Why Nobody Was Buying What We Were Selling

by Jaleh Bisharat

naked poppy confessions of a startup

It was the fall of 2017. Our site was up and on its third revision. We’d been testing, learning, iterating, and testing some more.

Here was our plan: once we’d completed enough testing and gathered enough customer feedback, we’d hire an engineer. And we’d have a clear set of specifications for this engineer to follow.

In the meantime, Kimberly had figured out how to create a website. It looked nice. It linked to a quiz that gathered customer information. And it took credit cards. You’d think that an experienced engineer – perhaps a team of engineers – had put up this site.

For the third test, we decided to invest a couple hundred dollars. Up went Google Adwords and in came the customers. They were taking our quiz. They were so clear in their needs. The momentum felt fabulous, and we were excited to solve their beauty problems and to supply solutions that would bring them joy

We knew not every quiz taker would convert to trying our solution. I mean, do you click the “Buy” button every time you take a quiz? We were realistic in expecting just a subset of the people to convert. But the number should go up as we improve the customer experience, right? By how much, we wondered. So we waited to find out.

And waited.

And waited.

So few conversions. What had happened? We had improved the experience and just changed the ”Buy” button. Yet the number of women buying had actually gone down.

This is an opportunity, we told each other. An opportunity for what? Well… more research.

We’d email the quiz takers who didn’t buy and ask them to talk to us on the phone. They’d explain to us why they didn’t proceed. They’d tell us why they didn’t believe we were solving a real need.

Maria was our first interviewee. She had medium dark skin, brown hair, and neutral undertones. She had recently gone on a plant-based diet, she reported, and had become aware of the importance of what she put on her face. She did not want any heavy metals in her body and she had found our clean makeup company on Google.

So far so good.

She continued with praise for the quiz. It was simple and the questions made her feel like we were gathering information to offer her the right products.

I was mentally scrambling for the right way to ask why she didn’t click, “Try My Clean Makeup.” This was a woman with a need! She liked the site! She thought the quiz was quick and easy and saw how it would be useful. What had we done wrong?

“Maria,” I said into the telephone. “Can you now walk us through what you were thinking next.”

“What do you mean?” she inquired.

“Specifically, why did you step away from the site, instead of ordering?”

There. I’d said it. Pretty smooth, I thought.

“I did order.”

She’d ordered?

Or she thought she’d ordered?

Then why hadn’t she pressed the “Buy” button?

“What button?” she inquired.

We scrambled to pull up the page on our cell phones.

Kimberly’s face went white.

I don’t know what color my face turned but it wasn’t an attractive one.

On a mobile phone, you had to scroll down to see the button. So, Maria hadn’t seen it. Therefore she hadn’t pressed it.

Therefore we had fewer orders than before we had “improved” our site.

We had thought we were so on top things. Kimberly had the code working on mobile. We had made so many changes. But we’d forgotten to review the placement of this button on a mobile phone.

Ugh. In hindsight, it was such an obvious mistake, and such an easy fix. When you're running a thousand miles an hour, something always falls through. That's why we always want to hear from you.

In the meantime, desktops are now “devices non grata” at NakedPoppy. Except in certain cases, like this blog post. I wrote it on my computer. I do realize, however, that you’re probably reading it on your phone.

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