Six Nudges: Creating A Sense Of Urgency For Higher Conversion Rates!

By every indicator available, ecommerce is continuing to grow at an insane speed. Although it may seem impossible to imagine with ecommerce already totaling up to 5% of overall commerce, there’s astronomical growth still to come. Still, I’m heartbroken that some the simplest elements of ecommerce stink so much. It is 2018—why are there still […]

The post Six Nudges: Creating A Sense Of Urgency For Higher Conversion Rates! appeared first on Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik.

By every indicator available, ecommerce is continuing to grow at an insane speed. Although it may seem impossible to imagine with ecommerce already totaling up to 5% of overall commerce, there’s astronomical growth still to come.

Still, I’m heartbroken that some the simplest elements of ecommerce stink so much.

It is 2018—why are there still light gray below-the-fold add to cart buttons?


There are numerous subtle issues as well. One strategic issue is illustrated by Timbuk2.


Timbuk2 pays a huge margin to its resellers to sell their messenger bags. These resellers, in turn, give a bigger cut to Amazon, who then sells the Timbuk2 bag for 30% off. Yet, when I want to pay full price on, I have to buy a minimum of $99 to get free shipping!

I understand channel conflict, Timbuk2, but this is just plain not being hungry. You could win bigger by cultivating higher more profitable direct relationships, especially when the old world order of commerce is collapsing all around you.

And I’m ignoring the extremely light gray font reviews…on a shade grayer background!



(I really want to buy the Closer Laptop bag. The small one in Jet Black looks cool. I refused to buy it because I don’t want to reward a lack of ecommerce imagination. I am one person, I know it is not going to really hurt them, but I don’t know how else to protest a brand I love.)

Pause. Deep breath.

I do get excited about this stuff. My heart bleeds digital.

There is an ocean of opportunities when it comes to elevating ecommerce. In this post, I want to focus my passion and zero in on something that is difficult to solve for, yet immensely profitable: Inserting a sense of urgency into the shopping process.

I don’t mean: BUY IT NOW OR ELSE!

I mean developing and inserting a subtle collection of gentle nudges that can help increase the conversion rate by a statistically significant amount.

Sizing the Opportunity.

In order to have the same passion to take advantage of this magical opportunity (nudge, nudge) you’ll first want to understand how inefficient your current shopping process is.

Do two things, they’ll bring you to your knees:

1. Go look at your ecommerce conversion rate. It shows you how often you win. :) Your overall conversion rate is likely to be around 2%. You don’t need an advanced degree in math to compute that 2% winning is 98% not winning!

Do something simple. Increase current conversion rate by 25%, quantify how much increased revenue there will be. Yes, that additional $6 mil is not as hard to accomplished for an imaginative focused team – in fact you can get that from implementing half of the recommendations in this blog post.

Bonus: The best computation of conversion rate is orders divided by users (the default in your analytics tool is sessions). This will bring your conversion rate up (yea!!). Still. Big opportunity. And, yes, I did say a decade ago that you should look at the opportunity size within all your website visitors. You should. Still. The conversion headroom is massive.

Google Analytics Ecommerce Reports

2. Go to the Multi-Channel Funnels folder in Google analytics and look at two other yummy reports: Time Lag and Path Length.

They report two dimensions of speed: How long does it take for a human to convert? How many visits does it take for a human to convert?

My preferred choice is Path Length; it is rich and actionable.

This data you’ll see, the analysis you’ll do, will scare you. It will also create a sense of urgency to do something about it!

These two recommendations will help you compute the opportunity size for your management team.

Aim for quintupling revenue, obviously, but calculating just 25% improvement will give you all the budget you need from your management to insert urgency into the shopping process. Present a yummy spreadsheet that quantifies the cost of inaction, how much money you’ll lose by not delivering a 25% improvement every week. It will be heartbreaking, and now you are ready for progress!

Welcome to Nudging.

