In 1998, my software developer brother said: “you’ve gotta get into software – the internet is changing everything!” Fast forward to 1999, after passing a couple of interviews and slogging through some C books, I packed up my life, took a 50 percent pay cut, and headed to Denver to work as an inside sales rep for my first job in the software industry. 

Today, exactly 20 years later, I lead a product marketing team at Salesforce. How did I get here? In summary: I spent 10 years in sales. Then, in August 2009, I walked into our HQ in San Francisco for my first day as a marketer and I have been in marketing ever since.

After 10 years in sales and 10 years in marketing, here are the 10 biggest lessons my career has taught me:

1. The best marketers never stop listening to customers.

In my experience, the best marketers I know are the ones who are always listening to customers. They’re passionate about delivering innovative and personalized experiences to their audience in the language of their customers. This is marketing at its best: simple and approachable messaging that your buyer understands.

2. The best salespeople never compete.

The biggest difference between the best salespeople and everyone else is how they handle competitive opportunities. I once interviewed 17 salespeople who had gone to 100 percent club three years in a row. My hypothesis was: if you went to club three years in a row, you weren’t just good — you were the best. We wanted to learn what they were doing that was so different, and use that in our marketing. One of the questions asked was “When you’re in a competitive deal, how do you deal with that? What is your approach?

The best salespeople never got into a “feature comparison.” They focused on the customer, spent time listening and deeply understood the customer’s business. If you’re pulling up your feature comparison doc thinking you’re going to win a deal, you’ve already lost, according to these best-in-class sellers. 

3. What sales wants, marketing wants, too.

Both sales and marketing teams want the same things. They just have different ways of saying it. Sales talks about opportunities and pipeline. Marketing talks about leads and the funnel. At their core, those things are the same. My advice to marketers: learn the ‘love language’ of sales.

4. Never underestimate the power of a customer story.

Marketers. Salespeople. Customers. Prospects. At the end of the day, we’re all human — and there’s nothing more human than a story. A customer story shares a real-life experience that someone has had with your brand. It makes people who aren’t yet customers say: “hey – I can see myself in that story. We can do that too!”

5. Everything is about budget and resources.

Marketing effectively comes down to money and resources. You can’t support events, demand gen, website design and everything else marketers do without budget and people. 

Sellers reading this, understand that marketing can’t do their jobs without money and people, and have empathy for it. When I was a seller and marketing told me “we don’t have the budget” it always made me grumpy. I later learned how much that was not their fault, and that I could have done more to help.

6. Marketers should think about products the way salespeople do.

In my experience, most marketers are not nearly as well-versed in the products as they are in marketing. What I learned in sales was that the best salespeople understood what they were selling. Deeply. When I first started in marketing, I took this seriously and was a better marketer for knowing our products as well as anyone in sales.

7. Salespeople should understand different marketing roles.

We have brand marketing, public relations, demand generation, product marketing, marketing operations, and more. Each of these marketing functions is it’s own specialization and often takes years to become an expert in. The best salespeople understand how to work with each marketing function and take advantage of the skills and different capabilities when needed.

8. Marketers should spend a day in salespeople’s shoes.

Cold calling leads, meeting prospective customers at events – it is hard. Every salesperson you meet is under a lot of pressure to meet their quota and close deals. 

Marketers, recognize whatever you’re working on is probably not as important to sales as the deal they are working hard to close – give them space. Spend a day shadowing a salesperson on your team. You’ll have an entirely new perspective for how hard their job is, and you may come away with a few things you can do as a marketer to help them. 

9. Salespeople should spend a day in marketers’ shoes.

When I was in sales I thought marketing was for people who couldn’t sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creating content, managing customer relationships, building campaigns, measuring leads and pipe-gen – all of this can be taxing. And extraordinary marketing is more science than art, with persona research, market research, audience segmentation and more. 

The best salespeople understand that marketing is working hard on sales’ behalf. If you’re in sales, get to know your marketing peers. Remember whatever you can do to support them will ultimately be supporting you too.

10. Great marketing can set the pace for a whole company – but you need great sales, too.

An entire company can rally around a catchy tagline, fun mascots, or a cool ‘out-of-home’ campaign. A well-planned marketing program can create momentum that sales can benefit from for years to come. But without a sales team to work the leads that result from the increased demand – what good was the campaign? Recognize that to win, you need both teams operating as one.

