One of the most oft-used and well known plot devices in Hollywood movies is the “MacGuffin,” the object that drives the story forward and is of vital importance to both the heroes and villains even if the specifics of the object itself remain obscure or are unimportant (credited to Alfred Hitchcock). The treasure map is one of the earliest MacGuffins found in both literature and film;
Simply put, a MacGuffin is a plot device. It can be anything–secret spy papers, a mysterious briefcase, etc.–but its only purpose is to set the story in motion. Once that’s accomplished, the MacGuffin usually become relatively unimportant.
Websites, Storytelling & MacGuffins
Famous film MacGuffins include:
- The case that glows in Pulp Fiction.
- The Ark of the Covenant, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- The Death Star Plans, Star Wars.
Websites, especially ecommerce websites, should have MacGuffins too. Common website MacGuffins:
- Free Shipping.
- Prevalent & Easy To Find Email List.
- About Page.
- Relevant Content.
- Trust Marks (Visa, MasterCard for example) in cart.
- Satisfaction Guarantee.
- Social Share Buttons especially Twitter and Facebook.
What Is A Website MacGuffin?
The purpose of website MacGuffins is move visitors toward conversion. Website MacGuffins create trust. Website MacGuffins are important trust marks whose absence upsets and confuses website visitors. Confused customers do many things conversion is never one of them. When visitors subscribe or buy something your site’s MacGuffins did their job.
MacGuffins create trust online, but they may not be IMPORTANT except in their absence. MacGuffins HURT in absence more than they help in when present. Free Shipping is THE important ecommerce website MacGuffin.
We tested free shipping trigger points extensively. No matter where we set the trigger point Average Order Value always exceeded the trigger. When our free shipping trigger was $60, set right at our Average Order Value (AOV) of $62, orders with Free Shipping averaged $95, or 58% over our trigger.
When we set the Free Shipping trigger at $75 our AOV on those orders was $105 or 40% over the trigger. As our target went up the number of orders went down, so we made more money per order but less money overall. In the end we set our trigger either at $55 when we weren’t in fourth quarter and $60 during fourth quarter.
During the 4th quarter there is a magical deadline – 12.25. Shoppers visit and buy. They buy from hard work done when they weren’t buying. They buy because they have a deadline and they buy from your website thanks to your Free Shipping MacGuffin.
What Are Your Website’s MacGuffins?
Let’s examine three other important web marketing MacGuffins: About Page, Satisfaction Guarantee and Reviews & User Generated Content (UGC).
Website MacGuffin: About Pages
Convention dictates every website must have an about page. Websites without an About Page don’t feel legitimate. Because every site has an About page few take it seriously. Reading most About pages is like reading the phonebook.
NOTE: Read REI.com’s About Page if you want to read a great one.
Your About Page is a MacGuffin YOU should use. A website’s About Page maps core values, state Unique Selling Propositions and shares Customer Aspirations (or Unique Customer Aspirations UCA). Once mapped look for opportunities to use pieces of your About Page throughout your site’s merchandising and content.
The purpose of a website MacGuffin is to move visitors on a journey toward conversion.Subscription is an important conversion. If your email list is growing so is your market influence and so will your site’s sales.
Website MacGuffin: Satisfaction Guarantee
Satisfaction is guaranteed by the web. No one who sells anything wants to trip over the BIG MONEY in customer loyalty and advocacy to pick up the nickels and dimes that come from strict enforcement of a stated guarantee.
Insightful online marketers, such as Zappos, realize satisfaction guarantees create loyalty and friends of friends marketing needed. Smart online marketers write a generous guarantee and empower their team to exceed their policy.
A site’s Satisfaction Guarantee should be present, accounted for and backed up by examples of WOW exceptions. Wow examples from customers not site owners create trust. Never write for lawyers. Manage your websites for love, loyalty and passion.
Satisfaction Guarantees won’t WIN you much business. Absence of one or a poorly written guarantee will KILL lots of online orders.
Website MacGuffin: User Generated Content
Soon 50% or more of the content on leading ecommerce websites will come from their customers. User Generated Content (UGC) is one of the most important MacGuffins. When a website is courageous enough to include reviews, reward reviewers by sharing what they say (with attribution and permission) and listens to what is shared they create trust. Their online marketing breaks into friends of friends.
Friends of Friends, those people who your customers know but who don’t know your website until introduced by their friends, are the most important people on the planet when scaling a website. What happens when you ask permission to feature a customer’s review, tweet or G+ conversation?
Chances are good any UGC you feature generates social shares and break your message out to friends of friends. The more you share the more sharing is clearly important to you. The more you share the more listening is important to you. The more you share the more community is important.
Community may be the most important MacGuffin.
We know from the 1:9:90 Rule: only 1% of visitors will share content, 9% will support shares of the 1% and 90% read. Each of those groups is balanced by the other two. Your 90% readers give your site important support. No one cares unless you care about them first and community says you care.
Even readers stop reading if your website doesn’t feel welcoming, rewarding to those who contribute and encouraging contributions. Your website’s ASK must be clear as a ringing bell.
Drive By Pink
Google is killing “deal sites” because they’ve always lived by ideas described in Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Google’s famous, “Don’t Be Evil” motto is aligned to the altruism most feel and live by according to Pink. 30% of any population is mercenary Pink explains. 70%, or a clear majority, want to do the right thing.
We want to help each other, join ideas bigger than ourselves and do no evil. A website must create MacGuffins to demonstrate they are on the side of the angels. When customers can’t find expected MacGuffins such as Free Shipping, a prevalent and easy to join email list then dissonance and confusion happens.
Confused customers do many things CONVERSION is never one of them. We suggest figuring out what MacGuffins your site must have and then create a few of your own. MacGuffins may not double your sales, but their absence is already lowering conversion whether you realize it or not.
The MacGuffin Rules of Website Design
- Place MacGuffins where they can do the most good.
- MucGuffins should be LARGE and IN CHARGE in easy to find.
- You flaunt MacGuffin convention and “best practices” at your peril.
- Social Share buttons should be ubiquitous and use branded colors.
- Create friendly easy to understand policies about things like “satisfaction guarantees” and then NEVER enforce them.
What are your website MacGuffins?