Keep It Usable UK Travel Report 2016

Keep It Usable UK Travel Research Report 2016

The UK travel consumer is changing every year. Keep It Usable’s independent research into the UK travel market provides insights into the current UK travel consumer and the opportunities that exist for travel companies to increase their success in 2016. Our research, conducted in the UK with 264 holidaymakers, aged 20-70 years old, helps you to better understand current and future UK travel consumers: which are their favourite destinations, how often they travel, who do they go with, how do they book, who are their preferred brands and what are the growing trends to watch out for in 2016.

The recession seems long forgotten, as over half (65%) of people now go on holiday abroad multiples times per year. Europe continues to be the most popular destination, followed by the USA. The most popular country that the UK travel consumer likes to visit is still Spain.

Travel in 2016

In 2016 we’ll see the continued rise of the solo traveller. A significant number of participants declared that they have travelled alone at least once in the last 12 months. The solo traveller trend is not just popular amongst the young traveller though, we also found the over 50s emerging as a key solo traveller segment.

Mobile

Mobile in travel eCommerceMobile is increasingly crucial for companies to get right. There’s a continuing increase in mobile use within the whole travel experience. From browsing, booking, through to using the mobile whilst on holiday, there is a need for digital marketers to engage the customer through every mobile part of the user journey.

Experiences

We’re seeing an increasing interest in experiences and a willingness to pay more for them. Travel companies will find themselves needing to move more towards selling experiences rather than continuing to focus primarily on price.  Driven by the use of social media and the fear of missing out, people are becoming more and more experience-hungry.

Google report

Google reports that travellers spend an average of 55 minutes to book a hotel and flights, visiting 17 websites and that they click four different search ads per travel search. 90% of these travellers use more than one device during the booking process. Our research confirmed this trend and highlights the importance of providing travellers with a pleasant and efficient online experience whilst they are booking their holidays, in order to increase the likelihood of your site being the one to convert the UK travel consumer.

Discover even more insights in the presentation below and if you are interested to know more about how to increase the conversion of your website, Contact us, we can help you!

View on Slideshare

KIU Insights: How people are shopping for Christmas 2015

It’s nearly Christmas! How are people shopping for the perfect gifts? We decided to chat to shoppers about their christmas shopping for 2015.  We were interested in understanding how people are shopping for Christmas; how they’re doing their research, organising their ideas and deciding where, when, what and how to buy. Are they shopping online or offline and why? So we spoke with christmas shoppers and here’s what they told us.

Christmas Shopper Profiles

The people we spoke with fell into one of three broad categories:

  • Offline (high street) christmas shoppers
  • Online christmas shoppers
  • Online-offline christmas shoppers

They are driven and inspired by different factors and christmas shopping is a completely different experience for each of them. Let’s look a bit more closely…

Offline christmas shoppers

These people love and enjoy the experience of shopping for Christmas! For them, it’s an opportunity to share time with friends and family. They love walking round the shops and markets, taking in the atmosphere and being inspired by the window displays. They enjoy window-shopping and they love the christmas spirit that is present in the high-street.

Online christmas shoppers

Online christmas shoppers are more time and gifts focused. They want to find the perfect gift for their friends and family and they see buying it online as easier and more efficient, in their eyes it saves them time and hassle. Moreover, most of the online christmas shoppers live farther from a city centre and don’t have easy access to a large variety of shops. In general, they aren’t big fans of shopping in the high-street and much less during the christmas holiday season. Online they can avoid the crowded shops and long waiting lines. Convenience is key.

Online-offline christmas shoppers

Fifty-fifty christmas shoppers do their christmas shopping both online and in the high street. They are price and gifts focused and they will follow the best deal, whether this is online or offline – they have no preference.

Have they started their christmas shopping? How is it going so far?

When do you think people start and finish their christmas shopping? Most of the christmas shoppers we spoke with had already started their christmas present shopping, and many had bought most of their gifts already. Most people had begun to look for gift ideas and inspiration at least two months ago, in October. Some had even finished all of their shopping by the end of November!

Super organised shoppers confessed that they bought their first presents at the end of July/beginning of August. If you really want the ‘wow effect’ they said you need to start early.

For personalised and unique gifts, people would rather buy gifts far ahead or online.