Which path should you take – marketing or sales?

In my 20-year career in marketing and sales, I’ve learned that both teams work best when they’re aligned. At the end of the day, we’re all working toward common goals. Here’s to the future – a future where marketing and sales understand each other better than ever!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

With more than 20 years of experience in driving marketing programs for B2B companies, Nate Skinner is the vice president of product marketing for Marketing Cloud at Salesforce, leading the company’s B2B marketing automation marketing strategy and execution for Pardot. Prior to Salesforce, Nate was the chief customer officer at Campaign Monitor and vice president of customer marketing, where he was responsible for all customer-facing programs for the email marketing company. Nate was at Salesforce for nearly six years, first overseeing competitive intelligence and later enterprise marketing and executive programs before he joined Amazon Web Services. An Arizona State University graduate, Nate has also completed the Stanford Graduate School Executive Program and taken courses at MIT. Nate currently lives in Atlanta, loves all things American history and spending time with his three kids.


The quest for developing a reliable rating system - lessons learned from monitoring our suppliers quality

Trust plays a critical role when purchasing products online, but trusting the brand is not enough when booking a vacation or even ordering a massage at home, as the supplier in these cases is not the brand itself.

93% of consumers use online reviews to support their purchasing decisions; they seek for reassurance, a social proof that the product or service they plan to order is indeed the quality they expect it to be.

Rating and review systems are expected to be accurate because they are based on high volumes, however, as we learned over the years of operating our marketplace for beauty and lifestyle services – this is not always the case.

The problem

When we started Missbeez, we knew we were dealing with a sensitive business.

Haircuts, makeups, massages, even nail treatments – those are all personal treatments, and therefore our customers were concerned about who’s coming over, their work quality and their experience.

The more expensive or personal a product is – the more sensitive users become to the quality question.

To address these concerns, we designed a great business card for every service provider that included a personal photo, a few portfolio photos, details about the years of experience, expertise, ratings, reviews and more.

The app provided all of this information and in addition, encouraged customers to rate their experience and leave a review at the end of the treatment.

The quest for developing a reliable rating system - the mobile spoon

Take 01: The Ratings are too high 

Over time we started seeing anomalies between the ratings and the actual quality of our service providers.

We knew our service providers were very professional because we had a very strict onboarding process, but the scores were just overwhelmingly high (like 4.99 out of 5) and we barely had negative reviews or low ratings.

We did, however, receive enough complaints to conclude that our rating system doesn’t highlight the underperforming service providers. In a few extreme cases, we even saw customers who rated the service as 5 stars and then black-listed the service providers…

There was no correlation between underperforming service providers and their ratings or reviews.

Here’s what we found:

  • 41% of our customers rated their treatments (For Uber it’s ±70% of users, in Fiverr it’s ±65%, based on forums).
  • Only 15% wrote a review (Amazon sellers mention 10% as their benchmark). 
  • 97% of the ratings were 5 stars (the highest possible).
  • Only 2% of the ratings were negative (below 3 stars)
  • That means that 1% of all users reported: “bad service” 

Now, you may look at those figures and think: “what a perfect business they’re in!” but going back to the sensitivity level of our services, compiled with the number of complaints we got through our intercom live chat, our retention rates,  and our other KPIs – we just knew those numbers couldn’t represent the real quality of the supply side.

Our rating system was not reliable.

Take 02: Understanding why this is happening

Through customer interviews and frequent product iterations we came up with 3 main reasons:

1. The majority of customers is silent. These users mean the the world for the business, but they never communicate with it: they don’t leave reviews, they don’t provide feedback, and instead – they just act. If they are unhappy with the product they’ll just stop using it without saying anything. Poof… gone.

2. Complaining about someone publicly is usually an unpleasant act. In our case, it’s even harder: many of our service providers belong to a relatively low socioeconomic status: they work hard, travel from one customer to another carrying around their equipment, working hard to grow their business. Now you show me a customer who feels comfortable leaving a bad review for a beautician that just spent 2 hours working on her nails, just because her Pedicure wasn’t good enough.

