Providing Exceptional Customer Service

Posted on November 2, 2011 by Arianna

I recently went to a customer service seminar that was titled “How to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.” It was one of the best seminars that I have been to and so I would like to share some of the tips and facts that have helped my team to grow as a result. Our emphasis as a company has always been to provide great customer service, so that customers keep coming back; however, there are many reasons for non-repeat customers, some of which you can directly impact and some you cannot. Statistics actually show that 1% of customers do not return because they died, 3% moved away, 5% developed a friendship with another company, 9% because of competition, 14% because they were dissatisfied with the products and 68% because of employee apathy! These numbers show that the highest percentage reason for why someone does not return is something we can directly impact and positively change. For customer service teams, this is both humbling and exciting!

In a call center, providing great customer service is often difficult due to face to face interaction being non-existent. In any conversation, appearance is 55% of the message; 38% is how you say it and 7% are just the words alone. With so much emphasis on appearance we need to make sure our phone appearance is at its best. Phone appearance is basically your tone of voice and attitude, so set your inner compass to appreciate customers. Remind yourself to be thankful for your job. Make sure that all your reactions and your tone of voice reflect the posture of gratitude.

In telecommunications the number one goal is to make the customer glad they called and talked to you specifically! In that, there are some basic steps to tackling a phone call.

-First, you need to think about what you are going to say before you answer the phone. It is really important to have consistency in a team when answering the call – you want the customer to have the same experience every time they call and with all employees at the company.

-Second, make sure that you answer the call within two or three rings. You want the customer to know they are a priority.

-Third, make sure you say your name; customers want to know who is on the other line. Also, be clear with them and indicate whether you’re going to put the customer on hold or going to transfer them.

-Fourth, be courteous, “kill with kindness,” and smile. Believe it or not a customer can hear a smile.

One of the hardest things for my team to handle are angry, abusive customers. When customers do not get their way they start attacking your self esteem, making it hard not to take their words personally; however, simply remembering the tips above and helping to put them to use will help when dealing with these customers.

For the second part of this topic I will be giving some tips on how to win over rude callers and how managers can motivate their employees to keep a positive attitude even with angry customers, so stay tuned for that post.

For now, make sure to challenge yourself to keep a thankful attitude towards all your customers. Make them happy that they talked to you today and make sure you follow the basic steps to tackling a phone call. Your change in attitude will definitely begin to rub off on others and your overall attitude will positively change.

If you have other suggestions make sure to leave them in the comments!


A Story for Customer Service Managers

Posted on August 11, 2011 by Arianna

As customer service supervisor, I am always focusing on my experiences with other company’s customer service and comparing them to how my team treats our customers. For the most part my experiences provide examples of how we can improve; however, the other day I went to a large shoe store to buy some shoes and my experience was less then stellar.  I had not been to this store in about four months, and unbeknownst to me, the stores sales representatives are now commission based. When I walked into the store, it took forever to try and find a representative to assist me in getting the size shoe I needed. When I finally was able to flag down a representative he brought me the shoes and then walked out of the shoe department. I later found out this was because he was going on his lunch. After trying on the shoes and finding a couple of outfits to wear them with, I decided to purchase them.

I went up to the counter and there was no one around. I waited patiently, might I add, but 5-10 minutes waiting was a bit long for me. As another representative came up to the counter to check on a price for her customer, I asked her if she could help me with purchasing the shoes. Now what I am about to say is verbatim – word for word her response was, “I am helping my customer and they are my priority right now, I’m sorry.” That was it. She continued checking stock and I was left speechless. No 'I'll get somone to help you", no “I’ll be with you in a moment”, nothing.  She could have showed me she was at least considering helping me, but she didn’t.  The words she used showed how unimportant my purchase was to her. The customer in line behind me, also needing help, immediately asked the young lady for a manager.

The manager came down and said that we needed to understand that they are commission based and so they need to help the customers they are currently working with. She did apologize for the way the representative explained it, but the deed was done.  I left the store without the pair of shoes and strolled right into the one next to it in the mall, also a commission based job. I can’t even tell you how much more I enjoyed the experience, but know this: I would rather pay more money to be treated as a worthy customer then pay less and have to force someone to help me.

Now, my experience may not be the norm for that shoe store and their employees, but I tell it so that I can provide employees with some advice. These are the three things I got out of the experience.

•      Treat your customers exactly how you would like to be treated

•      Remember that you have a job because of your customers – no customers = no job

•      Every customer can become a loyal customer, so do you best to make a good impression

I also found this article on tips for commission based salespeople and the first tip on the list was: “to make a customer feel special and important [you need] to greet them as soon as you see them. They need to know that you are there, that you are willing to help and that you are available for them to ask questions.” The shoe store failed to do just that.  From the famous words of Aretha Franklin, “all I’m asking is for a little respect, just a little bit” and so do our customers.

Is There a Good Hold Time For a Business?

Posted on July 5, 2011 by Arianna

In this “Faster is the new Fast” world we live in, waiting is not an option. We can buy cars that get from 0 to 60 in fewer than 5 seconds, and we can even get a college degree in less than 2 years. Our culture is becoming obsessed with speed, so why are we spending so much time on hold?

Customer Service Cartoon


Recently I have been diving into the idea of ideal hold time and have found a lot of interesting articles; however, these articles bring up a lot of great questions. How long would you wait for a customer service representative to pick up your call? If you’ve ever needed to get in touch with customer service, do you know exactly how long is too long to wait? At what time would you give up and hang up? Five minutes, eight minutes maybe even ten minutes? The truth is most of us will not wait for longer than 5 minutes.