“Everything looks so similar in the high street during Christmas.”

Even the late shoppers seem to have a christmas shopping strategy. They started looking for ideas around mid November and now they clearly have in mind what they want, even if they haven’t yet bought the gifts.

Where do christmas shoppers find inspiration for their gifts?

For Christmas lovers nothing can ever replace shopping in the high street. They feel excited and can’t wait for the christmas season to start! They enjoy christmas shopping with their friends and family, for them it’s an enjoyable experience.

Christmas shopping with friends

They told us that they enjoy the atmosphere, the lights, the smell of mulled wine and cinnamon.

“Christmas shopping is fun, why would I stay at home on my own looking for presents online when I can do it with my friends?”

Those shoppers that love looking for christmas gifts in the high street, also seemed to be the ones without a clear idea of what to buy. They are driven by emotions and they look to be inspired by window displays. They describe christmas shopping as an ‘unmissable experience’ and they claim that it’s easier to find gift ideas in the high street than online.

“I love christmas markets! I haven’t decided what to buy yet, but I’m looking for something around… there are lots of christmas things.”

For the online christmas shoppers (particularly young people) their first port of call is Google to look for inspiration. Once they’ve decided what they want to buy, they search for the specific product on various shopping websites. Amazon and eBay are the most popular because of their good deals, short delivery times and competitive prices.

Shopping online also enables people to better ponder their choices, theirs is a more considered purchase.

“If you go into town you don’t have any guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for, and it can be a waste of time.”

“I don’t want to spend money on presents that I don’t really want to buy.”

How do they choose the perfect gift online?

When browsing christmas gifts online, many people said they take screenshots of the products they might want to buy or take notes on their mobile about prices and details.

Others, simply open several tabs at the same time on their laptop, so they can easily compare products and prices.

“I just leave the product open on chrome, that’s how I remember what I’ve looked for before.”

They also explained that even if they haven’t decided whether to buy the product or not, they will add it to the basket of the website so that they can save the product and find it easily. In doing this, they have more time to think about it before before making the final decision. In effect, they’re using their basket as a shopping list to shortlist the things they like.

Reviews were also seen as a positive of shopping online. Reading other users comments and experiences helps shoppers to choose what to buy and what not to buy!

Sharing inspiration is also an activity carried out online. Social media is used for communicating and sharing gift ideas with friends and family.

“I send the link of the product to my sisters in messenger. We’re looking for a present for our mum, and through Facebook it’s easy to share our ideas with each other.”

The online shoppers said they don’t like packed, crowded and messy shops during christmas season. The chaos of the high street disorientates them and in the quietness of their home they can be more focused and more easily find the perfect gift for their friends and family.

…and the online-offline christmas shoppers?

For the online-offline christmas shoppers, the most important thing for them is finding the best deal!

They have a careful and methodical strategy. They move fluidly from searching presents online and in the high street, they compare prices both online and in store, they already have in mind most of the gifts they want to buy, but they are also open to appealing offers. These are our classic showroomers.

In a way, the online-offline shoppers summarise what all christmas shoppers have in common:  they are all driven (some more than others) by price and convenience.

All of our shoppers said that price is very important; for some it is crucial, for others it is important but not that important that it prevents them from christmas shopping in the high street. Planning and budgeting is important. In this regard, lists are used to organise, control and manage christmas expenses.

“I plan what to buy, otherwise I’d spend a lot”

“I have a list of people, presents and prices…so I can control what I’ve spent so far”

Showrooming: The future of Christmas shopping

Our research supports that christmas shopping is moving in the direction of exploiting online and in-store shopping.

“Showrooming” appears to be the new way of shopping, not just at Christmas.

Using their mobile phones while shopping in high street shops, browsing and comparing products in store and online at the same time is an effective strategy to find the best price whilst directly experiencing the product and enjoying the christmas atmosphere that only shopping with friends in the high-street can bring without any stress or anxiety.

The shopping experience is becoming a more rounded experience, moving across offline and online spaces as determined by context and need. Our mobiles are now an extension of our shopping experience and it will be the responsibility of retailers offer their costumers a pleasant and enjoyable Christmas experience, that supports customers whether they’re shopping in-store, online or both.