3. It’s a question of timing. In our case, many of the problems were discovered a few days after the treatment took place (i.e. the manicure chipped or the hair got all curly again). By that time, it was much easier for the users to launch the app and contact us through the Intercom chat, than to navigate to their historical orders, enter the latest one, click the review button and leave a bad review. The chat option was not only more accessible, but it usually generated an immediate response from our customer success team.

We realized that due to the nature of our business (and customers), the positive feedback is through the rating system, while the negative feedback is received as complaints sent directly to our customer success team, indirectly misleading our rating system.

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Take 03: Tackling this problem

Users seek transparency and our users were no different. If we wanted our rating system to be trusted by our customers, we had to make it more reliable.

We wanted to collect more reviews (and ratings) and more importantly: encourage customers to criticize us by writing negative reviews.

We added 2 small features/modifications to the product:

1. A prompt to rate the latest treatment no matter when users returned to the app: Since users didn’t always pay attention to the rating option, we made sure they’ll see it as an annoying pop up whenever they returned to the app – even if it happened 10 days after the treatment took place.

By doing so we wanted to increase the chances that users will rate their service, and if enough time has passed – then maybe they will feel more comfortable to criticize it.

This change generated some minor improvements:

  • 53% of customers rated their treatments (up from 41%).
  • 92% of the ratings were 5 stars (down from 97%).
  • 19% of customers wrote a review (up from 15%). 
  • Still, only 2% of reviews were negative. 

2. A single-click satisfaction survey: We added a single-click survey that was sent to customers 24 hours after the treatment ended. The survey asked something like: “how do you feel about your treatment?” and had 3 answers designed as smileys: a happy face, an indifferent face, and an upset one (that were later replaced by a different design).

The quest for developing a reliable rating system - the mobile spoon

The idea was to shift the focus away from the service providers and focus on the overall experience, hoping that the users will feel more comfortable to criticize “us” (the big bad company) vs. shaming the poor service provider.

Whenever a bad satisfaction experience was reported – a support ticket was created automatically so that our customer success team could contact the customer, understand what went wrong, and handle the case.

We tried a few designs and medias for this single-click survey (email, SMS, push, different text, different images) but as we learned from a similar use case by Fiverr – the timing had a big impact as well: sending the survey few hours after the transaction vs. few days can dramatically increase conversion rates. In our case, we started with a small panel embedded in the payment confirmation email, and added an SMS that was sent 24 hours after the treatment ended to all the users who missed the first chance to vote.

The single-click satisfaction survey generated the following results:

  • 16% of customers rated their experience through the single-click survey.
  • 80% of them selected the highest score.
  • Only 5% of them selected the lowest score (i.e. “Bad”)
  • This is where it gets interesting: out of that 5% who were extremely unhappy with their experience – 96% didn’t rate the service providers at all. 

So the changes we’ve made didn’t make a dramatic impact, but they did prove that users who were extremely unsatisfied with the service expressed their “unhappiness” through the single-click survey instead of placing a bad review or a low rating for the service providers.

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Take 04: Switching to quantitative data

At this stage, we still had 3 serious problems:

  1. Our rating system was still over-positive and perceived to be unreliable.
  2. The satisfaction survey was only partially efficient in tracking unhappy customers due to low engagement.
  3. Once again, there wasn’t always a correlation between customer complaints, ratings and survey satisfaction rates. 

We started working on 2 smart indexes designed to measure the quality of each treatment without relying on human feedback.

1. Customer satisfaction score 

How do you calculate the satisfaction level of a customer without asking her?

You analyze the behavior of this customer after each treatment, compare it with previous behavioral patterns, and estimate the satisfaction level according to the delta.

For us, we had 8 types of actions that customers could perform and could teach us about their satisfaction level (i.e. mark a service provider as a favorite, pre-book another treatment, give a nice tip, and more). We monitored those actions and created behavioral patterns in order to compare new instances with existing ones and identify exceptions.

The result? Given a set of actions performed by a given customer, we could estimate (with some heuristics of course) how satisfied this customer was with a given treatment.

Next, we took the score gaps (the exceptions, i.e. the deltas) and started aggregating them for each service provider.

