Grocery stores and your website

grocery_shop.jpgI hate going to the grocery store. It's not that I mind spending my Sunday there. I don't even mind the crowds. What I do mind is the archaic way stores are set up. It seems to me that grocers are permanently stuck in the 1950's. My particular problem is that I don't have an expectation yet of where certain products are in the store so when I look where I think they should be I get frustrated and leave.

To add to my frustration, I usually go into the store prepared. I have a list ordered by how the store is set up (keep in mind this only works in one store as each has a different layout) and I do this to avoid walking 15 miles per shopping trip going from one side to the other. Here are a couple of examples so you know what I am talking about.

  1. I use artificial sweetener in my coffee. When I go to the coffee aisle to pick up a bag of beans I expect that the sweetener would be close at hand. But no. I have to walk to the baking aisle to get it. So a) it doesn't make sense to me and b) it wastes my time.
  2. If you are fixing an italian dish and you need sliced tomatoes and tomato sauce they are in two different places. One in the "soup/suace" aisle and the other in the "Italian section.

I know that selling shelf space is a big way grocers make money. Companies pay for space and there are more products than ever competing for attention. But, at some point the needs of consumers needs to be taken into account. Why not spread items into places that make sense? This wouldn't eliminate space, just spread it around. If I do get frustrated and leave, I am less willing to come back. I am willing, however, to skip using the manufacturers product.

Now, think about this in terms of your web presence. Do you make people go find the information they want or do you bring it to them? If you are selling a product, do you show the user all of the accessories, warranties, photos and related products on one page within a single click or are they on their own? Are you linking in related content at each place it makes sense or are you keeping things corralled into neat piles?

Providing customers with this service is easier to do online than anywhere else. Space is easily gained and there are analytics programs that can be applied to make sure people are not leaving your site pre-conversion. If they are leaving, you can easily react to make sure they are finding what they need. Think like your customer (or simply ask them what they think). When they click, what do they expect to see? Are you meeting their expectations?

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WalMart doesn't get it

walmartdown.pngAs reported earlier this week by Michael Arrington of TechCrunch, WalMart launched their new video download service without FireFox support. The resulting page looked like you see it here. They've recently "fixed" the problem by showing the message below.

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I know this is a beta version. I know that WalMart is using Windows Media DRM which only works through IE. But, why not give me more than this. 14%+ (some sites say 30%+) of the world's browsers are FireFox, why shut those people out. There has to be a more graceful way for this to present the marketing message.

If every pair of eyeballs is a potential customer why not show me the content in my browser's format and only when I get to the download part tell me about my browser. If I'm interested that much, I'll find a way to get IE. At this point they're telling me they don't care about my experience with their brand and this site. Would they keep someone out of their stores like this? Absolutely not.

It's easy to put up a wall like, but why not build a bridge? Invite people in, show them why you're remarkable and convert me to a customer. Every business should learn from mistakes like this and create more openness and support for mainstream platforms. Heck, at this point FireFox has more people using it than IE7. Someday the tide may even shift. Who knows, but wouldn't it be great to stay ahead of the curve?

Note: Paul @ HeeHawMarketing pointed out a similar problem on the Sales Genie website, they've corrected it in short order.

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Multi-touch interaction, beyond the iPhone

I subscribe to the TED Talks podcast feed and I've seen some really great presenters covering a very wide range of topics. As Apple's Steve Jobs released the iPhone at Macworld earlier this week I thought back to one of TED's most impressive presenters as it related to applicable technology. That presentation was done by NYU researcher Jeff Han and multi-touch interaction.

Chris Anderson, TED's founder, thought the same and asked Jeff what his thoughts were. I agree with Jeff and I'd predict we see larger versions of multi-touch screens within the next couple of years. It's really fascinating and intuitive.

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Fast, cheap and good usability

Usability testing is imperative to interactive projects. Guru Jakob Nielsen has an article on his site showing how to do it (at the bear minimum) fast, cheap and good.

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Flash 9 penetration gaining, still less than 50%

Adobe's Flash player has done more to enable the current growth of interactive marketing and advances in design/interaction than any other plug-in in history. Penetration numbers have bounded to close to 100% for past versions of the player. The Flash player has left rival plug-ins in the dust most notably Java, Windows Media player, Apple QuickTime and Real Player.

The newest version of the Flash player (version 9) has been out now for about six months so I wanted to see where it stands compared to previous versions. Flash 9 offers some real advantages in development and security and has even become the default player for MySpace pushing that audience to the new player.

In the US, Flash 9 has a reach of 40.3%. Compare that with versions 8, 7 and 6 at 90.3%, 95.6% and 97% respectively. Most new flash work is being done for the new player and the days of dumbing down interactivity for older versions seems to be gone. More and more often sites are offering single versions in the newer format forcing users to upgrade or lose out.

Marketers using Flash technology for experience design, advertising and video have been given permission to step up to the newest version. Users who choose not to upgrade will lose out on fuller, more rich environments and may lose out completely as more content is embedded in the player.

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