Announcing Limited Early Access to the new VWO

We’re happy to announce that the new version of Visual Website Optimizer is now available for limited early access to our current customers and users. If you are an existing user, simply login to your VWO account and in your dashboard, you will get a link to request early access.


Question: When will the new version launch for everyone?

We’ve been working on the new version of Visual Website Optimizer for months, and we’re still not entirely finished! We were supposed to do a full launch today (29th April 2014) but there are some last bits that we need to take care of.

The new version is ready and we already have some partners using it, however we want to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned to deliver you the best in website and mobile testing the world has ever seen.

Question: What does early access mean?

Early access is for our current customers and users who want to immediately use new features and functionalities that we’re about to launch (such as A/B testing for native apps, segmentation of test results, new charts etc.) and help us in refining those features.

Question: Any more previews of the new VWO?

You bet! We’re releasing a bunch of screenshots / videos on a dedicated landing page for users interested in early access. Check it out here:

Looking forward to have you as an early user to the new VWO. Stay tuned for the full launch!

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Announcing Limited Early Access to the new VWO


How to use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase eCommerce Sales

Imagine there’s a cupcake fair in your community. You have your heart set on Red Velvet and there are two counters selling the same. Counter A has a animated bunch of customers digging into the cake and has a banner saying “last 20 pieces left” while Counter B adorns a deathly, almost funereal look.

Which one would you go for? If you are thinking Counter A, you are not alone.

A study was conducted in 1975 where researchers wanted to know how people would value cookies in two identical glass jars. One jar had 10 cookies while the other contained just two. Though the cookies and jars were identical, participants valued the ones in the near-empty jar more highly.

And that’s the scarcity principle at play. It essentially means that people tend to place higher value on an object that is scarce and a lower value on one that is available in abundance. No wonder, marketing guru Robert Cialdini cites ‘Scarcity’ as one of the six golden persuasion principles in his book “Influence”. When combined with Urgency, which is essentially the other side of the same coin, the two make for a potent weapon for increasing eCommerce sales.

Here are some examples of how different eCommerce websites creatively use this persuasion principle to increase conversions.

1) Stock scarcity

Displaying your stock meter on the eCommerce product page is always a good conversion practice. Not only does it ensure there are no last-minute heartbreaks for the customer, it also speeds up the buying process. A user might be convinced to make a purchase, but he/she might not be always willing to buy right away. They might want to compare the prices on other websites, look for discount coupons or simply forget about the product — thanks to the myriad distractions of the web.

Look how ModMomFurniture flashes a message that ‘only 3 items left’ of a particular product.

Stock meter

Here, Boticca almost urges visitors to complete the purchase right away. The use of an active verb like ‘Act’ is used to drive immediate action. Here is a list of more words that drive urgency and sales.

Scarcity principle

2) Size scarcity

You head to a shop to buy a denim and figure out that the last piece in your size has just gone out of stock. Old story? Well, if it could happen in the real stores all the time, why couldn’t it happen online? Intimating the buyers when a particular size goes out of stock is killing two birds with one arrow. Not only is it a huge favor for the prospects, the information also works as a positive reinforcement of the product.

See how Jabong represents the unavailable size in grey.

Size scarcity

Zappos goes a step further and even shows how many items are left for a particular size and color combination.


3) Time-bound purchase for next day shipping

If you are already offering next-day delivery, then ‘time-bound purchase’ won’t cost you any additional resource. You just need to inform the users how many hours/minutes do they have to complete the purchase so that their order qualifies for next day delivery.

When you ask the visitors to make the purchase in a specific amount of time, you not only make them more proactive towards the purchase, it also eliminates any kind of confusion at their end as to when they will receive the order.

Zappos has a permanent banner on its homepage saying that you need to order before 1pm to qualify for next-day shipping.

Next day shipping incentive

Amazon shows the exact number of hours/minutes within which the purchase needs to be completed to qualify for next-day shipping.


4) Make them see other buyers

Two women fighting over the same item of clothing in a fashion store is not just a devilish mind’s fictitious construct. While popular Hollywood movies might have taken these fights too far, the fact remains that people are much more inclined to buy something when other people desire them too.

So while they are considering whether or not to buy those shiny leather shoes and they suddenly realize that another person is mulling the same purchase, it replicates the physical store scenario where two people grab the same item at the same time.

When you look at a property in, it shows you exactly how many people are checking out the same property at that exact moment. even gives you information about how many people are viewing properties in a particular city. A modal box pops opens and shows you your virtual competition/companions.