If you want to know more about Showrooming and how to improve your costumer experience on mobile, read our post Mobile shopping to soar this Christmas

Karen Millen’s Black Friday UX Faux-pas

It’s Black Friday, you wake up, grab your mobile by your bed and have a quick look at your favourite sites to see if there are any bargains to be had before christmas. Going round the shops is for losers, you’re going to be the first one to get the bargains and all in the comfort of your own bed before you’ve even started work. Win!

One of your favourite stores is Karen Millen and you’re excited to see they’ve joined in with Black Friday. It’s promoted on the Home page, however, you nearly missed it because it doesn’t have the usual Black Friday branding and looks just like a normal ad. But you spotted it and that’s what counts.

karen millen black friday

You eagerly click on the ‘Shop now’ text (you do this carefully because it’s very small on your mobile) and land on a page full of items. The large ‘25% off’ text on each item immediately grabs your attention. Fantastic! 25% off!

karen_millen_uxAt first you’re confused. It appears there are are only two jumpers in the Black Friday sale so you go to press the back button but you happen to catch the screen with your finger and the page scrolls slightly. You notice there are actually more items hiding further down the page!

You see a jumper you like so you look at the price and it says £75.00. You look back at the 25% off text and wonder if that means the price is already discounted or not…. There’s no other price on the item (you’re used to seeing a before and after price) and the price isn’t in a different colour so it looks like it might still be the full price. Is it really in the sale?

Hmm… you decide to click on it to have a closer look at the jumper and to see if there’s any sign of a sale price on the next screen. Maybe they just missed it off the previous page. But now it looks worse… the 25% off text has now gone completely and there’s just the one price of £75.00. It doesn’t look like it’s in the sale at all.

karen_millen_black_friday

You’re confused. You like the jumper but don’t know if it’s reduced or not. Is is reduced? Is the £75.00 the reduced price or the full price? You don’t want to risk it so you leave and go to River Island instead.

river_island_home_black_friday

Aha! That’s more like it! River Island screams the magic words 50% OFF as soon as you land on their home page. It doesn’t actually say if it’s a Black Friday sale but who cares, it’s a whopping 50% off and that’s good enough for you!

river_island_black_fridayYou eagerly press to see the items in the sale and land on a page full of cool stuff to wear. It’s really clear to you that these are all sale items because you can see the original prices which are crossed out and replaced with new prices that are also red so you know they’re in the sale. Whoop! Let’s get sales shopping!

Keep It Usable.

Black Friday: Consumer psychology of grabbing a bargain

This year, online sales over the 24-hour Black Friday period are expected to surpass £1bn for the first time in UK history (last year they were £810m). £3.5bn in sales are expected over the whole weekend. For retailers, Black Friday is a huge sales opportunity but also creates pressure to keep up with the Joneses and discount items to an uncomfortable level. Combine this with the instore chaos we saw in the UK last year and it’s a pretty crazy time!

For Americans, Black Friday symbolises the start of the Christmas holiday shopping season. They take the Friday after Thanksgiving off from work, taking advantage of the long weekend to start their Christmas shopping.

Although Black Friday is still not very popular in Europe, in the UK it has very quickly become the biggest shopping day of the year, even beating Boxing Day.

The figures speak for themselves…

In 2014, UK consumers spent £810m online on Black Friday and they are expected to spend even more this year. According to IMRG & Experian, online sales will reach £1.07bn. If that prediction is correct, online sales will reach a record in the UK’s online retailing history, exceeding for the first time £1bn in just 24 hours.

The Centre for Retail Research estimates that in total (combining online and in store shopping) British people will spend £1.39Bn in just one day, this is 32% more than the previous year.

Black Friday Sales

Telegraph, 23 November 2015. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/black-friday/12009461/Black-Friday-2015-the-best-bargains-and-deals-when-and-where.html

Who are Black Friday Shoppers?

First of all, let’s understand who are Black Friday typical shoppers: (IMRG 21 October 2015, http://www.imrg.org/-1bn-to-be-spent-by-uk-online-shoppers-this-black-friday)

  • Typically families with children
  • Aged between 35-55
  • Living in suburban or residential locations; they don’t have easy access to shops
  • Facebook users
  • Regular consumers of content on mobile devices

Compare this with Boxing Day shoppers who are more likely to be younger and live in urban city centres.