Nudging has plenty of different definitions. Mine is simple:

A gentle incentive that creates a shift in behavior.

Another insistence of mine that you’ll note below: Nudges are based on a deep understanding of user experience. They solve for the user first, and all of the hard work is done by the company (you!).

In the long run that’ll also create a positive revenue outcome for you. Win-Win.

Below is a collection of nudges, curated from my global experiences, influenced by research and data I’ve access to.

My goal with these recommendations is to have a big impact on your ecommerce existence, and to spark your creativity as you go out and change the world.

Let’s go have some fun nudging people.

1. In-stock status.

It mildly irritates me when sites don’t use this nudge.

How many hotel rooms, cameras, seats in a theater, are left?

Only 15 left in stock. Have that right under the price.

How about: Last run! Be one of the last 9 people to own this credenza design.

OMG! Click, click, click!

Or, 1 in-stock in the REI store next to your office.

Nudge. Nudge.


I’ll admit that you need to have a well-integrated logistics platform to make these ideas work. But given the decade we are in, if you have not already done that, you are facing an existential crisis. Please stop reading this post, pull in your agency and internal teams urgently to figure out how to dig your company out of this deep hole.

If you have a well-integrated logistics platform already, then all I’m asking for is this: lock your online and offline IT folks in a nice Four Seasons suite for 72 hours with your User Researchers, and BAM! Money will start falling from the sky.

Speaking of the Four Seasons, consider how sad their nudging strategy is vs. the one that has on display:


All the data you need for this nudge… You already have. That’s what makes the Four Seasons strategy, and that of most sites, so heartbreaking.

Convert the inventory status into a conversion boosting nudge.

2. Life of current price.

It physically pains me how rarely this nudge is used.

Dynamic pricing is everywhere. Why not share that information with the shopper?

This price is guaranteed for the next 18 hours.

This price reflects the highest discount in the past 24 weeks.

Limited-time offer applied to the price you see.

Seasonal promotion! Expires Friday.

Reflects special pricing for our highest-tier Frequent Flyers.

Price has reduced by 14% since your last visit.

I’m sure you’ll find language and phrasing that works perfectly for you (see PS at the end of this post). There is a nugget tied to a unique dimension for your dynamic pricing strategy. Please find it, please use it.

Here’s an example from The Golf Warehouse:


Here’s another one from Overstock that shows two time based nudges…


You can take advantage of other dimensions related to pricing that are unique to your digital strategy.

This one comes from YouTube TV: Lock-in this monthly rate for life.

YouTube TV’s price just went up from $35 to $40 (they added more channels). Everyone who’d signed up at $35 was grandfathered at that price – until they cancel!

Yet, this incredible benefit was not a part of YouTube TV’s merchandizing strategy from day one. You can imagine that a whole bunch of additional people (me!) would have jumped on board. Instead not only do I not have YouTube TV, I am sad/upset. Double loss.

You have an entire staff of economists, financial analysts, directors and VPs spending so much time on finding the perfect price to charge an individual. Why not convert that immense hard work into a nudge that creates a sense of urgency?

3. Direct competitor comparisons.

38% cheaper than Nordstrom.

Sometimes, by using one of the multitude of price aggregators, you can have an understanding of where your pricing is at an item level. Where the match is in your favor, why not use that as a nudge?

You can have the comparison for as long as it is valid. You don’t even need to specify a time—people are familiar with FOMO.

Only at B&H, this item comes with a free LG Watch!

First, who does not like free stuff?

Second, who does not like believing they are getting a special deal?

Three, who does not freak out that if they don’t buy it right away, this “insane deal” will disappear?

Me. I did that. At B&H. :)

Again, your merchandizing team is working hard to procure these amazing bundles for your customers, so why are they not a core part of your nudge strategy?

Costco Special: Get an extra year of warranty!

Our average delivery times to California are 50% faster than Amazon.

Save $150 on installation compared to Best Buy!

Our return rates are 40% lower than Wayfair.

You catch my drift.

