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Now and again you see a website so different to the norm that you can’t help but be intrigued. Lings Cars reverses perfectly in to that space.

The easy option here would be for me give the site a good going over with a usability stick, but I wouldn’t be the first to do that and quite frankly I don’t want to have Ling Valentine breathing now my neck and boxing me into submission....

Instead, what I want to hopefully do in this article is identify a wide range of persuasive, psychologically rooted design techniques that this website uses to a) build trust and then b) encourage you to hire.

Stay with me on this, I know when you first see the site you may well have a WTF moment and wonder how anyone would/could find their way around the site, but if you don’t know already Ling shifts quite a few cars over the course of the year: £35m in 2010 in fact.

Challenges with your first impression

When you first arrive on the site you have some ‘pretty significant’ challenges to overcome.

These may include wondering where the hell the search facility is, not having any indication of where to actually start or just simply trying to take in the variety of in your face banners, flashing icons and multitude of ‘click me now or else you’re doomed’ calls to action.

A really interesting and critical part to all of the content provided is that there is, in the most part, a specific reason why that content exists and is promoted. In a word, persuasion.

If for a minute you take the very concept of usability out of the equation, this site is absolutely packed with a wide range of persuasive design techniques which are quite clearly influencing thousands of visitors to hire a car from this website and not one of many others available at the click of the back button (presuming you can’t even face clicking on anything for fear of your computer blowing up, or something like that).

Trust and ways to build it

When you’re considering taking out a hire agreement, it’s not something the average consumer will do lightly.

It may well be the first time they have considered this route for their next car, and one absolutely critical ingredient for them to have the confidence to commit to a hire provider is trust.

Common hire terms are three or four years, and we’re not just talking about a small commitment in terms of monthly price or the purchase of a commodity item. Hiring a new car will for most consumers be the second biggest amount on their monthly overheads spreadsheet after mortgage or rent.

Pillars of building trust

Key pillars for how brands build trust online are:

  • Providing a professional, usable online experience.
  • Answering key visitor questions.
  • Providing transparency to the consumer.
  • Demonstrating social proof.
  • Providing industry recognition.
  • Showcasing personality.
  • Demonstrating recency of information.

In the next section I have detailed just some of key techniques that Ling Valentine and her team employ in order to build consumer trust in their brand and proposition online.

Persuasive techniques adopted to build trust and persuade visitors to buy

You can trust me!

Directly under the logo and business overview, there is the small but powerful statement ‘You can trust me! ... In 2010 I rented over £35million of cars (at RRP)".

Now this isn’t to say that all visitors will actually see this statement due to it having lost the ‘do what you can to grab attention’ battle many moon ago, but those that do will immediately get a sense of the scale of operation and amount of other consumers obviously hiring from this website.

Not just 1,500, but 1,500+ customer letters

In the primary navigation, there isn’t just a customer tab but you actually get some colourful confirmation of how many customers have chosen to write a letter, presumably thanking Lings Cars for a fantastic service and great hire price.

You won’t fall off your chair when I say social proof is a really important and powerful technique to help persuade consumers to do something, and you’re under no illusions on here that boy does Ling have social proof.

Live and kicking (your ass if you give me any sh!t)

If you want an example of a brand or in particular the person behind/running the brand engaging with consumers and prospects, Ling Valentine is fantastic.

Not only does this really bring out the personality of the brand (more on personality to come) but it clearly demonstrates that this hire provider is very much alive and kicking, compared to some quite soulless car hire company websites I’ve been on.

Bang up-to-date with the latest deals

More messaging that is contained within the homepage focuses on demonstrating that they are constantly adding new hire deals, with the aim of saying to visitors ‘if you want the best and latest deals, count on us to keep bringing them to you’.

I’m out – who needs the dragon’s money anyway?

OK so Ling has previously been on Dragon’s Den. You can’t beat a bit of name dropping to enhance credibility, and the carefully selected quotes from Duncan, Richard and Deborah plus their mug-shots, help to demonstrate some of Ling’s business acumen and charisma.

Did I mention personality already?

It’s all me me me and my larger than life personality

As the saying goes people buy people, and as you look round the site you are under no illusion as to who you are hiring from.

