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Ecommerce, Buckwheat Hulls and Occam’s Razor

Recently I offered to help anyone in need of some Internet marketing or business consulting. I made this offer and then proceeded to get sick as a dog. But I was able to help my friend Bill apply Occam’s Razor to his website and business problem. Bill is on the board of a worthy cause in Cary. Life Experiences is a 501(c)(3) created out of a mother’s love for her daughter. Out of that love came a company dedicated to helping adults with disabilities. Life Experiences has created several businesses including selling buckwheat hulls and seeds for home craft fans like my friend Molly, who created

Great story, great cause, and something you want to know more about and support. The web does many things well, telling stories chief among them, but there is a problem. The web, for all of its magic, can’t change the paradox of choice. Barry Schwartz wrote a great book on this human problem: The Paradox of Choice: Why less is more explains the limits of our attention. I love the point of diminishing return idea. Anyone who spends a lot of time researching and then finally making a decision knows how the paradox can rob your life. You rob the one thing we can’t make more of, time, for the thing we can always make more of, money. Not a great trade as Schwartz points out.

The flip side of Schwartz’s argument is we, as Internet marketers, must use Occam’s Razor to narrow our choices. When I looked at the there were two sites fighting one another for visitor attention: the ecommerce site selling buckwheat hulls for pillows and the Life Experiences site about the love of a mother for her daughter and a worthy cause.

Fixing Ecommerce

My friend Bill did a great job getting the site up, live and taking orders, so be sure to understand my thoughts build on Bill’s work. Bill did the right thing. He created something with nothing to prove the web’s ability to help. He created a “lean startup” and got something up fast. I applaud all the Bills out there, since early and flawed beats late and perfect in Internet marketing. People used to take my websites apart too (once famously by Seth Godin).

My goal was to follow what Seth Godin taught when I spent a day hanging on his every word. Godin told me and about 20 other Internet marketers we should realize that to do one thing on a web page is monumental, to do two things almost impossible and to ask for 3 actions is beyond the pale. The interesting thing about my investigation was had a page closer to important ecommerce conventions.

The Shop page used ecommerce convention and design to send a clear message – time to buy buckwheat hulls and seeds.  I used that page as inspiration to build this draft of a new design for

Occams Razor and Buckwheat Hulls image

Buckwheat Hulls and Occam’s Razor

One other important caveat. I am NOT a graphic designer. I know enough about Photoshop and design to rough out ideas to be perfected by my betters, by pros. Caveat stated here is how I wanted to help Bill and Life Experiences:

  1. Send a clear, this is where you buy natural Buckwheat Hulls for pillows message.
  2. Use leader in the craft space, Martha Stewart, bigger since Martha = comfort and trust.
  3. Connect to the end product, not the hulls or seeds in a bag, as that feels like too much work.
  4. Tell Life Experiences story but in support of goal #1. Create a way to LINK OUT to the other story.
  5. Create TRUST and engagement by doing less and more.

The most confusing idea here might be #5. How does a web design do less and more? I’ve been discussing website “non-verbals” for years. More than justification for my expensive degree in psychology, the concept of how a website communicates with hidden messages is being supported by research (see my Conversion Conference liveblog notes for more on that research). When a site is hyper-organized, simple to navigate and seems like a clean, well-lighted space, trust endorphins fire and visitors become buyers, and buyers may become advocates (read Social Media’s Magic Feedback Loops for more on the real endgame of customer satisfaction – advocacy).

Bill sent me a nice note. Hope these thoughts helped. I’ve been an Internet marketer for a long time (12 years). There are few immutable truths. One is no matter how clear and simple the teams I managed thought we had everything, it could have been better, more simple. One of the keys to being good at this job is living with the pain that statement brings and being determined nonetheless.


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