Conversion: "Our Most Popular Product"

August 12, 2006

This is not really about e-commerce: it is based on experience with a lead gen website. The e-commerce angle makes it easier to understand, though.

What should you do if have a category page with five products on it, and one of them is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of popularity but is a much lower margin product?

I always like to call out “most popular” products and put them in eyesight order (i.e. the most popular product is in the upper left hand corner of the active portion of the product page.) Yesterday, I had a customer complain about doing that.

“But we don’t want them to buy the less expensive, lower margin product,” she said. “We want them to buy the more expensive product.” Well, true enough. But we can’t always have what we want, and sometimes we take the best of what is within our grasp.

There are three reasons that I like to point out the most popular product:

1) Jared Spool’s company addresses this issue with what they call “Inukshuk content.” An inukshuk (also spelled “inuksuk”) is a beacon of sorts, usually a little stone totem, that people would build or leave a rock on to say, “I was here.” Just as there is something wonderfully gratifying about finding out that others have gone before you in the wilderness, it is comforting when you see that others have bought the product. This can take many forms (product reviews are a better format than the etailer himself writing, “Most popular.”)

2) At a much less sophisticated level — I’d rather get a small sale than no sale

3) If you have a lifetime value to your customer, and not all sites really do — then a small, successful sale will often bring in larger, even more successful sales.

Robbin Steif