From the opening message ‘I live inside this website Monday to Friday 9am-6pm, to give you the very best service and make your experience a happy one! - I am Ling, accept no substitutes’ to My Cheapest Leasing Deals and ‘Hi! I am Ling Cheap Car Leasing - WAH! from Dragons' Den. I lease cheap new cars!’ not to mention the About Me tab in the navigation (adorned with some more creative treatment) the website screams personality.

Who said you don’t get anything for free?

Who would have thought you could get a free collectors badge from your chosen hire company? I’m not saying this will be a deal clincher, but people like free stuff and well, a collectors badge is free.

Who said hiring cars has to be boring?

I don’t know actually, but not just content with providing a plethora of distractions on the homepage, visitors can also spend time not browsing cars but actually looking at Fun Stuff from the primary navigation.

I wonder what other car hire companies would even consider providing any fun stuff for visitors, especially with a smiley face emblazoned too?

It’s a family business

You don’t just get Ling’s advice throughout your online experience. Hover over most of the car deals on offer and you also get baby Ling giving you some timely advice on which to buy.

In all seriousness there is of course no actual insights provided here, but it’s another element that delivers an experience that is rich in personality.

Understanding the true running cost

Along with the monthly hire cost, Ling also provides a cost for the true running cost per day. Clicking in to this area provides a whole page of information explaining how the cost has been calculated.

This type of additional information provides visitors with a much richer amount of information from which they can make a much more informed purchase decision. The word which sums up this approach is transparency, and it’s quite refreshing to see.

What you get for your money

Many sites still don’t provide the right amount of transparency when it comes to telling the consumer what you get for your money, but this is one of the areas where Ling tries to really deliver on, including jems like this “I send you a sexy first aid kit for your Mercedes A-Class glovebox (limb amputation size)”.

When will someone be there to help me buy?

Hidden within the content is at least information about when Ling is personally available, as well as a useful side panel providing visibility of who you chat live at the current time.

Due to the nature of what visitors are potentially looking to invest in I’m sure live chat will be a very important part of the customer journey for many prospects, and although its competing with many other elements it at least stays with you as you scroll down the (how feckin long?) pages.

Up-front restrictions

When you get to the stage of actually choosing a make and model, the product page for hiring a specific car is packed full of information.

One of the many elements are the ‘restrictions on this deal’ which is repeated throughout the page. One things for sure Ling is providing transparency, which if like myself consumers read down these product pages as you go through the decision making process you can’t help but see.

No hidden fees

Along with providing transparency around any restrictions for a particular deal, the website also provides details of any additional costs which on other websites may be ushered in the back door as hidden fees.

Along with many of the elements I am detailing you do truly get the sense that Ling isn’t going to con you in to a deal where you suddenly get presented with hidden fees and nasty surprises – a critical area for consumers to build and maintain that sense of trust prior to purchase.

Additional expenses clearly promoted

Without looking at other hire websites, I can well imagine that the additional expense to consumers if they go over the annual mileage limits won’t be that well communicated. Dare I suggest its an area where car hire companies regularly make extra revenue from their customers?

In keeping with the ‘all cards on the table’ approach for this website, once again there is no question that you are being kept in the dark, although ‘between 4 and 10p a mile’ isn’t the narrowest of ranges!

Price and value will continue to be a primary driver for many consumers

This website screams cheapness (I mean with the terminology goddamit, nothing else), so there is no denying that part of the strategy here is to demonstrate that you’re going to be getting a great deal if you hire from Ling.

Who doesn’t ‘want a cheap car leasing deal’? I certainly would.

3 + 35 =

Along with providing transparency of the proposition in spades, another key area that the website delivers on is answering potential visitor questions.

For the first time hirers, even down to understanding what 3 + 35 means has been given a straightforward answer.

Full menu of links to answers on…

At the start of every offer page, there is a sub-menu of links which allow visitors to choose what questions they want answering, from explaining prices to saying who can drive the car all the way to what happens when you want to return the car and what happens for MOT’s.

What happens if I click the beautifully bevelled, flashing ‘order now’ button?

So what happens when a visitor has read enough and has been persuaded to hire from this website? Well the main call to action is the flashing ‘order now’ button, but to many visitors clicking this is the equivalent of taking a leap of faith.

