Writing For The Web: Turn Browsers Into Buyers With Their Vocabulary, Not Yours

January 7, 2006

I have a customer with an e-commerce site who insists on calling one of her products ProductA while the rest of the world calls them ProductB. She claims that the experts use the phrase ProductA, and she doesn’t care that her customers aren’t the experts and are still using the everyday ProductB handle. “I can teach them,” she claims, and to that end, she has started calling them “ProductA (ProductB).”

Only one company in the world, that I can think of, has successfully taught customers to use their nomenclature — Starbucks. People walk into Starbucks and ask for a Mocha Latte Vente. Not me — I still ask for a Large, because I’m too busy to remember which one is small, medium or large. But, I digress.

Furthermore, in her efforts to teach her visitors, she has induced a level of uncertainty. Does her nomenclature mean that now I get a B with my A?

This problem is actually harder than it sounds. I have another customer who is a design firm. They have created all sorts of cool terminology and have embedded that terminology in their company culture. They feel that if they don’t use the terminology on their website, they will have ripped out the heart of their company. The first customer, the one with ProductA and ProductB, has a similar problem — she started her career as an educator, and not to educate is anathema to her. In a nutshell, both customers are saying, their sites are about more than just money and visitors and customers. It is an extension of who they are and what they stand for.

But if you really do care more about money and about turning browsers into buyers, this is a great place to use your on-site search and web analytics, an issue I blogged about earlier in the week. If you really believe that you are best served using your own phrases and terminology — look at your analytics and see if most of your visitors are actually using your phraseology or their own. And send me email (or just reply to this post) if you find out that I am wrong (after all, Starbucks succeeded — maybe you are the next Starbucks!)