Here’s just one example from SugarCRM:


Here’s a comparison on Honda’s site…


No, actually it is from Toyota’s site.

They know that if their car is more expensive, with worse mileage etc., better to be upfront as the customers are looking for that information…

You can also go deeper when it comes to implementing the spirit of this nudge. Kendrick Astro Instruments has the normal table based competitor comparison, additionally they also have a detailed comparison with images to give you more detail…


This shows hunger and desire to win… Their text:

This image displays the quality of Kendrick's cabling that we use on all Premier and FireFly heaters. Our cabling remains flexible in cold weather (down to -40° C), are all labeled for easy identification and all have metal RCA connectors..

This is the text next to their competitor's image (which you can view in higher resolution):

This image displays a competitor's cabling. It is a PVC coated RCA patch cord. PVC gets very stiff in the cold and as a result, makes it an awkward component to use at the telescope. As well, due to the lack of flexibility and give in the cold, it can defocus camera lenses.

Not all that hard to see how this nudge drives higher conversion rates.

Your employees stand up at 11:00 AM each day and sing the company song. There is a line in there about your company’s unique value proposition. Something so special, it stands out against everyone you compete with.

Why let that be your little secret? Why don’t you convert that into a nudge?

Consider how much louder your 11:00 AM company sing-a-long will be when your employees see you laying it out there and going head to head with your competitors.

4. Delivery times based on geo/IP/mobile phone location.

Amazon does this really well.

Each item’s estimated delivery time to you depends on the closest warehouse to your home address. So that Timbuk2 bag might be delivered to me the next day, but it would take two days to get to Carissa in Alabama.

Amazon shows this best delivery time for me right next to the price.

More often than not, I see that Prime One-Day or Prime Same-Day and, as if by magic, I find my mouse glide toward the Order Now button!


The closeness of the customer to your delivery environments remains an infrequently used strategy in creating an urgency nudge.

Another dimension of the delivery time nudge is order in the next 4 hours and get it tomorrow with fast shipping!

In our instant gratification culture, who can resist that?

You are $39 away from overnight shipping has been done to death. (If you are in this category, know that the last “secret” of ecommerce is that figuring out how to weaponize shipping – and free returns – is a powerful conversion increasing engine. Not easy, but your business model has to change to survive.)

But. If you are still in that world—don’t worry, I still love you—know that a behavioral shift from an emphasis on cost to an emphasis on the benefit will make a huge difference.

Add another $39 to your order and get your order 48 hours faster!

This takes advantage of the person’s location, your warehouse location, and your shipping policy, and frames it all as a positive nudge.

A couple more examples to inspire you.

Love these delicious sandals on Express. My wife thinks I’ll look prettier in the red, I think the Mustard really looks like my color. :)

I love the nudge they have built-in showing how many in my size are in stock (only one!)…


Not wanting to risk it, I click on the Find in Store link you see at the bottom of the page.

I get a interstitial that shows me availability of the sandal by geographic location…


Here’s the lovely part… I did not have to do anything. Express did a reverse lookup based on my IP Address, matched that with their stores, then checked their ERP system for inventory and got me the answer. All inside one second.

Nudge, nudge!

One more.

Dominos will now deliver a pizza to you wherever you are. Literally wherever. In a park, in the dark woods, under a bridge. They look up your mobile location (with your permission), and they’ll come find you.

Assuming you want pizza that bad.

There are still websites that ask you to choose your country when you land. In this day and age, for the sake of Zeus, I hope that is not you.  But, how inventively are you using the location nudge?

Significantly higher revenue awaits.

5. Social cues to the rescue.

The last couple of months have not been great for social networks. I’m sure something beneficial will come to the entire digital ecosystem from all this.

A minority might believe that the whole social media thing is going to die. It is not. Community and sharing are core to who we are as humans. It is not going to change. (And, you still need a place for guilty pleasures: indulging in the latest Kardashian-West clan developments!)