Lings Cars handles this by providing a panel ‘what happens when I press “order now”?’ four times within a deal product page, ensuring that visitors have every chance of seeing this crucial information as they are digesting all the information they are being presented with.

The wording used too also reduces the amount of commitment users have to make at this initial stage whilst providing the clarity of when they will make their final commitment.

How to visualise and get excited about BHP

Ling dedicates quite a big area within the ‘Questions, Questions’ section to telling the story of what you’ll be getting ‘under the hood’ with a particular car.

I love the photo of the engine, not to mention the personality being brought out with the likes of ‘rip-roaring turbo direct injection diesel engine!’ and "It has 6 cylinders and 24 valves. This means it kicks out 241bhp and torques (but no one understands what a torque is). Jeremy Clarkson would be proud of me!"

Recognising the purchase decision probably won’t just be made online

Along with the primary call to action area being repeated four times down the page, visitors also have the useful option of printing the current hire details for viewing offline, or sharing with others who don’t aren’t in a position to view the website (whether its their choice or not).

In some respects the printed version of a deal page provides a less intensive viewing experience, whilst still containing most of the key elements that the website provides. Long live printable pages I say.

Car or coronary? I’m Lingin’ it!

Another one of the aspects of a hire detail page is where Ling compares the daily running cost to a eating a few Big Macs, every day.

The clincher for me was knowing this doesn’t included the cost of fries. This is another superb example of Ling’s true personality in all its glory, and I’m Lingin’ it!

It’s all about the conversion baby

In amongst the plethora of information each product page provides, what is ultimately the primary goal of the site, to get visitors to choose to hire now, is regularly repeated down the page.

By regularly asking for the sale, Ling is aiming to catch different visitors at different stages of the understanding and consideration phase.

In some ways it reminds me of the new membership promotion page on this site, which also features an extremely long selling page, but never loses sight of what the aim of the page is for  - converting visitors to buyers.

So, would you consider hiring from Lings Cars?

I’m really keen to hear what people have to say about this website. The more time I spend on the site the more persuasive techniques I could have featured in this article, but it’s not exactly short already so I had to draw the line somewhere...

To summarise my thoughts, once you climb over the first hurdle of ‘wtf’ first impressions and actually find a potential deal you are interested in, the amount, type and style of information which is provided is quite simply a breath of fresh air.

Many, many retailers can learn a lot from the wide range of persuasive techniques on show here to encourage visitors to become buyers.

Now, if only a few more basic usability principles could be factored in, that would be something pretty special…

(This article is a follow-up to a previous post on how Booking.com deliver persuasive design practice. Paul is also the trainer for Econsultancy's E-commerce and Usability best practice courses.)

Paul Rouke

Published 21 February, 2012 by Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke is Founder & CEO at PRWD, author and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up with him on LinkedIn.

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Andrew Robinson

I'm a current lease customer of Ling, and I have to say, it's probably one of the most fun experiences I've had with something so routine as ordering a car.

I remember a colleague first showing me LINGsCARS back in April 2009, and we had a good laugh at how it looked. But spending more than a few seconds on the site, you can see the absolutely huge amount of information on it and, although the colours and animations border on seizure-inducing, everything is in a simple to understand, usable format and you can spend hours trawling through different cars, looking for cheapest deals, looking at the "camp" of current visitors and reading stupid letters from angry car manufacturers, brilliant!

Ling and her team are fantastic, you know if you have a query or problem that you'll get a reply within 10 minutes usually, and following her on Twitter, you can see her and her team are bat-shit insane but totally understand their business and their customers.

Just goes to show that best practice in usability, design and marketing aren't actually best practices to follow. Here, content and personality is king (or queen!).

almost 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

Great, comprehensive post, Paul :)

As you know the brilliant Ling very kindly gave me an interview last year. A couple of key quotes from that which I thought were important & make nice additions to the post here were:

"Assuming you can fulfil the service or goods supply that you offer, the biggest thing to get right is simply to emotionalise your offering."

"Most businesses are not big or good or well-financed enough to hit the big centre ground, so for goodness sake take an edge, and then you’ll pick up many centre-ground customers, too."

I love the site, & the mobile version's very much worth a look too!

dan

almost 5 years ago

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Craig Sullivan, Customer Experience Manager at Belron International

Yes - the other sites I place here are things like Craigslist, Techmeme, The drudge report, Even Amazon for some ugly but easy to use stuff.

