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    New Amazon “Add To Cart” Being Tested

    September 30th, 2010

    I am pretty excited today because I am in a test group of the new Amazon.com “Add to Cart” process.  Instead of serving up a new page they are doing an overlay of the page you are on, a much better experience in my opinion.  As a web analyst I can’t help but wonder what sort of impact this is having on their conversion metrics.

    It is clear they are testing it because a search on twitter for “Amazon new add” yielded only a few results, but it looks like more are coming in.  They must be opening up the gates a little bit since launching it a few days ago.  Perhaps as early as 9/26 for some users.  New stuff on one of the biggest e-commerce sites on the Internet is fun stuff!  We’ll know how it is working for them based on if they roll it out to everybody over the next few days  or weeks.  This would be key to have up before the holiday shopping season kicks into full gear.

    As a side note (as you can tell from the image), I can’t wait for Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book – The Thank You Economy.

    Do you have the new “Add to Cart”?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Compounding Mistakes

    September 8th, 2010

    As I was driving home from work the other day the only thing that I could think about was how horrible the lights were timed.  I had noticed it before, and I knew it was annoying, but up until today I had never actually thought about how truly wasteful poor timing on traffic lights is.  As I sat at one red light after another I continued thinking about how poorly timed lights really are a big deal.  Like many things, at first pass it seems like a very silly thing to think about but after thinking on it one comes to realize just how impactful correct traffic light timing is.

    There is the clear waste of time.  This is the one that most people think of as the jump from one red light to another.  The second things many people say is that it wastes gas.  A person might even say it wastes the blacktop as the stopping of large vehicles actually gradually creates ruts and bumps from the tires breaking against the blacktop.  All of these are correct, and were the first things that came to my mind.  But at about the 5th red light I began to realize something else was at play.

    I realized that as I got more and more red lights in a row I was getting more and more frustrated.  Frustrated drivers are much worse for gas mileage than calm drivers.  I can imagine that many other drivers are just as frustrated.  All of that causes a more dangerous overall driving situation for everybody in addition to the additional wear and tear on a car from fast starts and abrupt stops.  Of course it is easy to say that a person should just not drive worse, but that indeed ignores the reality of the condition that we are dealing with humans and emotions must be taken into account when assessing the impact of actions.

    So what we have is one mistake (poor traffic light timing) that leads to other mistakes (poor driving) that then take a situation from frustrating to downright dangerous.  One could even say that yet another mistake that is then made is that people want to occupy all of this down time which leads them to text, surf the radio, or look for a song on their music device.  Again, all of this just adds to the danger of the situation.

    The simple moral is that, as often as you can, you should try to find the source of the problem and start there.  A ban on texting in that stretch won’t solve the issue.  Playing happy music won’t solve the issue.  Only looking at the real problem can the issue be fully addressed.  Addressing the source of the problem solves all of the downstream problems.  This is obvious, but I think it is good to have a reminder every now and again to keep it fresh in your mind.

    Do you let the traffic get to you?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Off & Away – How To Cash In

    May 24th, 2010

    My posts with the most traffic are the ones that talk about these online ‘entertainment shopping’ sites.  They have come quite a way since I first blogged about them, but now you finally have a chance to strike back.

    I first saw Off & Away in an article that TechCrunch wrote about.  It has the typical comments about it being a scam since you pay $1 for the bids that raise the auction price $0.25 and then the winner pays whatever the final cost of the room is.  Not sure if your bids are applied to paying the price of the room, but I assume not.

    But here’s the thing: you want to lose.  Well, maybe you don’t want to lose, but there seems to be a nice loophole where this site, that many people call a scam, could actually save you money.  It all relies on the simple thing they did to not make it a complete rip-off: you can apply the money you spent on bids towards a hotel room.  Furthermore, it says right on the site that they have up to 50,000 partner hotels.  Clearly all of these are not as ludicrously priced as the $40,000 room they have up to launch the site.

    So, if you know you want to go some place and you are willing to spend $200 on the room (for 1 night) buy $180 worth of bids.  Then, place the bids on the auction for the awesome room.  Let me state right away that you will probably not win.  But that doesn’t matter because of another gem they built into their business model:

    “Apply up to 110% of your used bids towards a room at one of our 50,000 partner hotels.”

    So, you don’t win the room you bid on but your $180 is now worth $198.  It may not seem like much, but 10% is 10%.  Not too shabby.  You spend less than you were going to spend and you have a shot at getting the awesome hotel room you bid on (if only a very small chance).

