Even the Target Market Has Days Off

    March 15, 2007

My husband, Eric, has been looking at me funny. He gazes at me all the time and I hate being stared at. Being mean as usual, I make him stop. Last weekend, I realized he’s been looking at me with a strange look in his eyes that I couldn’t intrepret. I’m mean, so last weekend I asked him why he keeps giving me weird looks.

He replied, “Because I’m not sure which Kim is present, so I’m looking harder to see who’s there.”

I laughed, because I don’t know either.

This got me to thinking about target markets and end users.

What Side of the Bed Did Your Customer Get Up On Today?

In marketing and user centered design circles, we often talk about our targeted users and customers. Companies with money to blow will run studies on who their target consumers are, or run focus groups on what people love and hate about their products. The human factors industry studies human-computer behavior. Usability companies try to understand what ticks off end users. Conversions experts look for all the reasons behind failed sales. Search engine marketers dig deep for keywords used by the perfect end user who knows exactly what they’re looking for.

Once all this data is gathered, white papers are written, case studies are published and articles are run that inform us about what our site visitors and product users want, what they like, how they make choices and why. We may think we’re very cool and savvy to have found the holy grail of ROI.

What if your product, service, internet application or website is humming along, primed for the perfect targeted end user and that person is suddenly different?

Perhaps they are emotionally upset. PMS. Menopausal. Facing surgery. Sleepless parents. Overworked wage earners. Out of work. On medication. Depressed. Drunk. Suffers a sudden loss of eyesight or use of their hands. There are a zillion reasons why someone has an “off” day, is feeling emotionally or mentally out of whack or drastically changes in some way. This can last for a day, or longer.

Either way, what they are dealing with, at the moment they are accessing your website, service, product or application, may have an impact on how successful they are at completing a task.

How Would You Know Something Changed?

My husband stares into my soul to try and figure out what’s up, but we don’t have this ability to inquire on the status of our end users and customers.

We’re unable to make instant adjustments, which may be needed for the successful completion of a task, for example.

Have you ever been in a car accident, and needed to call for emergency help with your cell phone? If you are injured or shaken up, holding a tiny phone or speaking into it with trembling hands makes a difference in how it is used in comparison to typical user testing in a calm environment.

Or, what if your customer is a long-time regular, who orders the same products over and over again, but some kind of life changing event occurs and that product no longer applies and they need something else?

Would your server tracking data be able to tell you about all these possible events in user behavior, or would you simply look at the data with a wierd look on your face, like my husband does with me, wondering what the hell is going on?

I got to thinking about this when I read
Shari Thurow Talking Smack about Eye Tracking?
Gord Hotchkiss’s company does eye tracking studies. He’s concerned because he thinks Shari Thurow, in a recent article, may feel that eye tracking offers limited information. Taken in one brief, limited chunk, yes it does and he agrees. Gord concludes:

“Shari says we don’t focus on the big picture. Shari, you should know that you can’t see the big picture until you fill in the individual pieces of the puzzle.”

And that got me to thinking about the look of my face.

If an eye tracking study was done on me every day, or at various days in a month or week, would my eyes do something differently?

Would I make different choices, based on where I looked, which is based on how I feel or what my environment is at that moment?

Do we ever really know our target end users?

Elsewhere, Fun and Intriguing

Joe Dolson is Talkin’ about user choices…, and asks, “How might a user react to a radical change in the basic functionality of a site?”. Well, that depends Joe. Are they taking Ambien?

I surrender my crown to Rebecca, in Women of Internet Marketing – Special Edition

The Lisa takes a crack at SEO’s who dream of exploiting people in the name of marketing in Calling It Linkbait Doesn’t Make You Less of a Jerk

FreshEgg offers a peek into how a site audit includes both search engine marketing and usability in Haven Direct – The Start of a Journey

A detailed tutorial on DNS transfer is offered by Ron Carnell in How To Bypass Dns, You don’t have to wait for DNS propagation. (Topic inspired by Diane Vigil)

Silly love notes from children are the topic in David Temple’s 9 short notes kids wrote to their favorite seo. Can I get into trouble for mentioning “pole dancing” to Timmy?

Designing with a specific market in mind? Take them to Starbucks and ask a lot of questions. “Iamlost” writes about such an experience in A (revised) Facebook Campaign, or – the girls made me do it.

“Six young women met me at a Starbucks, four had niche interest, two did not. Within an hour they were texting and calling others. Over several hours a couple dozen women (plus a few tag-along boyfriends) gave me answers to questions unthought and questions to answers I’d thought complete. I am still sending back queries for elaboration and clarification.

They not only totally redesigned my FaceBook strategy but pointed out a second niche site I have worth marketing there. More value received in a few hours with them than the previous several weeks thinking for myself. Note to self: in future a pub would be cheaper.”

Which brings me to ponder…if you do eye tracking studies on users inside a Starbucks, what would the results be like?