Stretch your imagination and it is not hard to come up with some super-clever nudges that incorporate aggregate non-PII information that is public.

People have shared this blouse 18 times in the last hour on Instagram.

80 people in California have booked this destination in the last 30 days.

1,846 Pins for this closet on Pinterest.

Our most tweeted style of underwear!

800 plusses on Google+.

Ok, so maybe not Google+ (I was genuinely excited about it, I am sad it died). But you get the idea.

Social cues (/proof) can help create a sense of urgency for a whole host of companies. Yet, I bet you’ve rarely seen the use of this aggregated information to deliver nudges.

Here’s a simple example of aggregated non-PII based social cue, from, a site you’ve seen me express adoration for in the past, ModCloth. Every product has a little heart sign, visitors to the site vote their love which helps me make more confident decisions…


ModCloth also allows their customers to contribute something you might consider PII, their photos. These make perhaps the ultimate social proof as I can see the skirt I want (mustard again FTW!) on different body sizes…


ModCloth has a whole lot of social proof strategies. They have a Style Gallery, #ModClothSquad, #MarriedinModCloth etc.

Think expansively about social proof.

Naked Wines has a lovely widget next to each of their wines that shows the would buy again rate…


And, they show you historical sales and would buy it again rates.

Checkout the Kimbao Sauvignon Blanc you can see sales and would buy it again rates since 2011. At 91%, the rate is highest this year. Sweet. Add to Basket!

Another team thinking expansively about leveraging social proof are the excellent folks at Basecamp. If you scroll to the bottom of their web pages you’ll see…


Completely non-PII based social proof, a simple cumulative trend of the number of customers. What better way to convince you to use them than this lovely up and to the right trend?

One final, massively underutilized, social proof nudge for you to consider.

Every smart ecommerce strategy has an individual-level referral program bolted on from the very start. Your current customers refer your products and services to their friends, family, and complete strangers—in exchange for a little benefit for themselves.

It is rare, however, to see the use of that referral information as a nudge.

Your friend Alex will receive $5 if you order in the next 24 hours.

The site is keeping track of the referral (to pay your friend Alex his bounty). They have all the information they need to create the above line of text. Why not use it?

Read Diana’s review of this product.

Diana, of course, referred the product to you, and that insight is in the URL you used to get to the site. The site is simply going the extra mile to surface Diana’s review, as it will likely be more meaningful to you than the other 29.

I love Patagonia; I value the brand’s ethos so deeply. And, when I say love, I mean LOVE. Two of the three pieces of clothing I’m wearing right now are from Patagonia. Yet there does not seem to be any strategy at Patagonia to help me (and you and other brand lovers) to create social cue nudges.

Humans inherently want to share, they want to show off, and they want to pass on recommendations/deals to their community. Got social nudges?

6. Personalization. Yes, from 1995!

Do you remember what I did during the last visit to your website?

No PII, just off the anonymous first-party permission-based cookie. Did you use that to change the site’s home page?

And, if you have a GDPR compliant login mechanism…Does your machine learning-powered ecommerce platform leverage the lifetime of my site experience, complaints, purchases, etc., to anticipate my activity?

Do the pages on your site wrap around my objectives, rather than your static and pimpy ones?

Is your entire sales strategy obsessed with the Do, or does it also obsess about the See, Think and Care bits of the complete human experience?

Personalization is the ultimate nudge—to create ecommerce-related urgency and to bring your brand closer to the customer over the lifetime of their experience with you.

That’s because personalization means truly caring. Personalization requires a huge investment in understanding. Personalization is translating that individual human-level understanding into anticipation. Personalization means helping. And when you do it right, personalization means you pimp with relevance—the best kind.

The desire to personalize across the complete human experiences kicks off the processes that fundamentally alter how you treat every human. The reason it works, when done right, is that deep down, we want people to care about us. And yes, we will end up doing more business with people who show that they care for us. Really care. The ultimate nudge.