Their demographic profile has important implications for retailers. For example, considering that the most Black Friday shoppers don’t live in the city centre and don’t have easy access to shops, attention should be put in to planning and optimising the delivery service or in communicating details about deals, coupons, opening times, etc, through social media, to enable costumers to plan and organise their shopping.

How are Black Friday customers shopping?

(Simpson L., Taylor L., O’Rourke K. and Shaw K. (2011). An Analysis of Consumer Behaviour on Black Friday, American International Journal of Contemporary Research, Vol. 1 No.1)

  • They already have a specific product in mind
  • They buy particularly electronic media items
  • More willing to buy gift items rather then items for themselves

This year, consumers will be even more aware about the convenience of buying on Black Friday and shops will be even more crowded than last year, lines outside will be longer and tension will grow faster among the more competitive ones.

Last year, Black Friday was definitely a success, but retailers weren’t ready to deal with, quite frankly, the chaos that ensued amongst consumers, to the point that some of them have decided not to take part again this year. One of the most surprising retailers not taking part this year is American owned Asda, who will instead offer discounts spread across November and December.

Daily Mail, 28 November 2014, Manchester.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2852585/Mayhem-Black-Friday-begins-Shoppers-clash-supermarkets-trying-grab-bargains-Boots-Game-Curry-s-PC-world-websites-crash-thousands-start-hunt-Christmas-deals.html

Copyright LUKE MACGREGOR

Why is Black Friday more aggressive than other UK sales days

Last year, the situation got so chaotic that Telegraph renamed the day as “The Black and Blue Friday”. People queued in the cold outside shops for hours, then running and fighting their way to the product they wanted. But it’s not like this on Boxing Day or any other sale day in the UK…

So, what’s transformed the decent and respectable UK shopper into a merciless shopping, fighting machine?  Frustration can be a reasonable answer.

A lot of psychologists tried to find explanations and causes of aggressive behaviours and the Frustration-Aggression Theory (Dollard, Neal, Miller, at al. 1939; Berkowitz, 1969) is one of the hypothesis proposed to explain the phenomenon. The authors support the idea that when people perceive that they are being prevented from achieving a goal, their frustration is likely to turn to aggression and violence. The closer you get to a goal, the greater the excitement and expectation and consequently the more frustrated you get by being stopped.

The theory doesn’t suggest that frustration always lead to aggression, but in some particular circumstances can boost aggressive behaviours.

Black Friday might be one of those above mentioned circumstances.

Sales psychology: Why sales drive shoppers

Psychologists say that the allure of a bargain speaks to our human nature. Limited-time offers and last chance buys trigger the fear of scarcity and Fear of loss that drive us to buy. It makes us buy things we don’t really need, simply because we might not have the opportunity to buy them so cheaply again. IT’s how you end up with boxes of shoes in the cupboard that you never wear but you thought were an absolute bargain at the time you bought them with 70% off!

“People truly want to get a good deal, and so they might be less rational… when they can look in the environment and find different cues that make them think they’re getting a good deal, the decision-making is emotional” Kenneth Manning, professor at Colorado State University.

Did you know that sales drive our competitive spirit? We want to tell other about the great deal we got and we hope ours was better than theirs (even if we didn’t really need the item in the first place!). People treat it as a personal accomplishment to boast about.

Sales also have a positive affect our brain chemistry. In 2007, Stanford researchers discovered that when subjects shopping for clothes saw a sale price, the brain’s pleasure centre lit up. Sales, in other words, make us happy.

The sales environment also triggers consumers to part with their cash: “We are classically conditioned to hear this music, see these lights, even the experience of the shorter days and associate it with spending and shopping,” says Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist

So, be ready, 2015 Black Friday is just around the corner (27th November) and we hope and wish will be a good one, for both shoppers and retailers!

Do you like the #twitterheart? or should @Twitter #BringBackTheStar?

A few days ago, the new Twitter CEO took the brave decision to change the ‘star-shaped’ favourite button (one of the Twitter’s most popular features) with a heart, which is in the companies opinion, a more universal and expressive symbol.  However, he seems to have missed a very important point: more expressive for who?

