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Consumer Brand Manufacturing Spotlight: Shinola Shines in E-Commerce

By | November 19, 2014

14391710743_16b37b8c67_zLast month, Shinola, maker of various Detroit-built items like bikes, watches and leather goods, responded to growing international demand by launching a European e-commerce site in order to provide consumers “direct access to all of its products,” in the words of CEO Steve Bock. The new site will cater to people living in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Spain and the UK with 6 different languages.

Two things are particularly interesting about this move to get its European e-commerce shine on:

1.) It signals to brand manufacturers the importance of having awareness of global consumer demand for American products.

2.) It demonstrates the relative ease with which manufacturers can expand the markets for their consumer brand products … or better fulfill demand within existing markets by adding or bolstering a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform.

As for the brand’s e-commerce on this side of the pond, a look at the U.S. Shinola website reveals some things it is doing well to tell its unique story as a manufacturer and cater to the needs and expectations of Web shoppers everywhere:

Customer spotlights: The company features professional portraits of its employees by factory in its ‘places’ section. These portraits, when hovered over, also give information about the individual’s hometown and years of service.  It also links prominently to different videos for each of the operations within the relevant sections.

One sticking point: It really should be called “People & Places” or something else with the word people in it, because as it’s currently labelled in the navigation and page header—”Places We Work”—you wouldn’t necessarily expect to find people in it, and these people sell the show by bringing emotional credibility to what could easily be a soulless page or website, for that matter.

Grade: A-.  The lack of signaling the people in this section kept it from a solid ‘A’ for the way. That said, it is exemplary for humanizing the company while providing interesting details in a highly presentable format.

Homepage: Elegant in its simplicity, this site does what very few e-commerce home pages, let alone general business home pages, do. That is, it conveys and prioritizes the most important information and balances what could a complex mess of options into an intuitive design. The top nav presents the product categories clearly from the outset: New arrivals, watches, leather, bicycles, journals and pet are visible as soon as the page loads. Not only is it visible at the start, but it remains fixed in place as a solid anchor to quickly return to when the user scrolls down the page or visits other pages on the site.

Grade: A. Most business home pages fail at clearly presenting what companies do and easy routes for further exploration. This one succeeds wildly.

Navigation: The top nav’s ‘mega-nav’ design uses selective categories, images and individual products to streamline the most prominent items with clear links to ‘See All’ should the user want more. When viewing individual product/category pages, the side nav allows advanced filtering for shoppers to refine their choices by price, color and other pertinent options. The side nav also provides additional paths for users to find the other categories and select individual products. Finally, a traditional breadcrumb nav offers an alternative route to go back-and-forth within sections.

Grade: A+. The categories are appropriately descriptive (in other words, they don’t suck). Designers should be drooling over the top nav’s liberal use of white space. Also, see above about shopper usability.

Product pages: Liberal use of images, multiple angles and magnifying glass-style close-ups allow users to see products in rich detail. The overview pages give clear titles, descriptions and prices, which allow the user to determine whether it’s worth the time to click thru for more details, which are ample. Everything from full spec sheets to (in the case of The Brakeman watch) a video and 200-word description of the process behind making Shinola watches.

Grade: A+. Most, if not all, of the usability guidelines for the 5 types of e-commerce shoppers seem to be covered.

Miscellaneous/intangibles: The ‘free shipping/returns’ notice is clearly visible on the top left of every page in a distinctive black header bar (great use of contrast for emphasis). Studies show time and again that U.S. consumers love free shipping and returns, so some Web designer was paying attention. If it’s that big a selling point, it should be obvious all over the site, and it is.


Photo courtesy of Roland Tanglao via Flickr.

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Give Users What They Want: What Manufacturing End Users Look For On Your Site

By | October 29, 2014

Search is a daily function in all our lives. Need to solve a problem? Buy a product? Find the answer to useless trivia? You go to the Internet search bar. We live in an immediate demand world, and in the industry of manufactured goods, there’s no difference.

Based on a survey Fathom conducted of manufacturing end users, 100% of responses indicated that when visiting vendor’s websites, what they look for is a search function. “One of the top things that I want is a search” said one HSE (Health Safety and Environment) Manager, “I want to be able to go in there, type in some idea of what it is I’m looking for and get to it without all the minutia of their site.” Time is a value to us all, and industry professionals are looking to find exactly what they are looking for quickly and easily.