    I will probably stick with a site like Priceline or HotWire for my hotel needs, as they are more of a sure thing.  But if you want to live a little and have minimum risk, this Off & Away thing may be something to check out.  Of course you might be better off just using a AAA discount…

    So, do you think it is a scam?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Okay Burger King, Now I’m Upset

    May 19th, 2010


    Curse you Burger King! We had something so special together!  I had become more than a customer, more than a brand loyal, I was a brand ambassador.  I actively told people about how great you were and now you have betrayed me.  That makes me quite mad.

    I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was traveling and I was hungry and in a rush.  I was passing through the Milwaukee airport.  I just needed a little something to keep me going and I was not in the financial position to shell out $12 for a chicken wrap and a soda.  I quickly located the fast food options.  It wasn’t time for Cinnabon, so Burger King it was.  I looked over the (overpriced) menu to see what I wanted.  Being an airport location the menu was quite sparse with very little detail.  I decided on a double cheeseburger, not the deluxe one shown on the menu.  I didn’t see any signage for a meal combination and sometimes airport locations have limited options, but I wanted the soda so I asked the server, who waited patiently while I surveyed the menu, if I could get the double cheeseburger in a meal.  He looked at me and said, without missing a beat, “Sir, this is Burger King.  You can have it your way.”  And that was my introduction to Burger King as a brand.

    To put it plainly it was awesome.  I just thought to myself, “that is amazing how he did that without missing a beat.”  Skip forward a few years and McDonalds $1 double cheeseburger enters the picture.  Delicious!  What a deal!  The $1 burger got me in the door and I loved it!  Then McDonalds made 2 critical miss-steps with me.  The first was the Monopoly game (I will link to this in the future when I write on it).  The second was the switch to the McDouble.  I hated them for it, but at least I could understand given the tough economic times that were upon us.  Plus, it had been on the dollar menu for quite some time.

    Then, on October 19, 2009 Burger King burst on the scene with the $1 double cheeseburger.  I was still slightly loyal to McDonalds at that point.  Mostly because there is one on almost every highway exit but also because they still had a $1 option.  But, the aggressive advertising by Burger King during the football season got me to stop during one of my many trips.  Everything the commercials had promised was true.  It was bigger, it tasted better, it had 2 slices of cheese, and – best of all – it really was $1.  It was at this point I became an brand ambassador.

    Every time fast food was brought up I would chime in with my opinion on BK.  I also told people about how the $1 burger at BK really was better than the $1 McDouble at McDonalds.  While driving I would actually wait to eat so that I could eat at a Burger King rather than a McDonalds.  In fact, not only would I wait to go there, but I would then buy items that I knew they had killer margin on.  I loved the value and I wanted to support them.  All of this love, and then they stabbed me in the back.

    Well, to be fair it was National Franchisee Association (represents 80% of the Burger King locations).  They claimed they could not make enough profit the burger.  They demanded it be changed and, due to the heavy pressure, Burger King complied.  This change happened on April 26.  They had the $1 double cheese burger, spent tens of millions advertising, for 189 days, or about 6 months.  Wow.

    I understand that a company has to make money, but this is just wrong of the National Franchisee Association.  Why not just change the double cheese burger to have 1 slice of cheese and then make a “cheesy double” that has the 2 slices of cheese?  The change intentionally confuses customers.  I still feel dumb every time I have to order a “McDouble”.  It just sounds silly.  And the BK Dollar Double is just as bad.  Plus, now if you ever have to raise the prices, you have to change the name!  So the move by the NFA not only burned tens of millions of dollars spent on advertising, they are now spending millions more on advertising the BK Dollar Double, they created confusion among customers, and forced a move to a menu item that cannot have its price changed.  How stupid and short sighted can you be?

    In addition to confused customers, think of the lost productivity – a critical issue during peak hours.  Whenever somebody orders a double cheeseburger it must be clarified if that person really wants a $1 or the more expensive one.  They then might ask what the difference is and this takes even more time.  The alternative is to just take what the person orders at face value and deal with angry customers who thought they were getting the $1 item.  In a business where efficiency is measured in seconds or less, all of these small issues add up.

    I am not happy with you Burger King and I think I will check out Taco Bell the next time I hit the road.

    Do you think this whole thing feels like a bait and switch?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Airlines Can Charge, People Will Pay

    April 15th, 2010

    All sorts of talking heads have been in the news recently discussing what the impact will be of the decision that Spirit Airlines to charge people up to $45 per carry on.  They talk about how other airlines will watch them to see how the program is received by the public.  Then of course there are the Southwest commercials that only talk about how they don’t have bag fees.  But all of these people, in particular Southwest, are missing the boat.