Following the decision a virtual riot arose, particularly among the most loyal twitter users.

As often happens online, features and symbols like stars, hearts or emoticons fill the lack of a physical and tangible interaction, which are crucial for users in order to properly express themselves.

Each social network has different features and characteristics and attracts a different kind of user with different aims and purpose. Social networks are sort of ‘clans’, with different rules and habits, and users choose to become members of one rather than another because of those differences.  For twitter users, the star was one of those differences that made the social network unique.
twitter1And as it happens, amongst members of the Twitter clan, they developed a shared ‘meanings code’, a sort of distinctive mark that concurs they are feeling part of the same community.  The star was part of the code and users are complaining because they want it back.

What did the star-shaped favourite button mean for users?

Originally, the star was meant as a feature to ‘favourite’ other users tweets, but with the passing of the time, people assigned it various different meanings and uses.

It wasn’t just a simple favourite for users, it has also become for the most, a bookmark for interesting or captivating tweets that users haven’t the time to read immediately, a “this could be interesting and I’ll read it later”.  The star also meant “I favourite your tweet, but I don’t like it enough to retweet it”.

Moreover, users used the star for acknowledging that they’ve read someone else’s tweet in the absence of comments.

It happened in a similar way with the hashtag, in that users introduced it for the first time and then Twitter adopted it.  Users have generated their own meaning and interpretation of a feature,  generating a different direction than what was originally meant by the designers.

Why are habitual Twitter users so strongly against the new ‘heart-shaped’ like button?

First of all, as already said, users on Twitter don’t need a specific feature for liking a tweet; if they really like something, they will retweet it. Secondly, in the users’ mind, the heart-symbol is more related to an emotional and intimate sphere that doesn’t fit a platform like Twitter, but rather a social network like Instagram, where users tend to share more personal images. Thirdly, people don’t like change. Change is stressful, people love their habits, the safety and ease of their routine and they struggle to accept novelties.

twitter2 twitter3 twitter4Why do Twitter users feel so lost?

The Twitter CEO’s choice, made to encourage a warm and easy welcome to new users that could struggle to understand the meaning of the ‘star feature’, is threatening the loyalty of the existing users.

In ‘real life’ the context is crucial in order to understand and evaluate a situation. If you think about it, your behaviour is modulated by the context in which you are interacting with someone; for example, you will use a different tone of voice or type of language when talking with someone in a church compared to a pub, because you can tell from the context how  to behave and adapt in a socially acceptable way.

In the ‘virtual life’ the only clue that you can catch from the digital context is the structure and the features of a website, an app, or in this case, a social network.

The star-shaped button has been fundamental in defining the ‘mood’ of interactions on Twitter; and now users feel lost, they don’t know how to behave, and above all they are concerned they will be misunderstood.

The meaning of a symbol can’t be considered outside the context in which it is immersed, particularly online where the context is ephemeral and intangible and the design is the only clue that can tell users how to behave.

Moreover, in the online environment, the meaning of symbols and features is generated directly from the interaction between users and from the use that people make of them; there are no universal meanings, not even in the global universe of the Internet.

For this, in online contexts, it is crucial to give up any kind of assumptions and strictly observe the users experience, because designers create layouts, but users give them sense.

 

Starbucks in Italy? An Italian customer experience perspective

Italian Starbucks

Starbucks is coming to Italy in February. You might think this isn’t a big deal but for the Italian market it really is! Italian’s are precious about their coffee and their drinking habits differ greatly to those of the US and UK. The whole customer experience is different, which is why the opening of Starbucks in Italy is so controversial…

First of all, it’s interesting to know that Starbucks has an ancient bond with Italy; originally, Starbucks sold only coffee beans, but after a journey to Italy, the owner had the idea to recreate and export “caffetteria-style shops”.

Italian coffee drinking behaviour

From an Italian point of view (Yes, I’m Italian), coffee is not just a drink: it’s a ritual, a chit chat with the barista, it’s the best end after a good meal, it’s the perfect “good morning”, it’s a pleasant and quick break, but above all, it has to be short, black, bitter and served in a small ceramic cup (very hot).

Typically, an Italian will enter the coffee shop, simply ask for a coffee (which is an espresso – this is the standard drink), stand up at the counter, drink the coffee which takes just a few minutes, then leave.