Last booked

5) Limited-period discounts

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is a legitimate one. It is the anticipated regret of not being able to seize an opportunity. A limited-time discount works exactly at that level. It makes the offer look so tempting and fleeting that one is compelled to seize the opportunity.

OverStock dramatically uses a running countdown to accurately show how long the sale will last.

Countdown shows an alert when the last few discounted airline tickets are left in stock. See how they use color psychology here to instill urgency. The use of the color ‘Red’ is not a mere coincidence. The color is associated with energy, increased heart rate and is often used in clearance sales.

Last few tickets

5) Limited-time discount on abandoned cart items

The average online cart abandonment rate is 67%. While a majority of these carts are not redeemable, re-marketing efforts can salvage some of these lost sales. Offering limited-time discounts on abandoned cart items is a great way to use the urgency principle to re-market products. However, the risk here is of overdoing it. You do this too often and you will see your ‘e-mail open rate’ nosedive.

See how Miracas offers a 5% discount for just the next two days.

Remarketing mail

6) Shopping cart item sold out

Seeing some items disappearing from the cart might just be the reality check users need to wake up and salvage the rest of the cart items. See how Snapdeal shows a ‘Sold Out’ message next to one of the books in the following example.


7) Limited-time free delivery

Well, this works the same way as limited-time discounts. The desire to avail free delivery could possibly offset the visitors’ tendency to procrastinate the purchase.


8) Special discount hours

A two-day or a weekend sale has its own charm but a special discount hour can be used to galvanize excitement around that specific hour. Zivame sent out this mailer to subscribers to build up craze for its hour-long sale.


9) Last chance emails

E-mails letting subscribers know about last day of sale is another great way to get their attention. See how Myntra makes use of Orange color to drive action here. According to color psychology, just like Red, Orange also has an aggressive feel and creates a sense of urgency to do something.


Before you set out to use any of these tactic mentioned above, there are three golden rules you should keep in mind.

1) Don’t expect ‘scarcity’ to create demand

‘Scarcity’ or ‘Urgency’ work best as motivators to quicken the buying process but the customer will have to be already convinced to make the purchase decision. While they are great procrastination killers, don’t expect them to generate demand. If you go back to the initial example, it’s only once you have decided to buy a cupcake that you will value the cupcakes in Counter A more. You will have to truly convince the user before you flash the scarcity card.

2) False urgency can backfire

Urgency is a subtle art. Yes, I know that sounded slightly oxymoronic but don’t go about faking urgency or your customers will get a whiff of it. Be honest. Don’t try to get rid of the stock that won’t move by flashing messages like ‘hurry, only last two pieces left’. First they will catch your bluff, then you will become a laughing stock and then they will leave you. Here’s a real life example of how that happened.

3) Don’t overdo it

Even if you are using the scarcity principle in all earnestness, don’t go about overdoing it. You don’t need to employ all the practices with multiple countdowns breathing down customer’s neck. You will come across as pushy and shady and untrustworthy and manipulative. Moderation is the key, though testing will give you better insights as to what will work for you.

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How to use Urgency and Scarcity Principles to Increase eCommerce Sales


The Surprising Power of Testing your Gut Instinct for Business

You can’t analyze how a great painting makes you feel. You can’t compute the beauty of a sunset. There’s no algorithm for the ocean’s majesty.

Similarly, some of the best ideas in business come in a wonderful, inexplicable flashes of insight.

I was in New York for a couple days this week and then in Tofino, a beautiful beach town perched on a rock outcropping on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island.

The experience of the ocean, wind, rain, fog, sun and golden eagles can’t be explained. It must be felt.

I think it was particularly poignant in contrast to New York’s bustle. Now, I love New York; it gets in your bones. It’s the closest place I’ve found to get real Neapolitan-style pizza. And it’s bustle might just as well be a different planet than Tofino.

Chris Goward in New York and Tofino

Contrasting immersive experiences

Those contrasting immersive experiences got me thinking about how much we can rely on data versus intuition in decision-making. How much should we be able to rationalize versus feel?

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How much should we be able to rationalize versus feel?

Using your subconscious thinking system

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman tells us that we have two ways of making decisions: System 2 is our controlled, conscious where we make choices and decisions. System 1 operates in the background, monitoring our environment constantly and forming impressions from this information. It’s our intuitive “Spidey sense” that gives us an intuitive feel about what we’re sensing.