Stella Service recently ranked the largest 100 Internet retailers in the US based on their average call hold time (data below). This was an eye opening presentation as the top company has a hold time of only six seconds. I also have to say that it was very surprising that DisneyStore.com not only came in at the top of the average call hold time but was also the only company that also made it to the top of the average email reply time as well. Apparently they understand the need to connect with the customer as fast as possible.

Another interesting note is that the average of all the top 100 businesses is about 1 minute and 40 seconds, which means they all have a pretty good grasp on the importance of getting on the phone quickly. The email is a little more surprising as the average is 17 hours for an email response. I wonder if we will see this start dropping in the next year.

Average Hold Time Stats

Average Email Time Stats

Average call hold time has been one of our main focuses at GordianProject.com. We started this year with a high average hold time and knew that our connect rate with customers was less than average. We began fixing the issue by hiring more customer service representatives; because we all know that no matter how many calls a representative can take, if there are more calls than available representatives, hold times will sky rocket. We monitored the hold time monthly and made any necessary shift in tasks in order to continue lowering our hold time and increasing our connect rate. Our hold time has greatly decreased, and this has been a huge success for us!

Though we may not be in the 100 companies and though our hold time is nowhere near 0:27 seconds, our focus still remains. We will continue to lower our average call hold time and will strive to connect with at least 90% of our calls. Once that is accomplished our next step is to revamp our hold music...wish us luck!

What are some of the things you are doing to impact your company average call hold time?

 

PayPal Proves That They Can't Be Relied On

Posted on October 29, 2010 by josh

Back on June 1, 2010, I wrote another post related to PayPal downtimes and, more specifically, why having a backup payment processor is valuable. PayPal proved me right, again, today.

PayPal was basically completely down.
On their live site status page, they said:
Impacted Service/Product:
Live Site
- PayPal APIs
- Website
- Website Payments Standard
- Website Payments Pro Payflow Edition
- Express Checkout

Seriously yuck! But, for us, it was no big deal. In fact, if we hadn’t decided to build an error email when PayPal was returning transaction errors, I never would have noticed they were down. Our backup simply gracefully took the transactions on, with only a minor delay to customers at checkout. For those who are curious, we were affected from about 8:15am to 9:30am and from about 11:30am to 12:00pm.

 

Competition Redefined – Lessons from Wesabe’s Demise

Posted on October 11, 2010 by Sean

Competition breeds excellence and we all enjoy the fruits of the fight. It brings us better phones and better food and better experiences at (usually) better prices. Without competition we might not have Android smartphone software or the Macbook or the commoditized coffee chain from which I write this blog.

There are two groups of winners in any competitive arena, first and most obvious - the winner of the event, whether it’s a sports team who won the series or start-up who secured the most VC interest. The second group of winners is us - the market, those for whom the gadget was designed, for whom the game was played. If the winning team is at the receiving end of millions (or billions?) of dollars, we’re at the receiving end of a product polished, edited and refined by the competitive process; and for us, the more brutal the competition, the better.

In his post-mortem essay, “Why Wesabe Lost to Mint” Wesabe co-creator, Marc Hedlund responds to speculations surrounding the Wesabe vs. Mint competition, and debunks several misunderstandings associated with Wesabe’s eventual acquiescence.

If you haven’t used or heard of either, both Wesabe and Mint were/are personal finance web-applications. In his essay, Hedlund makes his intentions clear. “I prioritized trying to build tools that would eventually help people change their financial behavior for the better, which I believed required people to more closely work with and understand their data” he says.  A noble pursuit, to be sure, but in the end, not enough.

It wasn’t the name.  Hedlund mentions several examples of screwy-names-turned-profitable, listing Google, Yahoo and Amazon (I might also submit Hulu). While the term “mint” helps conjure images of fortresses full of gold bars or the literal creation of money, Wesabe supplements bland sushi. No matter, he says, it wasn’t the name that held them back.

And it wasn’t the timing, either. According to Hedlund, Wesabe had nearly a 10 month head-start on Mint. In the world of all-night programming binges and instant market feedback, 10 months is an eternity. While he admits that there are some advantages in not being first (learning from competition missteps, free market research etc.) it is generally valuable to be the first to market. Wesabe was first and they still failed.

“Most people simply won't care enough or get enough benefit from long-term features if a shorter-term alternative is available” Hedlund concedes. As someone deeply interested in personal finance (and well-versed in the usefulness of web-apps) I’ve tried both services and found Hedlund’s hypothesis true, without question. While Wesabe might have yielded the most permanent results (Long-term personal finance improvement) I never got past the myriad of fields and required data-entry. Simply put, Wesabe was too hard to use.

Mint, at the other end of the spectrum, might be too simplistic to effect real change. Yes, it gives me a nice macroscopic view of my finances. It sends me emails when I am approaching my determined budget-limit in certain financial categories. It’s effective in that regard, but I believe long-term, sustainable personal finance goals are met when the user develops responsibility and discipline - qualities likely to come through a series of repeated micro decisions. The sad irony is that while Hedlund and I are simpatico in this regard, he is the co-founder of an out-of-business personal finance enterprise and I am the user of a semi-ineffective personal finance web application.

In my experience, most of us slave over branding issues and domain name ideas and spend too much time doubled-over and panting with exhaustion trying to beat the competition to market. Mint wasn’t first, and yet they won because they gave us what we wanted.  Maybe it’s time to consider what the user actually wants, rather than what we want them to want.

For now, I’ll just check my email and make sure it’s okay to buy another cup of coffee.

 


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