User experience is the utmost importance for your website. If visitors get frustrated trying to find what they want quickly, they turn from a prospective customer to someone you’ll never to business with. “I’ll just move on and find another site,” said a purchasing manager. “[My] greatest need is having a good user experience,” answered another end user, “because there are such time constraints on everybody and it has to be done quickly and effectively and move on to the next thing.”

So, if your website doesn’t have a search function, you could be losing a large piece of potential revenue. And, if you’re seeing high bounce rates or long time-on-site with low conversion, the numbers could be indicating a poor user experience.

For more information on user experience, check out How Creative, Conversion and Analytics Joined Forces to Reinvent the Fathom Website.

And, stay tuned for more in-depth looks into Fathom’s Manufacturing End User Survey.

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Let’s Get Personal: Focusing On the Human Side of Your Digital Presence

By | October 7, 2014

Healthcare is an extremely personal market—after all, few things are more personal than your health and wellness. Many people take this so far that they will trust the amateur advice of a friend or family member before the advice of their healthcare providers. Despite this reality, many healthcare websites come across as distant, impersonal, and even institutional at times.

Embracing the Human Aspect

In the not-too-distant past, individuals looked to their parents, friends, and colleagues to find their healthcare providers. Word-of-mouth is still extremely relevant for driving new patients to healthcare organizations, but the advent of the digital age has changed the landscape.

Despite the fact that healthcare organizations are gaining new patients from their digital presence, many of the same principles carry over from the past when patients found their healthcare providers by talking to friends and family. The important takeaway is that it pays off to appear human in the less-than-human digital environment.

When done right, being personal can improve website and brand perception, resulting in higher conversion rates, greater engagement, and increased search traffic. Despite the obvious benefits, many organizations are scared to death of the idea of adding a personality to their online presence.

It’s important to clarify here—being more personable does not entail creating a cartoon-like personality for your brand (unless that’s what you’re going for). It does involve taking a people-first approach that doesn’t entirely ignore emotion.

Using Empathy

For healthcare organizations, it’s especially important to be empathetic in order to gain consumer trust. According to authoritative research, empathy in the context of clinical care can lead to positive patient outcomes, including greater patient satisfaction and compliance, lower rates of malpractice litigation, lower cost of medical care, and lower rate of medical errors. (Source:

Making Your Website More Personal

There are many ways to make your content and webpages much more personal. Read our list below for tips on increasing your website’s “human” factor.

1. Add Images, and more specifically, add faces: It’s well studied in psychology that we’re wired to recognize faces. Beyond this, we instantly recognize and are affected by others’ emotions. Our own emotions often reflect those of the faces we see around us, which, in turn, influences our behavior.

Especially for healthcare service lines, it’s important to use pictures that convey care and empathy. Using non stock, self-procured imagery can take your website even further.

Human Aspect 1

2. Emphasize people whenever possible: Does your blog have profiles and backgrounds for your authors? Does it have any feature stories or backgrounds of your employees? Do your service line pages should show patient stories? Are there any testimonials on your website? Long story short, there are ways to feature the “people” side of things on almost any Web page.

Ideally, adding a more human element to your website can help improve transparency, trust, engagement, and even conversion rate.

Human Aspect 2

3. Don’t just tell, empathize and relate: One of the first things aspiring authors are taught is to show, and not to tell. While this isn’t necessarily a requirement of an informational website, it can be useful when it comes to relating to your audience.

Show your reader why the information on your webpage is relevant. Consider telling a story – perhaps a patient story. Show that you know the daily issues patients are going through. Relate to a recent cancer survivor, or perhaps a caregiver. Small featurettes on an information specific page can provide useful perspective, and also serve to break up the information into easier to read sections.

Human Aspect 3


Download Fathom’s content brand voice questionnaire (Microsoft Word) to speak a unified message.

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Laws of Marketing Power: Despise the Free Lunch

By | September 22, 2014

“There is no cutting corners with excellence.”

–Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

4073921729_653652a97f_zGreene’s Law 40 is fun to consider because it seems to run counter to marketing wisdom of the ages: Everybody loves ‘free.’ Why should we marketers “despise the free lunch”how does this law apply to us? As hard as it may be to believe, the concept of AWESOME FREE STUFF starts to break down in light of what is truly valuable to your customers (think long-term, sustainable value). We’ve all heard the expressions There’s no free lunch and You get what you pay for. This law underscores these old adages.