So if, for example, certain service providers frequently generated lower satisfaction rates – their average satisfaction delta was negative, while service providers who drove high satisfaction rates – started showing positive deltas.

2. A personal drop rate (churn) index per each service provider 

I’ve written about this in here: minimizing leakage in a marketplace for offline services.

We originally invented the personal drop rate in order to track offline leakage but as we discovered later on, this magic number was also very useful as a quality indicator.

In a nutshell: this index calculates the churn rate every service provider drives by measuring the drop rate of repeat customers who stopped using the product after being served by this specific service provider.

If the average drop rate in the system 20% and a certain service provider has a 50% drop rate, it means that this individual causes a serious churn – which is very bad.

High drop rate could point to one of the following:

  1. This individual provides a bad service quality (= bad).
  2. This individual is taking customers offline (= bad bad bad).

Either way – this individual is damaging our business and should either improve or be removed from the system.

Boom! Now you’re talking!

With these 2 indexes in place, we could now see a correlation between our satisfaction surveys, the satisfaction score, and the drop rate. And the beauty of those indexes was that they were always “on” and didn’t rely on customer engagement or conversion rates. Muhahaha!

At this point, we felt we had enough quality indicators to monitor our service providers community. 

But all of this beauty still didn’t solve the original rating reliability problem…

Take 05: Sharing some sensitive numbers with our customers

So the indexes were great for internal quality monitoring, but we still needed a way to increase the reliability of our providers’ business cards and fix our over-positive rating system.

Instead of trying to lower the ratings, we decided to keep it as is and add additional information based on some internal, biased-free KPIs.

The goal was to promote the top performing service providers based on authentic data, without urging customers to criticize their service providers.

In a bold move (at least this is how we felt about it), we added the following KPIs:

1. Punctuality: we knew late arrivals frustrated our customers, so why not share this information with them in advance?

By tightening our service procedures and logging late arrivals – we were able to maintain a punctuality score for every service provider. We exposed this number to our customers and by doing so we achieved 2 things: 1 – we encouraged the service providers to try harder. 2 – we were transparent with our “time-sensitive” customers who were happy to know this information before selecting a service provider.

2. Popularity (favorites index): so customers didn’t feel comfortable placing bad reviews, but we had something more valuable than their words: their actions. We used our ‘add to favorites’ functionality to measure the number of customers who favorited each service provider and shared this number with our customers.

You could find service providers with an average score of 4.95 stars, but their favorites index was 10% while other service providers had only 4.83 stars but had a 70% favorites rate. The favorites index felt more authentic since it was based on customer behavior instead of votes or words.

3. Rank: remember the drop rate? This brilliant index was not something we could share with our customers, but we could definitely promote some service providers who had the lowest drop rate (and highest retention) by giving them a special rank.

You see, service providers with low drop rates are contributing to the retention of the marketplace – they are good for the business so why not promote them by giving them a special badge? We created 4 rank levels and shared those badges as part of the business card.

The quest for developing a reliable rating system - the mobile spoon

So there you have it.

A very long journey as you now realize.

I believe we are just scratching the surface with this one though, there’s still a lot to do in order to improve the reliability and transparency of our marketplace.

  • We didn’t solve the over-positive rating problem, I believe many products suffer from a similar offset but for us, it felt extreme. 
  • We found some creative ways to get some more feedback from our customers (through our single-click surveys).
  • We developed some sophisticated quality indexes to automatically measure satisfaction rates and drop rates of individuals on both sides of the marketplace. 
  • We exposed some biased-free numbers. This helped us establish trust with our customers and become more transparent about the pros and cons of each service provider. 

Finally, we were able to cross-reference the above list and monitor our supply quality from different angles, using various data points: quantitive data, qualitative data, customers feedback, behavioral patterns – each one of them might fall short in some cases, but when used together they are extremely powerful.

Following these enhancements, we’ve developed a quality dashboard that showed the above list in a few graphs so our operations team can keep track of the quality trends in general and on an individual level. It’s a very powerful tool and I truly recommend each an every product manager dealing with similar issues to think about how to tackle the quality challenges internally and externally.

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In curling, the main player throws a giant puck-shaped stone, aiming to reach a certain point, while 2 sweepers use their brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stone and slightly modify its path or speed until it reaches the target.