    People  get upset when new fees are implemented.  Some fees, like for checked baggage, are just frustrating while others, like charging for bathroom use, are silly, and still others are illegal (like charging for handicap assistance).  But these fees only make people upset for the moment and then they pay.  I would argue it is in danger of becoming a confusopoly.

    What makes it worse is that the pointless TSA rules force you to discard items (like beverages) and yet provide no oversight on the cost of the beverage on the other side of the gates.  Meanwhile they are spending $1 Billion on scanners that, by all accounts, don’t work, are able to transmit ‘nude’ photos (as specified in the requirements document in the original proposal), and could damage your DNA.  And of course this is tax dollars and additional security fees at work.

    Whatever, the point is there are lots and lots of fees which brings me to the point of this post: all of the power is in the hands of Kayak and Priceline.

    Think about it for a second.  Airlines are imposing these fees so that they can get the lowest far shown, which should drive business.  This clearly is based on the assumption that price is the most important thing to customers that are traveling.  And yet nothing is being done on these comparison sites to expose this.

    Which brings me to my secondary point: Southwest is getting screwed.  If I ran Southwest starting tomorrow, the first thing I would do would be call up Priceline and Kayak.  I would get an estimate of what it would take to add “how many checked bags”, “how many carry-ons”, “how many in flight meals/snacks”, “how many in-flight bathroom uses”? and similar things to the site and I would pay to develop that functionality.  The prices people see now are simply no longer valid.  There are too many additional add on costs to just keep ignoring them.  And for an airline like Southwest, to not expose that more in a pricing engine is a HUGE miss.

    While I like the lower costs, and I like the idea of only being charged what I use, I also think I like to feel like I got a deal, or at least am not being taken for every cent I have.  It is a very delicate balance, and probably depends on the point of the trip (business or fun).  This could get interesting.

    What do  you think about the more a la carte structure (besides that cable companies should offer it)?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Winter Olympics Are More American

    March 4th, 2010

    People like to makes jokes that the Winter Olympics are just a bunch of sliding games.  Well, for the most part that is true.  In fact, it may be totally true.  It is also true that most of the events require quite a bit of money to make happen.  Lets face it, there are not very many natural bobsled runs or half-pipes.  And getting to the top of a mountain isn’t exactly an every day sort of event.  But none of these things are the reason that I think the winter games are more American than their summer counterpart.

    No, the reason is that you and I could be there if we wanted to be there.  If we worked hard, practiced hard, and then rinsed and repeated, we could get there.  This is, in my opinion, in stark contrast to the summer games.  For many of the keystone events of the summer Olympics you are either born with it or not.  You could 100% optimize your body and will still lose every single time in the marathon.  You just cannot do it.  Same with sprinting.  You screwed from the onset.

    Take Michael Phelps.  Good swimmer?  Sure, but it is all in the genes.  He has Marfan Syndrome which, if it doesn’t kill you, makes you an ideally proportioned swimmer.  Here is an article explaining it a bit more.  Or another way is to look at this graphic that explains him a bit more:

    Here’s what it says:

    1. He is 6-4 but has a 6-7 wing span
    2. His lactate levels are the lowest ever recorded for a swimmer (he’s really good at producing energy)
    3. Not only are his arms long, but he has short legs allowing him “to plane in the water”
    4. He can hyperextend his elbows, knees, and ankles giving him an extremely unique ability in his stroke

    So again, he was born for it.  There is simply nothing that you can do to match it.  Make no mistake, I am not saying that the Winter Olympics don’t take athleticism.  That would be absurd.  I’m just saying there just isn’t the same level of genetic predisposition for the sports.  At the very least it is clear that genetics are a much lesser impact for the winter games.  Which also probably cuts down on the whole drug thing because it is so much more about the perfection of a skill set than about raw, athletic (and genetic) ability to compete.

    I acknowledge that there are certainly sports in the summer games that are much more skill based.  Rowing, for one.  Shooting events.  Volleyball.  I am just saying that, as a whole, the winter games are less dependent on innate ability and more about a honed skill.  The pinnacle of a “you too can make it” mentality.  And, to me, that just seems so darn American.

    Or do you guys think it is Canadian?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    How To Make Money On Theists, By Eternal Earth-Bound Pets

    February 24th, 2010

    This is a must read.  It is quite possibly the most ridiculous business idea I have ever heard.  And yet here a guy is, that has made$11,000+ so far.

    Basically Bart Centre started a business, Eternal Earth-Bound Pets, that is centered on the idea that atheists will not be taken when The Rapture happens and neither will pets.  This is how it is sold according to the Feb 22, 2010 issue of Business Week:

    “In this event, they say, the righteous will be spirited away to a better place while the godless remain on Earth.  But what will become of the pets?”