So. If you own or using PII or non-PII information… Does your site actively learn and then change? If not, why not?

One huge challenge we had to overcome in delivering personalization was employee capabilities. Employees are terrible at being able to imagine the expanse of possibilities when it comes being able to understand each human and being able to react to each human. Mercifully, Machine Learning (/Artificial Intelligence) will help us solve this challenge with incredible results.


You can pray that your conversion rates increase.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the data you have access to, the permissions your users have given you, and the competitive advantages you’ve worked so hard to create and use them to create nudges that solve for delivering delight to your customers and more revenue to your company.

Your choice?

Nudging FTW!

As always, it is your turn now.

If you’ve tried one of the above six strategies to create a nudge, what was the outcome for your company? If you’ve seen a strategy for creating urgency that you love, will you please share it? What challenges have you run into in trying to personalize experiences? Nudging also works in our personal lives—have you tried it? :)

Please share your critiques, brilliant ideas and experience scars via the comments below.

PS: My doctor reminds me during every annual visit that I need to take more walks outside in the sun to make up for a vitamin deficiency. Turns out I spend too much time in my office or auditoriums. The sun is right there. I just need to take a walk. I still do it less than I should. Such is the case with A/B testing. The tools are free and abundant. You know they are the best way to win arguments with your HiPPOs or your cubicle mates. Yet, you don’t use them. I’m off to take a walk in the beautiful California sun, you go implement my recommendations for nudges as A/B tests—it is the only way to unlock the kind of imagination required to create profitable happy customer experiences.

The post Six Nudges: Creating A Sense Of Urgency For Higher Conversion Rates! appeared first on Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik.

Smarter Career Choices #3: Solve for the Global Maxima!

Today, a simple lesson that so many of us miss at great peril. In fact in your role, at this very moment, your company is making a mistake in terms of how it values your impact on the business. The lesson is about the limitation of optimizing for a local maxima, usually in a silo. […]

The post Smarter Career Choices #3: Solve for the Global Maxima! appeared first on Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik.

Today, a simple lesson that so many of us miss at great peril. In fact in your role, at this very moment, your company is making a mistake in terms of how it values your impact on the business.

The lesson is about the limitation of optimizing for a local maxima, usually in a silo.

We are going to internalize this lesson by learning from Microsoft. It is a company I love (am typing this on my beloved ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 5, using Windows Live Writer blogging software!). I bumped into the lesson thanks to their NFL sponsorship.

If you were watching the Oakland Raiders beating the hapless New York Giants (so sad about Eli) this past Sunday, you surely saw a scene like this one:


Quarterback Geno Smith using his Microsoft Surface tablet to figure out how he added two more fumbles to his career total of 43. Or maybe it was him replaying the 360 degrees view of the three times he was sacked during the game.

The Surface tablet is everywhere in an NFL game. Microsoft paid $400 million for four years for the rights, and just renewed the deal for another year (for an as yet undisclosed sum).

For all this expense, you'll see players and coaches using them during the game (as above). The Surface branding also gets prominent placement on the sidelines – on benches, on movable trollies and more. It is all quite prominent.

Here’s one more example: Beast mode!


I adore Mr. Lynch’s passion. Oh, and did you notice the Surface branding?

Now, let’s talk analytics and accountability.

NFL ratings are down, but an average game still gets between 15 m – 20 m viewers. That is a lot of pretty locked-in attention, very hard to get anywhere these days.

The question for us, Occam’s Razor readers, is… What does the Surface Marketing team get for all this money?

If the Surface Marketing team is like every other team at every other company engaged in sponsorships and television advertising, it’ll measure the same collection of smart metrics.

First one will be Reach. The Surface team is likely measuring it with deep granularity (by individual games, geo, days, times of days, and a lot more).  I’m confident that their analysis will show they are getting great Reach.

The team will rightly be congratulating itself on this success.