There’s nothing sexy in those hundreds of small tasks that usually drive minor improvements, but then again, there’s nothing sexy in curling either…

While it’s hard to find improvements that will sky rocket your conversion rates, there is one topic that can easily knock it down if it’s badly implemented: Money.

Whenever money is involved (purchases through the app, paid services, booking), the users become much more sensitive to security risks, uncertainties, unclear text, bugs, and practically anything that is not 100% perfect.

When your product deals with payments – even the smallest hiccup can drop your conversion rates to the ground. 

Here are 10 lessons we’ve learned along the years, that encapsulate the sensitivity of dealing with payments in a B2C product along with some tips for improving the product’s UX and overall conversion rates.

I must warn you though, some of the examples are not for the faint-hearted…

1. Start with trust

Users are used to trying out new products. Some products stick around, others are being dumped and forgotten, it’s a common thing, just like providing an email address or a phone number.

But dealing with payments requires a whole new level of trust. It’s a different level of commitment that users are willing to provide only to the must-have products or the ones that are already well established and famous. When it comes to new products – this can become a challenge.

When we just launched Missbeez (a marketplace for lifestyle services on demand) – my wife used to invite friends and neighbors over for “wine & beez” evenings where they had a chance to try the product, receive discounted treatments and have some fun, while we had a chance to see how real users behave and use the app in a relaxed, friendly environment.

I remember one of the things that always struck me was how surprised (and probably unhappy) those users were when they had to enter their credit card details before placing the order.

There was always this kind of feeling (and I’m sure I was over-sensitive about it, but nevertheless) that those users (although they knew my wife and surely trusted her when she said I’m perfectly normal despite my looks) were very suspicious with the app (“is it safe?”, “will they charge me right now?”, “isn’t there a way to pay with cash?”) and extremely reluctant to enter their credit card details to an unfamiliar app.

This was 4 years ago, and those habits have changed since, but the bottom line is still valid: users are suspicious about new products, and if those products involve payments – the sensitivity grows tremendously.

That’s why building trust is key.

It requires special attention across the board: within the boundaries of the product but also outside of it, long before it’s installed (through app store product page design, reviews, brand awareness and more).

One good way to build trust is to use social proof techniques such as user counters, customer logos, testimonials, media mentions and quotes, certifications and case studies.

2. Make sure the user feels safe and secure 

Users love certainties and hate risks, especially when it comes to spending money.

Make sure to address the zero-risk bias early in the process, by promoting your secure payment, money-back guarantee, free shipping, or anything else that can make the users feel safe and secure.

Minimizing risks by promoting your advantages (plus some good UX writing a bunch of cool security logos) can improve conversion rate and reduce potential drops.

The formula is very simple: Fewer risks = fewer drops.

3. Clarity = Conversion 

Clarity is one of the keys for creating a good UX, but when payments are involved – it drives conversion.

In every step within the payment/ordering process, the product must provide a clear and accurate status of what’s happening right now, what’s coming next, what’s the expected cost, when will the payment take place, etc.

Here’s an example that helped us address one of our users’ concerns and improve our conversion rates:

In the example above, a small explanation label makes a big impact: if users fear that the “book now” button will perform the payment (before they even got the service) – some of them may try to avoid it, but since there’s no other way to proceed with the booking process – many of them will simply quit in the middle of the process.

By adding a tiny explanation saying: “you won’t be charged yet” – we managed to eliminate the risk and make users feel confident with the booking process.

Here’s another example involving coupon codes:

On the left side (and I faked the scenario a bit to simplify the example): the user enters the coupon code and hits the “place order” button.

The problem with this design is that users may fear that their code is invalid, have been used already, or simply doesn’t work. The UI doesn’t explain what’s going to happen if the code will be rejected: will the transaction take place without the discount (full price)? Will it fail and let the user fix the problem and try again?

It’s unclear.

The right-side example fixes this uncertainty by providing immediate feedback for the coupon code. By hitting the “apply” button the users get a clear status of their coupon code: either it’s valid and good to go, or it failed and needs to be fixed.

So clarity is key, and unfortunately, lack of clarity can be found everywhere: special deals that don’t mention the exact timeline or the terms of use, discounts that are a bit too blurry, uncertainties about additional fees and more. Make sure to review your UI and texts over and over again from the unbiased user’s standpoint and try to imagine what can possibly go wrong in order to find those potential pitfalls.

4. Simplify 

When the right timing comes – ask for the user’s payment details. Make sure to ask for the payment details as late as possible in the process and give the user enough time to get used to the app, build trust, and feel more incentivized to complete this action.

The experience of filling the payment details should be well designed.

Remember the rule of thumb: more steps, more drops. 

This rule applies to the process of collecting payment details as well: so you need to make it as fast and simple as possible.

  • Set up your payment system in a way that will not require the ID and the CVV number (fewer fields to fill). 
  • Make sure your payment system supports all types of credit/debit cards. 
  • Add multiple payment options (PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay). 
  • Store the payment details securely (or if you can’t, use a 3rd party for that) so that the next purchase will not require re-entering the payment details. 
  • Follow this set of UX rules for providing a great mobile typing experience when entering the payment details.
  • Incorporate a credit card scanning feature to save the manual typing (researches indicate a 4%-5% increase in conversion rates when scanning feature is available). 
  • For heavy shopper apps – allow adding more than one credit card.

5. Make your cart accessible everywhere – even if you don’t have a cart. 

This goes back to clarity but it’s a big one: users get distracted easily, they forget what they did just 30 seconds ago. Make sure to include a detailed order summary and make sure it’s always accessible through a single click.

At the early days of our product, we didn’t have a cart because we didn’t see ourselves as a classic shopping app. Users had to select 1-2 services, preferred time and location and hit the “order now” button. Pretty simple right?

But as the product evolved, we started using balancers to balance between the demand and supply. As our demand always exceeded our supply, we ended up increasing the price through additional costs such as travel fees (for small orders), weekend rates, same day (VIP) service, etc. When we wanted to boost our demand we used in-app promotions such as happy hours, special deals, coupons and more.

The product still dealt with 1-2 services per order, but with all of these additions/reductions, the final price was pretty dynamic.

We were always very transparent about it by presenting an accurate bottom-line cost and explanation labels across the entire order flow, but since money was involved, users wanted to see the details. They wanted to understand how exactly we got to the final price and make sure we weren’t messing with them.

We got many questions about it in our customer support chat:

  • “Why is there an extra cost?”
  • “Will I really get a discount?”
  • “How can I be certain that my gift card will be used?”
  • “Did you receive my promo-code?”
  • “My booking is next week, will the discount still be applied?”

As mentioned above, uncertainties cause doubts, doubts cause hesitations, and hesitant users don’t convert.

Uncertainties cause doubts, doubts cause hesitations, and hesitant users don’t convert.

In our case, some of them dropped and some contacted us with questions.

Both options were bad for our business so we decided to add a cart.

The card was accessible at every step of the funnel. The cart icon was clickable, and when expanded, it presented a detailed order summary with all the special discounts and special fees (if existed). It was fully transparent, extremely detailed, and customers loved it.

A few weeks later – the questions stopped.

6. Avoid dark patterns even if you are desperate to move the needle. 

I recently made a collection of 20 dark patterns to avoid when designing products.

Many of those devious patterns mislead the users into additional/unplanned costs:

  • Hidden costs for certain shipments or packaging
  • Sneak into basket techniques where weird items are added to the basket automatically 
  • Confusing terminology causing users to accidentally subscribe to expensive plans

Regardless of how desperate you think you are to move the needle and improve your conversion rates – avoid using any of those 20 listed patterns, especially the ones dealing with money. They will just make your users frustrated and angry and will lead to a long term churn and a bad reputation.

7. When it comes to money – surprises are always a bad thing 

It is very easy to “surprise” the users with unexpected payments that can jeopardize the whole “trust” thing that you are trying to build.

Take ghost credit card authorization (this annoying $1.00 transaction that’s made to validate the card) or a badly written button caption that performs the payment a bit too early (from the user’s point of view).

Dig deeply into your UI and locate those pitfalls.

There are many ways to do it, one them is to work closely with the customer support/success teams. They know what pisses off customers and they’ll be more than happy to share the frequent complaints with you. Double-check their answers with real data and you’ll get a perfect picture of where to begin.

One issue that popped up by digging through our support tickets involved our product’s gift cards:

Originally, we promoted our gift cards as cool gifts our users could purchase and easily send to their friends, but after a while, we started getting a lot of complaints from users who wanted to purchase a gift card for themselves (and take advantage of a small discount some of those cards provided). They complained that the process was too cumbersome.

We realized we had an unplanned scenario to support: purchasing a gift card for the buyer herself.

This piece of information (which, BTW was pretty hard to detect through our mobile analytics because this workflow was never on our radar) motivated us to add a new option to purchase a gift card without sending it as a fancy email to a friend and instead add the card value to the balance of the buyer. Pretty straight forward isn’t it?

Here’s what we did:

Pretty genius isn’t it?

I know!

Soon enough, we started getting more complaints from users who have tried the new option – and were charged by mistake (according to them).

Apparently, the new option was inconsistent with what the users were used to (or expecting), and the payment was perceived as an unexpected (and unwanted) “surprise” because it didn’t have that extra step of adding the addressee details.

Of course, this was not a devious plan or a dark pattern, we just didn’t think that an extra step was required since there was no addressee, but for our users, the actual payment simply happened too fast.

It surprised them, and surprises that actually make the users pay unexpectedly are trust killers.

So we fixed it by adding an extra step that didn’t do much but gave the users a chance to better understand what’s about to happen and solved this issue for good.

Basic? Yep.

Dumb? You bet!

Not a story to share on LinkedIn? Tell me about it…

And still, this scenario demonstrates how sensitive users become when money is involved.

8. No bugs, please

In a world of frequent shipping, where companies release new features and tons of experiments on an hourly/daily/weekly basis – there are also occasional hiccups.

But because money is such a sensitive topic for users – hiccups must not happen in any of the payment workflows: security bridges when payment details are involved, privacy issues, bugs in payment processes, issues with special discounts or invalid coupon codes – whenever money is involved – there’s absolutely 0 tolerance for product hiccups.

As a company policy, we always defined a special test plan (with tons of regression) for every product release that involved any of our payments modules.

9. Transparency 

What’s the right way to launch a policy change or a new pricing model in a B2C app? 

Should the company announce it and share it with the customers in advance? Or should it just “appear” the next time the users use the app?

From our experience – it’s better to announce it and share the rationale of each change with the customers and use it to promote the change (as well as all the rest of the good stuff…).

Sure, the vocal minority will shout, but they will shout anyway, so that doesn’t count. 

What counts is that the silent minority may see such transparency as good and honest behavior.

In our case, we had a few chances to be completely transparent with our users: we changed our pricing logic a few times, added new policies, changed them, and made sure to communicate those changes transparently with our users. It worked well.

The only time we didn’t follow this guideline was when we had a critical bug involving our payment gateway that caused many of our transactions to fail.

The bug was kind of messy and took us a few weeks to fix it. Once it was fixed, our gateway company performed the faulty transaction retroactively.

It was a very bad move because many users got a notification about a transaction they didn’t remember doing. When we explained what happened and that the original transactions never happened in the first place – it was already too late to fix the bad impression.

My conclusion from this case was that it’s always better to communicate changes that involve payments in advance.

10. Make it easy for users to contact you in realtime 

I truly recommend adding a live chat button so customers can ask questions and address their potential uncertainties in realtime, without leaving their current stage within the app.

A few years ago we added intercom as our live customer support chat and it helped us improve our conversion rate in 2 levels:

  1. We were able to address user inquiries in almost real-time, help users gain trust by answering their questions real fast, make them feel secure with the process and convert better. 
  2. We were able to label and then analyze the types of questions we received, and polish our funnel using qualitative insights (as opposed to the common quantitive data you get from mobile analytics).

I absolutely love Intercom for making this functionality so friendly and super easy to implement. Users can use the chat button to contact the customer support team and get instant clarifications to their questions.

As a side note, make sure your chat button is always visible and accessible so users can contact you in every step of the way.

Not a summary:  


We’ve reached the end of lesson number 10, and you know what they say about lessons number 10…

Time for me to end this one!

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