Just goes to prove - it isn't about how it looks. It's about how it works from a customer and emotional perspective. If the outcome of the design is that people trust you to be cheap, explain things and give good value and social proof - then job done.

Nice to see something not airbrush perfect being expertly reviewed - there is too much vanity or ego driven design and not enough user driven stuff. I guess Ling says "Who cares if you like my design or not - it sells cars".

almost 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

I guess the big question is whether it would sell even more with a usability-driven design, or whether part of the magic would be lost.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

WoW! This article was written by Paul, after he asked me if I would mind - but I had no idea of the content, have not seen his words before now and I only supplied one or two financial figures to him, nothing more.

This is why I am surprised that I have been nailed. Wah! Paul has everything 100% correct. I have never said that before. :)

In my view, doing cars online is both easy and very hard. It is easy because, like on Top Gear etc, most people are entertained and interested by cars, and if you add a little humour it can be a world-class topic of interest.

On the other hand, the commitment is massive. This month (Feb 2012) so far, I have sold 18 Merc C-Class (to chose a significant car). That is a £30k car. Payments will typically be more than £12,000 of payment commitment over 3-years. Try converting and getting an order for £12,000 from a website! Therefore I have to try harder than most websites...

Yes, many people will take one look, or make one visit and leave, never to come back. Many people complain about retina burn etc. But, so what? I *HAVE* to polarise visitors, and get them to choose to stay or go. It's no good being average, no one would commit to £12k of payments over 3 years if I was average. So the argument that I get drop-off is very valid.

But a lot of my customers are "significant" people. I mean, they are CEOs, senior managers, Chief Inspectors, bank VPs, MPs, Air Vice Marshalls, senior Civil Servants, etc... not at all the people you would expect to be attracted by flashy gifs etc (but that's a superficial description, it is not just flashy stuff, of course). Talking to them in LINGO, these are really crazy people. Guess that says it all :)

Behind the scenes, that Paul hasn't seen (I don't think), is my LINGO system. A fully transcribed secure Facebook-ish type account page for every customer, where we discuss their car. I don't do email, phone or fax really (apart from when necessary) - I do LINGO. Fully typed out, indelible, nothing can be deleted. So everyone has a full conversation, no one can mislead or lie, and it's all https and EV'd. Responses on LINGO are usually within 5-minutes, and the customer is aware of my current average time. The same system (but visible only to me, not the customer) tracks my car dealer conversations.

Customer @r5haw said yesterday on Twitter "@LINGsCARS love #LINGO! You should patent it or something. Made the whole process of ordering my car so simple! No faffing on phone etc..." - Robert is a multimedia developer in Herts. Good, eh?

My website should also be seen in the context of competitors. Competitors make life easy for me by a) being boring, b) having little depth on their fairly basic websites, c) advertising cars ex-VAT in order to look 16% cheaper than mine, d) advertising cars with twice the deposit of mine in order to show cheaper rentals.

These idiot competitors are doing me a massive favour by presuming customers/visitors are stupid enough to think missing VAT off advertised prices (as you would for a business), means they pay less. I prefer to treat people intelligently and show all the costs in full. Who would commit to a car, having been misled?

Paul has got everything he says 100% correct. I'm just fortunate that no one in the UK motor trade will be bright enough to read this article and pay attention to his points :)

Thanks so much! Very happy to answer specific questions...

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Mark Bolitho

I've been waiting for this, Paul - nicely handled.

As a follower of Ling on Twitter I can certainly vouch for the ethos Dan mentions - highly entertaining, yet the right side of professional (apart from the toilet jokes and swearing!), and bags of personality.

She demonstrates a great understanding of the customer and the industry, and as we know, won't stand for anyone criticising the site without understanding the underlying message, which you have.

I particularly like the 'Are you ready to order yet?' prompt, something I feel should be wider used on e-commerce sites.

Her 404 page is genius, if you can find it.

Cheers,
Mark.

almost 5 years ago

Brian Clifton

Brian Clifton, Author, CEO & Web Metrics Strategist at Advanced Web Metrics

I can't help agreeing with Graham on this.

OK, Ling is successful with their current and bazaar approach, but there are huge opportunities being missed IMHO. I am sure a happy balance can be found...