Next on the list, having spent enough of my life with TV buyers, I can comfortably say that the Surface team is also expending copious amounts of effort measuring one or more dimensions of Brand Lift metric. Ad Recall, Brand Interest, Favorability, Consideration etc.

Brand Lift is most frequently measured using surveys.

Given the number of times Microsoft Surface, or its branded presence, shows up in a game (52 times in my count in the OAK – NYC game), I believe the Surface team is getting very positive reads from its post NFL ad-exposure surveys.

After 52 times most people would recall the ad, surely answer the survey with some interest in the brand, and everyone (except Coach Belichick) seems to like using the tablets, a favorability that will surely transfer to a whole lot of viewers.

This would, indeed should, result in more congratulations in the Surface team.

The two-step approach above reflects the most common approach Marketers, and their Agencies, use to measure success. Did we reach a large audience? Do they remember anything?

The answers to these two questions power job promotions, bonuses, and agency contract renewals with higher fees.

I believe this is necessary, but not sufficient.

I believe this approach optimizes for a local maxima (the media buying bubble) and does not create the necessary incentives to solve for the global maxima (short or long-term business success).

Let me illuminate this gap.

Here’s the global maxima question: How many Surface tablets have been sold due to this near-blanket coverage in NFL games via precious undivided attention?

That was the question that crossed my mind during Sunday’s game.

I had one data point handy.

According to TripIt I’ve visited 156 cities across 32 countries in the last few years. During these trips, meetings and meetups, I've never seen a Microsoft Surface tablet in the wild. Not one.

That’s not completely true. I have seen one frequently. The one I bought for my dad four years ago.

One data point does not a story make.

To assess a more complete answer, we turn to our trusty search engine Bing…


The picture above starts 12 months after Surface inked the $400 million NFL contract. The Surface's share of shipments is so small, it does not even show up in a graph.

Not being content with just one view of success, I tried other sources. 

The data from IDC, shows no meaningful Surface anything. Statcounter provides an interesting view as it measures actual use of the Surface when accessing the two million websites that use Statcounter. Surface is at 0.29% share.

This is a bit hyperbolic, but in the grand scheme of things… No one is buying a Surface.

Local maxima view of success: The Surface team’s NFL contract is a smashing success. The team is getting great Reach and great Brand Lift. Contract with NFL renewed for another 12 months.

Global maxima view of success: Microsoft is losing.

[Key caveat: The data Statista and IDC provide capture shipments. It is possible that the Surface is being sold directly in a way that neither of these two sources would capture those sales. Perhaps some kind of B2B sales. To overcome this possible issue I’ve used the Statcounter data to capture usage. Still, there is a possible scenario where none, or not enough, of the Surfaces sold visit those two million sites.]

Sadly, Microsoft is not alone in this local maxima focus. Most companies function in a similar manner. Yours. Mine. Other people’s. Our collective mistake is that we don’t think critically enough about what we really are solving for. Our company’s mistake is the incentive structure they put in place (which almost always rewards the local maxima).

Let me give you two examples of this sad local maxima obsession that crossed my desk just this morning. All in the space of one hour.

Local – Global Maxima Example 2: Gap Inc..

A report has been published on The Age of Social Influence. Its goal is to aggressively recommend the strategy of marketing via Social Influencers. Here’s the publishing company’s intro of themselves: “We are a powerful data intelligence tool that combines the knowledge and insights you need to deliver a successful celebrity and social influencer marketing strategy.”

Their claims of this wonderful Social Influencer strategy is based on a survey of 270 respondents. 270. It seems like an oddly tiny choice by a powerful data intelligence tool company (PDITC).

They have all kinds of numbers from the 270 survey sample showing glory.

The very first example in the report of a brand winning hugely with a Social Influencer strategy is Gap.

Here’s a screenshot from the report…


While we all love Cher, seriously she is special, this is a classic local maxima let’s only look at what will make us look good to pimp stuff we want to strategy.

What would be a global maxima if you are going to use a company as a poster child?

