Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Does Your Online Store Make Customers Sing?

There’s a scene in the movie version of “Oliver” where merchants walk along the street outside his bedroom window peddling their wares. They sing out “Who will buy?” this or that, holding up samples for passersby to see. Oliver has never witnessed such a thing before.

He sings,

Who will buy this wonderful morning?
Such a sky you never did see!
Who will tie it up with a ribbon,
And put it in a box for me?

I visited a web site today that sells dessert products. Its homepage had no content, so there was no one to “sing” to me about the products.

In the movie, the rose seller stresses her “sweet red roses”. Anyone walking by her on the street would be able to hold a rose up close to press a satiny red petal to their cheek. On the web, we have no such luxury.

We depend on page content to paint a picture of what a product looks and feels like. If a web site offers images that express feelings of joy, satisfaction, thrill, fun or hope, we’re given something to emotionally connect with. We can hope our experience will be the same as the people in the pictures.

The site I visited today had no pictures of people. Its products were beautifully gift wrapped so that I couldn’t see closeups. Other pictures showed food items that were lacking in detail. When the product description says 1 dozen cookies, are they big or little cookies? Are the raisins plump? How thick is the shortbread? Are we talking one cookie per person or does it take 3 cookies to equal one serving?

Oliver sings,

They’ll never be a day so sunny,
It could not happen twice.
Where is the man with all the money?
It’s cheap at half the price!

For this site, sale items were a click away from the homepage. To get to that page meant first finding it. The link label simply read “Sale”. Wow. That will drive in the hordes of budget crazed thrill seeking bargain hunters!

What do we get for our time on this site? What if we click, there’s only 3 choices and none of them are interesting? Does the page lead us anywhere else or just leave us dangling from the swinging chandelier?

Oliver has no money. He’s an orphan. He’s had a rough life. For him, anyone with something to sell him is incredible. The point is, someone WANTS him to buy something. If he can hear them hawking ripe strawberries, they must know he’s there somewhere inside a building, wanting to buy them.

Someone wants him to buy. He is special to the seller. They helped him feel that way. He sings,

Who will buy this wonderful feeling?
I’m so high I swear I could fly.
Me, oh my! I don’t want to lose it
So what am I to do
To keep a sky so blue?
There must be someone who will buy…

When was the last time you got this excited about buying online? When did you last feel madly driven to toss items into an online shopping cart? Which site makes you feel special when you’re there? How many web sites acknowledge your presence at all? Do online shops know you want to feel special?

Try adding little details to your online store. Help your customers feel wonderful, wanted and welcome.

There will be someone who will buy.

In the news:

Omaha based Netshops has hired an ex-Googler, Ash ElDifrawi, as the company’s first Chief Marketing Officer. He’ll be responsible for managing the company’s overall marketing strategy, including online marketing, brand marketing, SEO and strategic planning and corporate communications. At Google, ElDifrawi lead Brand Advertising for Google and YouTube, and was also the architect of the Google Brand Accelerator.

Look at Netshops. You’ll understand what Oliver was singing about.


  1. March 27, 2008    

    Heh, I was just thinking of a similar post, but oriented towards keyword research (i.e.: “Modifiers: The Who What Where When Why How Approach”. You make a good case [study] for developing out your content, Kim.

  2. March 28, 2008    

    Kim, this is so over-the-top that it’s perfect. Why aim to “persuade,” “overcome objections,” “drive home the USP” when instead you can “sing?”

    (I recognize the latter can, does, should include the “drier” formulations.)

    Lovely post.

  3. March 28, 2008    

    @Gab – The WWWWH approach is one of my favorite topics. It’s so simple and yet so neglected in web sites. And it’s vital for SEO and usability. Go for it!

    @Tri – You cracked me up with the “over the top”. Honestly, I had no intention of blogging yesterday. This post leaped out. I haven’t thought of the Oliver movie in years, let alone connected it with user interface. Typically, one might need a few drinks to pull that off! :)

  4. March 28, 2008    

    Hi Kim, What a great post. In 8th grade, I was in the play “Oliver” and I was one of those street merchants. I was the one who sang, “Who Will Buy?” (very high notes – D,C,D notes). It was nice singing along to your post.

    Your post is timely for me, because at Rebecca from SEOmoz’s suggestion, I have started to read Web Design and ROI. I really like the approach of the book, because instead of focusing on off-site factors that help bring traffic to a site (PPC, link-building, social media, etc.) it focuses on your website and converting the traffic that you get, which they say is much easier than the effort to drive increased traffic. They are both important, but small changes in design and usability can cause a dramatic increase in conversions, which is exactly what you are saying. This part interests me so much, because unlike external influences, the web designer has so much control over this.

  5. March 28, 2008    

    I think you are right…content is also very important even in your online store site..^^..I think I have to reedit my online store later..thanks for the idea man!

  6. March 29, 2008    

    From time to time you stumble upon (literally, not via stumbleupon.com) an onlineshop and think “oh dear what were they thinking”. There are so many shops out there who some to compete in “who can break the most web- and usability guidelines”.

  7. March 29, 2008    

    Kim I LOVE the way you write. You are such a natural at making web site marketing techniques come alive to those persons who can’t see through the hype. You should branch out into copywriting, seriously! If you can sell concepts so well, I bet you’d be fabulous at selling products via copy.

  8. April 1, 2008    

    Kim, this is such a lovely post. I reviewed it on SU when it first came out and just had to read it again today. Bravo.

  9. April 1, 2008    

    Thank you very much, everyone :)

  10. August 17, 2008    

    Very nice article. I love your writing style and the content more than adequately states the details for getting someone to buy – by making the visitors feel appreciated. I hope my online biz lives up to this challenge!

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