You can see that both the drink and the behaviour differ a lot from the typical Starbucks experience.

In this scenario, will Italian consumers appreciate Starbucks Americano, Latte or Frapuccino? Will they buy coffee served in the famous cardboard cup? How will they reply to the renowned question “stay in or takeaway”?

In Naples, the south of Italy, the “coffee ritual” is even stronger than in the north. There’s a popular tradition called “caffè sospeso”, literally translated as “pending coffee”. It’s rooted into the Naples’ working-class culture, and basically consists of having an espresso but paying for two, leaving one on the counter, ready for the next costumer, as a symbol of good luck and an act of “charity”.

Will the Italian consumers pay for a “frappucino sospeso” or a “pending latte”? What will happen?


Image taken from “La banda degli onesti”. Totò, a famous Italian comedian and actor, drinking a coffee at the counter.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper wrote: “We thought we had everything in Italy, but it turns out we lacked one thing: American coffee”.

Coffee for Italians is part of their culture, their behaviour, a national identity and habit; and Starbucks knows it. Even more important, Starbucks have had to really know Italian customers before making the decision to open a branch in Italy. It’s no coincidence that the first Italian Starbucks will open in Milan, the most international city in Italy, heart of Italian business, fashion and a highly multicultural centre.

What are the opportunities and potential barriers of having Starbucks in Italy?

The opportunities

  • The company announced that they will promote Starbucks as a place for business meetings as well as a cozy spot where to relax; an intimate coffee shop in the heart of the business area of Milan, where you can work or sip a coffee with friends.
  • Free WIFI will be the main attraction for Italian customers. There aren’t many places in Milan where you can find free and fast WIFI.
  • A hi-tech + coffee formula. Technology will be the key differentiator for Italian Starbucks. Along with free WIFI, customers will have access to a “Starbucks digital network” streaming movies and tv shows.

Potential barriers

  • Deeply rooted coffee culture. Italian customers have a strong bond with their habits, particularly when it comes to coffee and food.
  • There are thousands of coffee shops, bars and ‘caffetterias’ in Milan where you can enjoy a high quality espresso with a snack (biscuits or a pastry) and where you can simply read a newspaper with a good cappuccino.
  • Starbucks is expensive compared to the Italian coffee prices. In Italy, one espresso costs 1€ or even less.
  • For most of the time, “having a coffee” for Italians, means having a quick break, standing up at the counter. Particularly in the afternoon or after lunch. It is not the long sit down break that is common in other countries.
  • It is not common for Italian business consumers to sit in a coffee shop and work on the laptop or meet in a public space.


A traditional bar-caffetteria in Milan – Bar Zucca. People drinking a coffee at the counter.

The “Starbucks Italian situation” is a great example of the importance of how understanding customers is crucial in order to offer an efficient and successful product.

Moving into the Italian market is a huge risk for Starbucks, however by first opening in Milan, they will be able to take advantage of the large tourist market. It is the least risky option for them and a gentle step into the Italian market to test their acceptance of the longer coffee drinking customer experience.

If you need to understand or test in other markets, we can help. Get in touch with Keep It Usable >

WINNER Keep It Usable: Best online/digital business in the North West

We’re very proud to announce that we’ve won the WIBA award for best online/digital business in the North West! WIBA stands for women in business awards and representing Keep It Usable was our founder, Lisa Duddington.

Award wiba

“I’m incredibly proud of Keep It Usable and everything we continue to achieve.

Right from the beginning, huge brands were trusting us with their projects and it’s testament to our knowledge, passion and skill.
As for women in business and male dominated industries? I say go for it! Yes I’m often the only woman in a room full of techy guys but it doesn’t bother me one bit, my opinion is respected because I know what I’m talking about and being a woman brings the advantage of seeing things a bit differently, especially in terms of the customer.”

We are now a finalist in the national wiba awards which will be held next month.

The photo below shows all the North West winners. Congratulations and best of luck to everyone!

An interview with Zappos

Alex Genov - Zappos

This month Keep It Usable spoke with Alex Genov who is Head of UX Research and Web Analytics at Zappos.