Here’s Gap’s financial performance over the last five years…


Gap Inc. has been struggling for years, flirting with financial disaster recently in every facet of its business.

I invite you to explore other financial data on the eMarketer Retail website. Look at Revenue, Earnings, Margins, Employment… Everything is super sad. For an additional valuable lesson, click on Digital as well. It shows the social performance of Gap (illustrating even the local maxima is quite suspect).

I dearly wish that Gap survives – they make good quality clothes.

I also wish that the powerful data intelligence tool company would have chosen to focus on looking at the global maxima success before using Gap, and the other examples in their 40 page report. That would have made their drum banging for Social Influencers more persuasive. It would also have resulted in fewer clients of powerful data intelligence tool company shuttled in the direction of spending money on something that mostly likely will not produce any business results.

Local – Global Maxima Example 3: Amazon

A celebration was shared with me for 31 custom gifs created by Giphy for the up and coming retailer Amazon.

Here’s a non constantly looped, to ensure you’re not annoyed, sample…


The celebration was based on the fact that the total view count for these 31 custom gifs was 31 million.

[Sidebar: Always, always, always be suspicious of numbers that are that clean. 31 gifs being viewed a clean 31 million times is cosmically impossible. Seek the faq page to understand how views are measured. Identify that there is no clarity. Now, be even more suspicious.]

I’m afraid in my book views don’t even count as a local maxima. Even if they are in yours, I hope you’ll agree they are a million miles away from a global maxima.

I wanted to share this example from Amazon because you can’t use the global maxima of overall business success I’ve used above. Even if Jeff Bezos goes around hitting people with feather dusters, Amazon will keep selling more and more products. They have already reached perpetual motion.

What do you do when it is difficult to identify the global maxima from a super-tactical animated 31 gifs with 31 million views effort?

Try to move four steps up from wherever you are. Global maxima lite.

In this case, here’s a great start: % of Users who shared the gif who are not current Amazon customers.

So much more insightful than Views, right?

We are shooting for a deeper brand connection, by an audience that holds business value for us. Sure these people are annoying their friends, but hey at least as Amazon we can remarket to them – and friends (!) – and convert them to Prime customers!

I’m sure you can think of others that are five, six and eight steps above Views. (Share them in comments, and earn admiration.)

It does not always have to be revenue or profit. But, please don’t pop the champagne on views, impressions and other such primitive signals of nothingness.

On the topic of measurement, let’s go back to Microsoft and brainstorm some strategies for their unique use case.

What should Microsoft have measured?

Purely as an academic exercise I’m leaving aside the possibility that the Surface is simply not a good tablet. That would certainly impact sales – marketing or no marketing. But, since Microsoft went back for year five, it is safe to assume at least they believe it is a good tablet.

Ok? It is a good tablet.

Again as an academic exercise I’m going to ignore the four year horizon. There is no question that at the end of year two Microsoft had overwhelming proof from a multitude of data points that the NFL contract was not selling any Surfaces. They did not need Big Data or Artificial Intelligence to come to that conclusion. If they could not get out of the contract, at the end of year two a better use of $100 mil spend per year would have been to change the covers on the Surfaces to Xbox green, and change the numerous printed brand opportunities on the sidelines to Xbox as well. A great selling product, with a much bigger overlap with the NFL audience than the Surface.

Ok? We are not looking after year two.

During the first and second year, what could we have measured as Microsoft if we wanted to do better than the local maxima? Better than Reach and Brand Lift metrics?

Let me plant three ideas (please add yours via comments).

An enhanced survey would be a good start. Along with measuring ad recall etc., they could also ask how likely are you to choose the Surface over the iPad as your next tablet?

It is a tougher question than do you remember the ad or what tablets can you name. It is going head to head with the thing people usually say when they mean tablet. And, you are looking for switching. A strong behavior shift, a harder yes to get when I’ve done surveys. All this brand exposure, if its working, should shift that key intent signal.