If there is no ‘free lunch,’ then we are smart to avoid it or at least maintain a healthy skepticism. Something usually advertised as ‘free’ does hold a hidden cost to the buyer: Privacy, time, an obligation to the individual or organization giving it away. Conversely, marketers that use the tactic of free offerings are smartly tapping into the powerful pull of the ‘free’ lunch. (By the way, I’m not holier-than-thou. I am as guilty as anybody of playing into this element of human psychology.) But could hyping a ‘free’ offering ever come back to bite us marketers in the rear? Yes, if you want to put a premium on the thing that is ‘free,’ perception-wise.

Back to You get what you pay for, this statement precisely summarizes the exchange of value for value. People generally expect to pay top dollar for top products/services. To the contrary, if you pay nothing for something, then that thing is relatively worthless … unless there is a hidden cost. So, for the marketers that want to convey the high value of something, the word free should be avoided at all costs. And everyone knows you tend to appreciate and care for things you earn more than those that are just handed to you. Case in point: When children earn an allowance by doing things to deserve the reward, they will spend (or save) more carefully than if you just gave them money with no conditions.

Another simple example: Fathom has an annual marketing summit for local non-profits. The first time around, the event was free. A year later, we asked for a $10 donation (with the proceeds to go to one lucky attending non-profit). Attendance increased significantly. Of course, you could argue that greater awareness and past reputation among our audience played a role, but at the same time the $10 correlation can’t be ignored.

Gated vs. un-gated content

All marketers know people will take the time to share their own contact information (and occasionally other details) if they feel they are getting a valuable resource in return. The fact that people will give away personal data in order to sign up for a webinar or download a premium report shows the value they place on such content. Smart marketers know they can keep such content ‘behind the gate’ and still gain valuable conversions and potential sales leads if the content justifies the action required by the user to obtain it. In these circumstances, marketers can signal the value of something by asking the user to “pay” for it with their information and even actual dollars.

And the same principle applies to entering a contest or using a Facebook app; you’re giving some brand a ‘like’ or sharing your data with marketers in exchange for a chance to win or the ability to play a game.

In a sense, having gated content is consistent with this law from a marketer’s perspective … assuming your content is sufficiently valuable. By choosing to hold it behind a gate, you are honoring its value and saying to users, “Pay a fair price for this.” The lunch is not free; value is conferred. Marketers who despise the free lunch strive for excellence and expect their customers to recognize it by making a fair trade.


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Image courtesy of Linda Tanner via Flickr.

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Laws of Marketing Power: Court Attention at All Costs

By | August 11, 2014

“Do anything to make yourself seem larger than life and shine more brightly than those around you.”

–Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

eye attentionAttention is a scarce resource. In fact, psychology writer Maria Konnikova argues in her book—Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmesthat attention and awareness are vital to cultivating powerful mental habits. Paying careful attention is the key to perceiving and understanding, with focus and mindfulness as its most important elements.

Given the countless distractions of today’s always-on information age, attention is harder to get than ever. Therefore, the imperative of capturing and holding people’s attention is stronger than ever. Marketers have always known about the need for notoriety. From 19th-century carnival barkers and newsboys to email subject lines and Facebook ads, the centrality of attention to marketing is timeless.

Let’s apply Greene’s Law 6—Court attention at all costs—to Web usability. Users often won’t see things right on their screens if they’re outside their focus of interest (thank you, selective attention). In fact, a website that loads faster than its close competitors by an eye blink will get more frequent repeat traffic (from users who aren’t even aware of the difference). Additionally, users report giving website pages 5 seconds or fewer to load before they decide to bounce.

Greene writes of P.T. Barnum putting up a big banner reading Free Music for the Millions on the same street where his museum was located. He would deliberately hire a bad band to play on a balcony to the “millions.” No sooner would crowds flock to the free concert than they would flee to his museum upon hearing the awful noise from the band. The entire idea was do anything to get people through his museum’s turnstiles.

Ironically, Internet users tend to ignore banner ads, despite their 3-D power in the real world from Barnum’s time to the present. Also, if your Web content merely looks promotional, even if it actually contains the answer to a user’s question, it will be ignored. Marketers who want conversions understand that getting and keeping user attention leads to profitability. Consider that Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information “above the page fold” and only 20% of their attention below the fold, despite propensity to scroll.

Without attention, you have nothing. If a message falls on deaf ears, did it ever make a sound? P.T. Barnum and usability studies alike would both say “No.”


This post is part of a series in which I explore in-depth how some of Robert Greene’s 48 Laws of Power relate to marketing.


Photo courtesy of Juliana Coutinho via Flickr.

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