The Peak - End Rule
Consider this experience of a sunshine holiday...
So, you left your car at the long term parking, waited 45 minutes for the Bus to transfer you to the terminal, customs took ages and now it seems your suitcase is the last one off the plane. It isn’t the worst start to a holiday ever but it is tedious and dreary. You begin to wonder if this holiday was a great idea - why didn’t you just drive to Scotland!
However, once you make it to the hotel, the staff are friendly the sun is shining, the people moving back and forth through the lobby are happy and glamorous; your spirits begin to lift. You find your way to your room - it’s a little disappointing, smaller than you had hoped and the fixtures are dated. Oh well it was discounted; that’s what you get.
The first day, maybe two, of a holiday can be like that - a series of disappointments followed by some rising expectations and disappointment again. All of a sudden though, you tend to find something happens that defines the holiday. Usually it’s a good thing - you discover a view, you have a great night with some fun people, you fall in love, you have an amazing meal and too much wine, you laugh, you dance or whatever bobs your yacht.
This becomes your overwhelming memory of the trip. The small disappointments of the airport and the hotel are still there however they are no longer important. When you go home, you have great memories that you cherish and long to experience again, that is provided nothing bad happens later on. A severely delayed flight, a bout of food poisoning, an undignified romantic rebuttal or something like that can still undo the good accomplished by that mid-holiday high.
The same is true of so many parts of life. We have selective memories. We tend to push out the mundane elements of our experiences and focus on the peaks or indeed the troughs, and mostly how things turned out in the end.
Similarly, when designing websites
, apps and the like, we need to be mindful of the experience that visitors or users enjoy. We can influence what people think when they have visited your website. We need to focus on providing visitors with elements that will make their visit to the site more delightful and surprising. Otherwise we risk fading into the mundane and mediocre background of forgotten sites.
What are your peaks?
These can be the core value you provide through your service. It could be that you have a bigger range of products or you have provided a stunning, easy to use interface. These are usually part of your USP - the things that make people choose to work with you. Identify these and use them to the full.
By spending some time thinking of innovations that could make your website more memorable, you are investing in your repeat business. The statistics on abandoned carts vary but anything from 60-80% of shopping carts are abandoned on e-commerce websites. That’s usually because people are shopping around. If you make it easy to buy now, or if you are very memorable it is more likely that that business will complete on your
site, not your competitors. Aliexpress.com emails me when the items that I have put in my shopping cart have reduced in value or are about to sell out. This keeps them present in my mind and the emails are timed well so as not to be burdensome or annoying.
The real peak on an e-commerce site should always be the buy now button. This is the part of the experience that you want people to enjoy the most - it’s a marriage, they have chosen you and now you have to live up to their expectations. The checkout process needs to be swift and sleek but also caring. You want your new customer to feel like you are making it easy for them, not rushing them through. Many people are still very nervous at the checkout phase. They may be anxious of making some mistake and filling a form incorrectly. Ease
rather than outright speed should be the objective here.
What are your ends?
The ends can be a bit more obvious. In an e-commerce website, it’s when someone has completed their order or it could be when you confirm that their order has been delivered. Sometimes things that are not directly under your control can affect the overall experience just like coming home to a burgled house can ruin the best holiday ever. In this regard, it is best to do what you can to ensure that factors outside your control are clearly signposted but also curated for your clients as a way of showing extra care.
To use the holiday analogy one last time, a holiday provider may email you just before you leave with a safety checklist, to show just that extra care and hopefully earn your lasting goodwill.
Here are some practical examples for e-commerce:
- Tie up loose ends by following up on all online purchases with a simple satisfaction form.
- To ensure fast delivery times, find out well in advance of Christmas when the last post will be, and inform customers to expect slightly delayed delivery over this period.
- Where possible, package goods in a way that makes them fit through a letterbox. Having to visit the post depot is time consuming and in some cases impractical. See http://graze.com for a great example!
- Always use a helpful and compassionate tone when responding to complaints. Written responses usually fall foul of negativity bias so it may be necessary to use more positive words than you would when speaking to someone.
Not just e-commerce
The peak-end rule applies well to e-commerce because the objectives are so clear. For a service based company, the outcomes are less concrete, however, there is still plenty of opportunity to provide surprise and delight.
As an example, not all visitors will discover this but our own website https://www.fastfwd.com/services/
has a feature that is designed to stick in people’s memory. If you browse our services and wish to get in touch, our mascot rocket ship will fly you over to the contact page. Our hope is not that this one feature will convince you to work with us with but rather, that you remember us as the “rocket people” that propel companies forward – fastfwd.
It is really great of you to read this whole article, I hope you have enjoyed it and you can take some actions away to implement on your own projects. I would appreciate a share and welcome any comments you may care to offer or feedback on how you influence what people think when they have visited your website.