Alex shares with us some fascinating insights into the process they follow at Zappos, the research methods and UX tools they use, how they decide what to test with users vs what to MVT.

Alex also shares with us a conversion challenge his team faced and how they overcame it. We also learn about his background, what makes him tick and his top tips for you.

Hi Alex, could you tell us a little about yourself, your team and what you do for Zappos?

I am a customer research professional who applies his Social Psychology background and his passion for research, design, and innovation to the software industry. My professional goal is to help teams create remarkable products and services which make people’s lives easier and more enjoyable.

Currently I am leading UX Research and Web Analytics for the Zappos Family of Companies.  My work includes both hands-on research for all the Zappos online properties as well as mentoring and team development.

In previous positions, I was responsible for research and usability of the products and services for companies like TurboTax (Intuit), State Farm Insurance, and the Active Network.   I have over 15 years of relevant experience – 5 years of academic research and over 10 years of customer research in the software industry.  I received a PhD in Experimental Social Psychology from Clark University.   My areas of research include: defining and measuring emotions, individual differences, usability, and consumer segmentation.

During my academic career, I developed and taught college-level courses in Research Methods, Statistics, and Social Psychology.  I have numerous presentations at professional conferences, several publications in peer-reviewed journals, and several patent applications.

What process do you follow?

The research team is part of the larger UX team.  As a UX team we follow agile, cross-functional process which involves Design Thinking, rapid prototyping, concept testing, iterative and benchmark usability, and a variety of other methods along the creative and development product development journey.

How much research do you carry out with your users?

We do research along the full cycle of: problem definition —> idea generation —> interface design —> product release —> back to problem definition.

What types of research do you do and why?

We combine both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Qualitative for idea generation and to understand the “why”

  • In-depth interviews
  • Home visits / Contextual inquiry
  • Iterative usability
  • Co-creation
  • Focus groups

Quantitative to understand the “what” and to quantify opportunities and issues

  • Surveys, including Market Segmentation
  • Choice-based conjoint studies
  • Data mining
  • A/B testing
  • Benchmark usability

 

Which UX tools do you and your team use?

  • Survey authoring tools
  • Sawtooth
  • Qualtrics
  • Remote usability via WebEx
  • Online card sorting
  • Optimal Sort
  • Analysis tools
  • SPSS
  • R
  • A/B testing – internal platform

How much A/B and MVT testing do you carry out?

Lots.  We do not release anything before A/B testing it.

How do you decide which changes you should research with users first vs which you should simply MVT?

In the idea generation stage and the concept development stage talking to customers and doing iterative research makes sense because it is cheap to start over and make changes until a good design is developed.

If the change has to do with actual customer behavior, we A/B test – actual behavior which ultimately leads to conversion is the best indicator of success.  Asking people what they would or would not do is silly.

Could you give an example of a conversion barrier or challenge you have faced and what steps you took to overcome it?

We discovered some legacy “error” messages we were surfacing to costumers.  Those were ominous-looking and had harsh and non-factual language, e.g. “Fix the following errors” when the customers had not done anything wrong.  We redesigned the messages to be much more helpful and even apologetic on our part.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Continuing to learn about what makes people tick and how to create new experiences which positively affect the lives of millions of people.  Breaking barriers and silos between Marketing Research, User Research, Web Analytics, and so on.  Mentoring less experienced colleagues.

Could you share one of your top tips with our readers?

Break down barriers and silos between Marketing Research, User Research, Web Analytics, and so on.  Those are based on archaic organizational structures and make no sense from the point of view of the customer.

How just one word can change your conversion

How just one word can change your conversionLayout, images, colours, fonts are equally important in order to provide users with a pleasant online experience and increase the conversion rate of a website. The design of a website is crucial, but it’s not the only factor that we should take into consideration.

Users should be guided and helped in making a purchase decision on a website; they need to have enough information in order to make an informed decision and the navigation has to flow smoothly. But, is that enough?

Changing just one word can have a huge impact on your conversion rate.

Choosing the right way to say something is fundamental, particularly if the aim is to prompt users to take an action, like buying your products or creating an account.

Choosing the right word(s)

Unfortunately there is no universal answer or solutions.

Since words acquire meanings only when considered in context, knowing which words are better then others, means knowing the context, observing users moving and behaving in that context and constantly putting yourself in their shoes.

