Why Your Website Needs A MacGuffin

MacGuffin image on Curagami

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 important 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.
From IGN.com

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.
  • Reviews.
  • Trust Marks (Visa, MasterCard for example) in cart.
  • Terms of Use.
  • Satisfaction Guarantee.
  • Social Share Buttons especially Twitter and Facebook.

Hitchcock Hands MacGuffin Graphic Curagami

Website MacGuffins Defined

The purpose of website MacGuffins is moving visitors on a journey toward conversion. Website MacGuffins are important trust marks whose absence can upset and confuse website visitors. When visitors subscribe to your list or buy something your site’s MacGuffins did their job.

MacGuffins create trust online, but they may not be IMPORTANT except in their presence. Website MacGuffins HURT in their absence more than they help in their presence. Free Shipping is an important ecommerce website MacGuffin.

We tested our free shipping trigger point extensively when I was an Ecommerce Director. No matter where we set the point it was always exceeded. When our free shipping trigger was $60, set right at our Average Order Value (AOV) of $62, our 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 deadline, 12.25. People don’t fool around. Shoppers visit and they buy. They buy from all the hard work you’ve done when they weren’t buying. They buy because they have a deadline and they buy because of your Free Shipping MacGuffin.

Psycho Graphic Website MacGuffin image on Curagami

What Are Your Website’s MacGuffins?

Free Shipping is a website MacGuffin because its presence moves visitors down the road to becoming buyers. The ABSENCE of clearly stated free shipping can seriously HURT site conversion. Damage created by NOT having a Free Shipping MacGuffin can be extensive.

Ecommerce sites who don’t include a Free Shipping MacGuffin better have brands so well known and trusted they can overcome pain created by the absence of an expected MacGuffin. These days who has such an ironclad relationship with their customers they can afford to needlessly appear out-of-step and uncaring?

Amazon created the Free Shipping MacGuffin and Zappos improved it. Zappos correctly read the objection they had to solve in order to sell shoes online – will thee shoes fit when they arrive. Free Shipping out and back is going to be adopted by more than shoe sellers this Christmas because its a powerful online MacGuffin.

Let’s examine three other important web marketing MacGuffins: About Page, Satisfaction Guarantee and Reviews & User Generated Content (UGC).

Webstie MacGuffin: About Pages

Convention dictates every website must have an about page. Websites without an About Page don’t appear 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 the MacGuffin YOU should use constantly. A website’s About Page should map core values, state Unique Selling Propositions and share Customer Aspirations (or Unique Customer Aspirations UCA). Once mapped look for opportunities to uses pieces of your About Page throughout your site’s content and merchandising.

Remember the purpose of a website MacGuffin is to move visitors on their journey toward conversion either as a member of your subscriber community or a buyer of your goods and services. Your About Page is only as important as you make it, and you should make it very important.

Dial M For Murder Graphic Website MacGuffin on Curagami

Website MacGuffin: Satisfaction Guarantee

Satisfaction is now guaranteed by the web itself. No one who sells anything wants to trip over the BIG MONEY in customer loyalty and advocacy to pick up the nickels and dimes associated with strict enforcement of a stated guarantee.

The really insightful online marketers, such as Zappos, realize satisfaction guarantees create the loyalty and friends of friends marketing any successful website must have. Smart online marketers write a generous policy and then empower their people to exceed that policy.

A site’s Satisfaction Guarantee should be present, accounted for and backed up by examples of WOW exceptions (best if those come from customers not site owners). We write for lawyers, but we manage websites for love, loyalty and passion.

While Satisfaction Guarantees probably won’t WIN you much business. Absence of one or a poorly written one will certainly 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, rewards 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 that 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 – we want to know what our customers think and our business is a collaboration between US and THEM that creates community visitors want to join.

Many website that live by the deal are now dying by the deal. Google’s algorithm changes favor content and community so much deal sites are getting knocked in the dirt. Deal sites don’t create the support the emerging social / mobile web demands. Deal sites don’t compete well against community and content sites who understand their customers economics well enough to offer the right deal to the right customers at the right times.

Drive By Pink book cover on Curagami

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.

MacGuffin Rules of Web Design graphic

The MacGuffin Rules of Website Design

We added to this post to include 5 “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.

Writing a new post for Curatti about designing websites for MacGuffins. Will link here when published.

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