    And the website itself says:

    “The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World.”

    “If you love your pets, I can’t understand how you could not consider this.”

    So everything about the site, including the name – Eternal Earth-Bound Pets – is focused on making pet owners feel bad that when The Rapture comes their pets will be left behind.  Thankfully for them, atheists will not be taken and, therefore, will still be around to take care of the pets.  But of course there is a fee for this.  $110 gets you a 10-year contract.  IF The Rapture happens in that time, the pets will be taken in by atheists approved by Eternal Earth-Bound Pets.  Otherwise you just burned you money, similar to any other insurance deal.

    It is very clear that Mr. Centre thinks that his customers are complete and total morons.  But, to his credit, the guy is completely upfront about his whole business plan:

    “I’m trying to figure out how to cash in on this hysteria to supplement my income.”

    “If we thought the Rapture was really going to happen, obviously our rate structure would be much higher.”

    I’m not sure how I feel about this whole thing.  On one hand it seems like the phrase “a sucker is born every minute” has never been more applicable.  On the other, if you really think that The Rapture will happen, and that your pets will not make the trip with you, this could ease your concern.

    It is the same thing that a tarot card reader, ghost communicator, or any ‘fortune teller’ relies on.  They, and perhaps their clients, know that they are completely making stuff up.  BUT, if, at the end of the day, the person with the ‘power’ has made the customer feel better, or given them hope, or given them something exciting to think about, has the person got their moneys worth?  I, for one, hate horror movies and cannot imagine why someone would pay to have themselves scared (and haunted mazes are only slightly better).  And yet there is no way that I can call the whole genre a scam because not everybody feels the same way, obviously.

    So do you have pet after-rapture insurance or is the whole thing a scam?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Homelessness Is A Choice

    February 10th, 2010

    That is quite a bold statement and one that would likely stir up much debate on its own, but I am going to do this with a twist.  I am going to use the homeless as an example of people making a very hard choice for the good.

    Background: I was reading a post on an occupational field that most of us would rather not find ourselves in.  The author was clearly biased and talked at length about how bad of a job it was, how dangerous it was, and how tough it was on a person both physically and mentally.  I didn’t find their arguments all that compelling and commented on the post and told them why.  My basic problem was the author was presenting this occupation as a last resort.  That the workers had to do things that were outside their contractual obligations.  They had to do it without saying anything or they wouldn’t get paid.  These sorts of things – and yes this was a legal occupation in the USA.

    Now, don’t get me wrong.  I have already said that many people would not want to do this job.  But to say that these workers didn’t have a choice…well, I just thought that was dehumanizing in a very substantial way.  They were not forced to work.  They had clear legal recourse if the employer violated the terms of the contract.  They had a choice and the ability to choose what we want to do is a very important part of life.

    Current Topic: Which brings us to why homelessness is a choice.  As I was tossing around the above case in my mind, poking it to see what holes I could make in my own argument, I came to this odd realization.  These workers could have chosen not to work, even if they had a family.  They could have chosen homelessness.  Now, this is where most would stop.  We can debate other contributing factors to homelessness, but I would rather skip debate on that point in favor of more dialogue on my next.  The homeless choose not to do more wrongs simply to escape.

    Think about that for a second.  These are people that may not know where their next meal will come from, when it will come, or if they will even make it to the next meal.  Just think of the terrible weather in Washington D.C. right now.  They may not even have a place to sleep.  It’s tragic.  (Which on a side note is why I’m very happy with the effort my company, Lands’ End, made this past season with the Big Warm Up).  And yet they are still on the street rather than in a job they hate.  They are not committing blatant acts of lawlessness so they can be arrested and have a place to stay and food on their plate.

    So in a very odd way, I am holding them up as a beacon for people that truly hate their jobs.  As I have alluded to in this post, there are many, many other debates that could be had around this topic but I just thought the conclusion that I came to was so peculiar, in a fascinating-thought-experiment sort of way, that I had to share.  I suppose I could have used an argument about the days of yore when honor was king, and death before dishonor, and all that.  This just seemed more interesting.

    What do you think?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Work The System; Don’t Be A Jerk

    January 26th, 2010

    I love to get a good deal. There are few things more pleasing than knowing that you were able to negotiate to a place where both you and the seller were comfortable with the agreement.  And despite what some may have you believe, a company really does want you as a customer; this is the case now more than ever.  So take your business elsewhere is you are unhappy, try and be reasonable, try to get a great deal if you can.  But don’t be a jerk about it.