Really easy to do. And, you can easily get thousands upon thousands of responses – you don’t have to settle for 270. It would have given the Marketing team a leading indicator that no one is going to buy the Surface as a result of the NFL partnership. The signal could have been received even a couple months in, and certainly by the end of year one.

Time series correlations would have been a great start right after the first week of the contract. How many people are visiting the Surface website on Sundays? Is that materially significant compared to weeks prior or weeks where there were not as many games? Was there an improvement on Sundays in digital sales? How about retail sales on Mondays?

This is simple stuff. Even visits to the site would have been a nice low level signal.

As the season went on, we could look for test and control opportunities. The NFL always has blackouts in cities/states where the stadiums don’t have enough attendance. This past weekend it was in two states, complete blackout of free broadcast games. Is there a difference in site visits, online conversion rates, offline sales, between states that had one game broadcast on Sunday, two games broadcast on Sunday and no games broadcast on Sunday?

A little more complicated. The site stuff is easy to segment. For store sales Microsoft could easily get data from its stores in malls – and likely also from retailers like Best Buy with a little arm twisting. This data would have shown Microsoft – a few months in – that the global maxima might not be reached.

If you don’t have this type of ubiquity, Matched Market tests are also fabulous in these cases to discern if a specific marketing strategy is having a business impact.

Three ideas that I hope will spark many more in your mind when you shoot to measure the global maxima.

I want to briefly touch on one refrain I often hear about these long term efforts, or short term efforts that are not working but are looking at a longer horizon: So what if the results are not there. This is a long term brand building play, Apple did not become a beloved brand in one year.

There is a kernel of truth there, brand building take time. There is a kernel of BS there as well, Apple is Apple primary because of its innovative products.

Let’s not talk about Microsoft in context of the above statement as even if we assume there was some long term brand building happening, it did not translate into business success.

When you hear a statement like that, after you launch a new underwear, cooking range, VR headset or whatever… Obsessively measure more than the local maxima to discern signals in the short term that illustrate that the long term brand building play is not just an excuse to flush a lot of money. Both the Gap and Amazon examples have ideas to inspire you.

Or consider that even your long term brand building play, in the short term should cause you to take noticeable amounts of market share. It won’t be 80% in the short term, but neither is that statement a reason to spend more money if all you got is 5% in year one and 10% in year two.

Don’t settle for opinion.

Use data.

You have data.

Bonus: The real winner of the Microsoft NFL contract?

The NFL of course.

Microsoft makes great hardware. To make it work for the NFL, Microsoft surely wrote lots of custom software for the NFL’s specific use cases. Microsoft likely invested in tens of millions of dollars of camera equipment, wifi/networking upgrades in every stadium, deployed a small army of Microsoft employees to do on-site tech support before, during and after the games in every single stadium. And, more and more and more.

The NFL should be paying Microsoft $110 million a year to upgrade the ability of its coaches, players and teams to have access to this state of the art technology to compete more effectively every Thursday, Sunday and Monday!

The NFL is slated to make $14 billion in 2017, they can surely afford to give $110 mil a year to Microsoft.

Back to the real world… Even when you measure short term success, please do not be satisfied with a local maxima. Even in the short term you can measure something better. On the long term, you have all the elements you need… Definitely measure the global maxima!

Do this because it is the right and smart thing to do for your company. But, a tiny bit, do it because in my experience (across the world) global maxima solvers progress exponentially faster in their career. Turns out, delivering business results matters. :)

As always, it is your turn now.

Do you have a suggestion for what Microsoft or Gap or Amazon should measure as their global maxima? If you’ve been successful getting your CEO to focus on the global maxima, what approach really worked? If you were the role of the Chief Scientist of powerful data intelligence tool company, how would you measure the impact of Social Influencers in a more intelligent manner?

Please add your powerful ideas, brilliant critique and innovative strategies in comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you.

The post Smarter Career Choices #3: Solve for the Global Maxima! appeared first on Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik.