No Brainer Storekeeping

Last week, I promised that I’d continue talking about the growing need to take care of your customers online. And I will. Next week.

This week, I feel a compelling need to tell you about my friend Jay Steinfeld, who runs an interesting business called No Brainer Blinds and Shades.

Let me go back a moment. From time to time, I receive email from readers of this column, who say things like, “Nick I like what you say, but like it best when you can back it up with real facts and experiences.”

I received a couple of emails like this in response to an article I wrote some time back about the importance of “being there” on your site. My premise was that if visitors don’t get a sense that you’re there at the “store,” behind the “counter” and ready to serve them, they’re less likely to buy.

To be honest, I didn’t have anything to back this up. But I figured it made pretty good sense.

Enter No Brainer Blinds and Shades.

Owner Jay Steinfeld was talking on the phone with me the other day, and telling me about a two-week period when his sales dropped dramatically. The recent history of his site is one of consistent growth. Each week has demonstrated sales that steadily climb from the site.

Suddenly, just after Valentine’s Day this year, his sales began to fall and fall and fall.

Jay was somewhat distressed by this, and started checking on everything he could. He checked his rankings in the search engines. He checked the ordering systems on his site. He did everything he could to try to figure out what was going wrong.

And he got pretty desperate. His bottom line was suffering to the tune of many thousands of dollars a week. In fact, over the course of just a few days his sales had fallen by over 20 percent. That’s a big chunk.

Then he noticed something. At the end of each day, he writes the sales for the day in a ledger with one of those old-fashioned things called a “pen.” On the day before his sales started falling, he had written in the ledger with a different colored ink – for the first time. So Jay figured maybe this was a karma thing, a bad omen, an unlucky color.

(As a sidebar, this also proves another view I hold. Spend too much time staring at your web site in the hope that it will speak to you, and your brain will turn to mush.)

Anyway. Once I got Jay to agree that the color of the ink he used was probably not the cause of his problem, we chatted some more and identified a more likely culprit.

On his home page, Jay has a small banner area in which he announces a special offer, upcoming event or something like that. In the run-up to Valentine’s Day he had a line up there that read, “Tell Her You Love Her With Some New Blinds.”

No. The cause of the decline in his sales was not due to his site being picketed by disappointed wives and girlfriends. His sales declined because after Valentine’s Day, he left the banner up there. For two weeks.

After two weeks he thought, “Oops!” and changed the line to “March On Into March Madness.”

Within 48 hours, his sales were back up by 20 percent, and continued on their former growth path.

It’s not so hard to figure out what happened. When people came to his site after Valentine s Day and saw the Valentine’s Banner still in place, they got an impression.

The impression they got was this: “Nobody’s here at the store. We didn’t come to work today. Come back another time.” Then, as soon as the banner was changed, visitors saw that the storekeeper was back – and they started buying again.

If that doesn’t make you want to check every page on your site right now – it should. Twenty percent is a very significant chunk of change. Think of the money you invest just to increase sales by 1 or 2 percent.

In Jay’s case, the message that “nobody came to work today” rang out loud and clear. But you may want to go through your site to find even the most subtle “miss-message” that could give the wrong impression.

You might even want to consider placing a line on your home page that reads, “It’s (today’s date) and we’re here to serve you!”

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