Online Shopping | Baby It’s Cold Outside!

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Online shopping has gotten a lot of buzz lately so I decided it would be fun to see how the average 45-year-old Joe would handle an online shopping assignment. So, I gave my husband, Rick, a project: Find something that will enable my 80-year-old mom to enjoy email

To make it a little more interesting, I also gave him three rules:

  • No branded terms
  • Must use Google
  • Must choose from PPC ads

And so it commenced:

I once heard of a machine that enabled non-computer users to enjoy email. Finding something like this was Rick’s assignment:

“I’m going to BestBuy,” he declared.

“No honey,” I reminded, “you need to use Google.”

“Okay, I like my Dell.” He started typing D-e-l-l into Google.

“Oops, no branded terms. Plus, I want you to find the item, not find Dell.”

“Okay,” (head scratching) “I don’t know…” fingers poised over the keyboard he finally typed in: e mail device. Results looked dismal.

“Wait, maybe it’s spelled differently,” he typed in e-m-a-i-l d-e-v-i-c-e, then went on to type “e mail devices,” and “email devices.”

Because I can’t bite my tongue, I asked if he wanted to “refine his search” at all? His response was to type in “where to buy
e mail device,” “buying email devices,” “portable email devices.”

This was too much, “Hold on!” I blurted, “Let me go get a pad of paper!” I began to take notes for next blog topic wondering if I should I leave his name out and just say “a friend of mine.”

“You’re really stuck on the term ‘device’, huh?” I asked, “If you were at BestBuy would you ask for an ’email device’?”

We spent a little more time on the project until once again Rick declared, “I’m going to BestBuy.”

Mission aborted.

So what did I learn? The rules of the game appeared simple, but look again:

Cannot use branded terms – The penchant for using branded terms was almost uncontrollable. Branded terms might be what converts, but neither of us had heard of a device like we wanted before running this experiment. Non-branded terms are critical in brand support.

Must use Google – The initial instinct was to go to a store’s website (i.e.,, and use the product search feature on the site. As such, lesser known vendors need to hit on all the key aspects of paid search such as:

  • Ad copy that echoes the keywords
  • Clear calls to action
  • Clean URLs
  • Relevant landing pages

All vendors must also make sure the integration of online and offline marketing initiatives are a priority so that they (and their products) can be easily be found on search engines and not just at store websites.

Must choose from PPC ads – The organic listings were tantalizing, but because my rules specified “paid listings only,” he used the first paid ad each time. Only when it came time to open the wallet and order did he decide to look at other paid listings. Thus supporting the whole “window shopping” theory of top placement ads with high CTRs.

In addition, we were doing this late on a Saturday night, when many smaller vendors had run out of PPC money. Different results would present on a Monday morning, I’m sure.

The takeaways?

  • Online shopping is still unchartered territory for many. Rick is not alone in viewing online shopping as a sort of “go to” kind of action.
  • There are a lot of average Joe’s out there who could benefit from a basic 5-minute “Search Skills for Average Joes” tutorial.
  • In spite of the clumsy effort, we continued to shop and had what we wanted in under 20 minutes. (And we didn’t have to slog through the slush!)

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