It is very important to keep testing, particularly in relation to CTA buttons, as shown in the following case studies.

Understanding your customer’s psychology, behaviour and intention is the secret to effective CTA copy.

Example: ‘Buy now’ vs ‘Shop now’

Dewalt.com have a ‘Buy Now’ CTA button on their product pages. Some of the team thought that changing the wording to something less committal like ‘Shop Now’ might encourage greater click throughs. Others on the team thought the wording change could imply a longer purchase process. So they decided to test both variations to see which resulted in greater conversion.

Hypothesis

Current CTA: ‘Buy now’. May imply a faster and shorter process to purchase.

Variation: ‘Shop now’.  May imply less commitment and therefore encourage more clicks.

Results

17% more users clicked on ‘Buy Now’ rather than ‘Shop Now’.

The small variation in text had a huge impact on the final result. This represented a six-figure difference in the online sales of the product.

Why?

The next action is clearer with ‘Buy now’, it is very obvious that the user’s intention is to purchase. ‘Shop now’ could be mistaken for continuing to look at more shops, it is less specific regarding the action and more ambiguous.

 

Example: ‘Find a retailer’ vs ‘Where to Buy’ vs ‘Nearby Retailers’

Hypothesis

Current CTA: ‘Find a retailer’. Concern that this may be mistaken for online retailers only.

Variation 1: ‘Where to buy’. The team felt this version was more direct and may imply less work for the visitor.

Variation 2: ‘Nearby retailer’. Related to a physical and geographical location and therefore may make it clearer that this indicates physical retail stores


Results

4.1% more users clicked on ‘Nearby retailer’ compared to the two alternatives.

Why?

 The button more clearly indicates physical shops where the user can buy the product as it relates to a geographical location, while the others two options could be mistaken as solely relating to online stores.

 

How 2 Words Lifted Insound’s Checkout Funnel Conversion to 54%

Following the launch of a redesign, Insound found that conversion was underperforming. It was believed that this was due to the length of the checkout process and the vague wording throughout.

Hypothesis

Current CTA: ‘Continue’. Logical description of the button, continues to the next step.

Variation 1: ‘Review order’. Describes what’s going on and reassures that the process is not completed yet, i.e. there’s still time to change your mind.

Variation 2: ‘Submit’. Based on the one-step check out process.

Variation 3: ‘Almost done’. Informs that the process is almost complete.

 

insound conversion

Results

‘Review order’ was the winner with a 39.4% click rate.

Why?

It is explanatory and reassuring at the same time, clearly indicating to the user that they still have time to back out should they need to but also allows them to see an overview of their order and associated information to double check everything before proceeding.

As can be seen, small adjustments to your CTA copy can make a big difference conversion. It’s always worth testing alternatives to see which performs better.

Source of examples: Optimizely

Keep It Usable app featured in the papers

If you were sitting down with your coffee on Saturday morning, reading the papers, you may have spotted Keep It Usable. We were featured in an article about a fantastic health app called Clintouch, which has been developed by Manchester University. We are proud to have worked on the design of the user interfaces for this now award-winning app that has subsequently made an appearance at 10 Downing Street to inform the future of how digital technology can improve the nations health.

Clintouch is one of the first apps being prescribed by doctors to patients to aid early intervention. Currently prescribed to patients with psychosis, the app could ultimately save the NHS millions by enabling earlier treatment before a patient becomes seriously ill.

This groundbreaking app has subsequently gone on to win an innovation award and is currently being trialled in NHS trusts in the UK.

Independent research that we conducted with users of health and wellbeing apps showed that there is a great deal of distrust and disengagement with health apps (caused by the quality of apps in the marketplace at the moment). Users want trustworthy apps that are easy to use and will do what they claim to do. Clintouch is hopefully the first of many apps that bridge the gap between patient and doctor and make a real difference to both the NHS an people’s lives.

There is a great deal of scope for health and wellbeing apps to improve our lives, cut NHS costs and improve the relationships we have with our doctors. However, it is crucial that these apps are designed by professionals in collaboration with health experts so they actually work and have a high level of efficacy, otherwise they just join the thousands of health apps already in the app store that are downloaded and never used.