    I recently had an experience with an online retailer that I have recently taken quite a liking to.  Martin & Osa is part of the American Eagle company.  You know kind of like Abercrombie and Hollister or Gap and Banana Republic (Old Navy too!).

    Anyway, they have a really great site that I like quite a bit.  It is easy to navigate and includes many great subtleties that  I won’t go into here but that I appreciate as a web analyst and novice usability analyst.  The other thing I like is that they have free shipping on orders over $100, they include clearance items in there % 0ff promotions, and they have free returns (you may have had to purchase over $100 to get that, I’m not sure).

    On New Year’s Day they ran a 20% off and Free Shipping (no min) promotion.  Like I said I really like some of their stuff so I loaded up on around $100 worth of stuff.  It arrived a few days ago and literally the same day then ran a 30% off promotion.  I checked online and they were still in stock of each item that I ordered.  I kind of felt ripped off.  Sure I was happy with the 20% off but then to contact me again with 30% off within a week.  On the same stuff?  It just rubbed me the wrong way.

    So I placed another order with them with the exact same items in the order and a few extra that I decided I could get with 30% off.  The plan was to just return all of the other stuff I purchased since I was getting the same stuff but with an extra 10% off.  But, being in the e-commerce business I know how much returns cost and shipping.  So I didn’t want to be a jerk and take advantage of their policies.

    I called up their 24 hour number (excellent job M&O!) and asked if I could just get the credit on the stuff I bought earlier and then cancel the whole new order.  Sadly, they cannot price match to a promotional price.  This probably makes sense in most cases because people wear the stuff they purchased (and take off tags) so they can’t return it anyway.  Since I just got my stuff I could still return it.  I was also a little sad (but understood) why they could not price match my full price shirt I bought at retail (and linked to my online acct. via email) that was just send to clearance for a $30 price reduction.  They could match it in store, but not over the phone.  Oh well.

    What I must say is that during this whole experience I valued his honesty.  He flat out told me to return the other stuff and keep the new order.  He answered each question without hesitation and was very clear in his answers.  Way to go Christian!  You did a great job.

    So the moral of the story is always try and get a good deal (like getting 30% off instead of 20%) but also be reasonable.  It didn’t work this time, but sometimes all you have to do is ask.  Oh and by the way, my second order was actually twice the size of my first order with 30% instead of 20% so I don’t think M&O did too badly in the whole thing.

    Do you love to get a great deal?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.

    Dissecting Jeremy Schoemaker

    January 20th, 2010

    Oh Shoemoney, you are a money making machine.  And while I don’t think you are a prodigy of some kind, it is fun to see you at work.  Let us take a closer look at the e-mail you sent out last week.

    Hi David,

    I can’t tell you how excited I am!

    The number of emails and calls I’ve been getting from people
    telling me how they can’t wait for the ShoeMoney System
    going live on the 26th, has been mind-boggling…

    We’re going to do a LIVE Chat  tomorrow, share more details
    about what’s inside the ShoeMoney System and answer all
    of your questions.
    Trust me, you’re going to be sorry if you miss this one…



    Live Chat with Jeremy Schoemaker
    Thursday January 14, 2pm CT, 3pm EST

    IMPORTANT: We can only support 300 users in the room,
    so please signup now to reserve your spot.

    ==> http://www.shoemoneysystem.com/live-chat/

    See you tomorrow!

    ShoeMoney Media Group | 5550 S. 59th St., Ste 21 | Lincoln, NE 68516 | US
    Unsubscribe from future marketing messages from ShoeMoney Media Group

    I think the best way for me to review this is just in a simple list.  Now remember, Jeremy is a testing machine.  The structure of this e-mail is not an accident.  It is the result of many many tests with e-mail, or display advertising, or whatever advertising he does.  It is a highly optimized contact and it shows.  So here are 10 of the things that I picked up on:

    1. Personal greeting: “Hi David”
    2. Build curiosity…what is he excited about
    3. Say that everybody is already doing it, don’t feel left out.
    4. The system going live is “mind-boggling” implies that it is some how extraordinary.
    5. Answer all “your” questions not only personalizes it but shows he’s going to give something to you.
    6. “Special Announcement” which, interestingly, is the whole point of the e-mail so it’s really not so special.  But it sounds nice.
    7. Uses his full name to establish credibility.
    8. Has an arbitrary limit of 300 users.
    9. Have to sign up up so he captures e-mails (in case you pass the info on)
    10. “See you tomorrow” again makes you envision you will be there.

    It is amazing how much optimization and tricks you can put into a single e-mail.  Did you see any others?

    This has been a Thought From The Cake Scraps.