Kahneman tells us that System 1, our subconscious awareness, informs our System 2 thinking more than we often think. And overreliance on System 2 results in tunnel vision.

Even before Kahneman’s research, Maxwell Maltz described how to trust your brain’s Servo Mechanism to find answers for you subconsciously. In Psycho-Cybernetics, he shows how to combine intense, focused research and thinking with periods of rest and percolation time. Your brain has the ability to solve problems for you without your conscious effort.

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Your brain has the ability to solve problems for you without your conscious effort.

How often have you come up with great ideas when you least expect them? As you’re falling asleep, perhaps? Or while talking with a friend about a different subject? That’s your Servo Mechanism at work.

Solutions don’t always come from purely logical step-by-step deduction.

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Solutions don’t always come from purely logical step-by-step deduction
You won’t find the best answers solely through analysis.

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You won’t find the best answers solely through analysis

A/B testing enables more intuition, not more data

This week I’m reading On Becoming a Leader by Warren Bennis. It’s a classic, inspiring leadership since 1989, and much of it could have been written today. Warren says:

“American organizational life is a left-brain culture, meaning logical, analytical, technical, controlled, conservative, and administrative. We, to the extent we are its products, are dominated and shaped by those same characteristics. Our culture needs more right-brain qualities, needs to be more intuitive, conceptual, synthesizing and artistic.”

This is exactly what an A/B testing culture enables. By relying on A/B testing to validate decision-making, a company can use more intuition rather than less.

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By relying on A/B testing to validate decision-making, a company can use more intuition rather than less

Now, you may question how I can claim this: Isn’t A/B testing a logical process?

Yes, it is.

But, it actually helps reduce your reliance on logic. Hear me out for a moment.

Without a rigorous A/B testing system, companies need much more research, rationale, business cases, and cross-departmental stakeholder buy-in to make decisions.

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Without A/B testing, companies need much more research, rationale, business cases, to make decisions
Decisions become complex and people often use CYA methodology for backing themselves up. (CYA = Cover Your Ass, in case you’re new to organizational behaviour.)

All that rationale building takes time. Lots of time. It slows decision-making and turns nimble companies into bureaucratic dinosaurs.

Daniel Kahneman also made this observation.

Because adherence to standard operating procedures is difficult to second-guess, decision makers who expect to have their decisions scrutinized with hindsight are driven to bureaucratic solutions—and to an extreme reluctance to take risks

But, in A/B testing-driven companies, decisions are made quickly, combining the power of professional intuition and expert gut-feeling with rigorous testing.

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In A/B testing-driven companies, decisions are made quickly, combining the power of intuition with rigorous testing

Yes, we use plenty of structure and process for developing powerful test hypotheses, but we also are open to the inspirational eureka moments where preparation meets inspiration.

Using testing to empower your intuition

When those inspiring ideas strike, you don’t need to backfill binders of research to support a decision—you can simply test it. The risk of a bad decision is eliminated when it’s a test.

If your company feels stuck in analysis paralysis, maybe you need more testing.

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If your company feels stuck in analysis paralysis, maybe you need more testing
You can then worry less about building strict A to Z logic and, instead, go with your gut a little more. Let your hair down. Try something different. Combine innovation with rigour. Rock your market with your flashes of (tested) insight.

The secret to A/B testing success

I’m often asked how WiderFunnel continues to lift our clients’ profits year after year. Our current average of 680% ROI across all clients is not an easy benchmark to maintain.

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Our average of 680% ROI across all clients is not an easy benchmark to maintain

The secret is a mix of messy intelligence-building with rigorous process, including continuous A/B testing of all our ideas. I read 50+ books a year and our entire team is just as focused on learning new things all the time.

We practice lateral thinking, learning in diverse subjects, work in diverse industries and hire diverse skillsets to create our cross-functional team.

All that diversity of raw material consolidates into startlingly simple insights that deliver powerful results.

  • The winning headline that can’t be deduced
  • The strange call-to-action that compels visitors to convert
  • The obscure image concept that communicates the message
  • The new website design or page layout approach that dramatically clarifies navigation.

All combined rigorous preparation and testing with trusting our gut to take risks and try new things.

We are mavericks, continuously taking emotional risk by releasing new ideas into the wild and removing that perceived risk with testing.

What gut feeling intuition have you tested lately?

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What gut feeling intuition have you tested lately?

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The Surprising Power of Testing your Gut Instinct for Business