i’ll buy Water Works for $150

February 16, 2017

It is February, but still hot as jalapeno in Sydney. One of the lingering memories of Christmas are the games of Monopoly that are an annual ritual in our family. My current strategy comes down to making the right deal with another player at the right time, and keeping my toes crossed when rolling the dice towards the end of the game. If you’ve ever played the game, you’ll remember that some cards are worth a lot more than others and that one of the cards is the Water Works card, which nominally makes you responsible the entire water supply of London, Sydney, New York or whichever flavour of Monopoly you’re playing. It’s not a glamorous job, you’d rather own a five-star hotel in a smart part of town, but at least you can say you’re contributing to the welfare of your fellow citizens. When there’s clean water flowing through the pipes, we’re all happy. When the pipes get blocked, it’s time to get the plungers and coathangers out.

unblocking the drains

Funnily enough, being responsible for drains when it rains is not a whole lot different from being responsible for a website. You need to ensure enough stuff comes in the top (water or visitors) and that plenty comes out the other end (water or leads or sales). Websites that we’re called upon to assess are generally failing somewhere along the way to deliver the required results. So we turn into Ant-Man and map out the pipes to see what’s wrong.

Here are some pipes we mapped out recently for a company selling customisable products. (This company happily takes orders over the phone or via resellers as well but it costs them more to process such sales.) The numbers in the ‘Arrivals’ column represent website users during a particular period of time:

1Home page9,891100%
2Product detail page3,85739%
3Add to cart2958%
4Register page25988%
5Customisation step 16927%
6Customisation step 23043%
7Payment information2790%
8Payment confirmation1348%


the groceries go in the fridge

The first thing that struck us is that only 39% of visitors were actually looking at the company’s products. This is symptomatic of one or both of the following problems:

  1. The wrong sort of visitors were coming to the website. They came; they saw; they left. Perhaps they expected something different. It’s like trying to put whole cabbages into the water supply: they belong in the fridge instead.
  2. The visitors were getting put off, bored or confused by the website and left before visiting a product page. Not a good start when you’re trying to sell something.

As you can see from the second row, only 8% of the people that viewed a product felt strongly enough about it to buy online. (There was no evident “best price guarantee” for online purchases.)

The second largest blockage is evident in row 5. As soon as the visitors were asked to provide their personal details, 73% of them got cold feet. A rethink of the user interface and a reduction in the amount of data being collected until later in the process would be worth considering.

The next obvious area of concern was the payment page (row 8) where half the visitors decided that they didn’t want to pay online and either took their enquiries offline or walked away completely, perhaps to return some other day.

While this is just a quick overview of what’s involved in cleaning your pipes, I hope it prompts you to have a poke around too. As you can see, it can be quite a rude awakening when you have the correct measurements in place and look at them for the first time, but it’s also the start of a new era. And like in Monopoly, the stewardship of the Water Works is most valuable in the second half of the game, when you’ve been running for at least a month with a wad of traffic and have enough data to distinguish between an outlier and a cabbage. Happy plumbing!

(If your pipes are clean and wide, why not throw some more water in by increasing the effectiveness of your Google spend?)

Marcus Crowley/Head of Digital

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