Brian

almost 5 years ago

Ching-Har Wong

Ching-Har Wong, Marketing Development Director at ASOS

'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' but I would be fascinated to know whether Ling does any A/B or MVT

almost 5 years ago

Brian Clifton

Brian Clifton, Author, CEO & Web Metrics Strategist at Advanced Web Metrics

@Ching-Har: I am not saying it's broke, but probably only achieving small fraction of what it could do. That ain't the same thing...

almost 5 years ago

Paul Bidder

Paul Bidder, Managing Director at Colony Commerce

Loved this site for years. In so many ways it breaks the rules of what people are taught about design, yet it's the character and personality of Ling within the site that makes it so appealing.

A/B testing results would be great to see though for curiosities sake.

Long may Ling continue to succeed!

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Brian,... It is a "happy balance" :). Simply put, there are many car sales websites that are more, er, serious. I would say boring.

Please do not take the first impression of my website as a true judgement. No one buys a car on their first visit to any website. I provide a truly entertaining way of attracting visitors back, time and again, until they decide to buy. No one else does that. It is about gaining trust and then providing a way to deliver 100% digital service, while remaining personal.

Selling cars online is not about catching people who are in the market at the very time when they visit a website. That is a miniscule number of customers and it is very easy (but pretty daft) to concentrate on these “buying today” visitors … but that is exactly what other websites tend to do. That is one large reason why they fail to convert, online. They also do not allow visitors to participate, do not reward, do not entertain, do not communicate well, do not allow interactivity, online.

On the other hand, I take visitors (over weeks, months or even years of multiple visits – 50 visits is not uncommon) and create an emotional bond which makes their online choice to trust me and use me, very easy. They build up trust in me and my business and will then commit when the time is right for them.

I do view live online visitors, and often have live chats many times before people have the confidence to commit.

I need people to remember my site, that's a big motivator.

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Ben Thompson

Brian you are right but also wrong as I think you miss the fundamental reason for the hideousness of Ling's site

By being so "bad" the site has a viral element that no other leasing site has and has allowed ling to grow the site based on PR without the need for adwords or other advertising. You may be able to improve the return on each visitor but it would probably be at the cost of the total visitors to the site and hence be self defeating.

I should also warn you that Ling has a habit of checking here referral log and visiting new referral sites. Do not be surprised to see her visit in the next day or so.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Wong Ching Har and Paul,

I don't do A/B testing at all, but I do experiment with many things on my front page and other pages and if something pleases us (makes us laugh) I add it. But it's mainly gut-feel. I think if something is A/B'd to death it deteriorates into "what causes the least offence".

On the other hand if someone says (like with the dad's Army/Merc splash screen) "oh no, look what Ling is doing now to Merc" than it gets a lot of viral clicks.

I mean, if my site was A/B'd, would you be reading this, now?

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Jamie Hurst

Paul, this post is fantastic :D

It's great to see the website analysed in such detail, picking out the sections that Ling has arranged to provide info and reactions... I don't think anyone has sat there an produced such a comprehensive and in-depth look at each little morsel of insanity :)

I'm one of Ling's "world-class developers", so let me give you a quick insight into how we turn her mad-cap, amazing ideas into a reality...

I started working for Ling as a part-time developer back in 2007, when I was in my first year at university. One of the first things I learned was how un-important my university education was, and how much fun I was going to have working for the mad Chinese woman who sells cars! :)

We have a fantastic amount of fun in the office. Any crazy ideas that ANYONE comes up with are experimented with, and we spend the day doing a bit of coding, shouting at each other, throwing pencils and pointing webcams at replica robots. Somehow, in between all this, we manage to build LINGsCARS.

The website may look like it's just been thrown together over an afternoon, and every idea has just been chucked in, but we spend a massive amount of time choosing exactly where every GIF, every font, every colour and every piece of useful information should be presented.

We never leave anything alone. Ling wants the website to be as alive as possible, so every day we change tons of things to see whether we get more or less response with them. We never know quite what will work, it's more of a trial-and-error scenario than anything.

If we need to build a new feature or page, something that Ling wants a reaction from, it will take us a massive amount of time perfecting it, making sure we get the wording right to get the correct response!

Ling wants to sell cars, of course, but the main idea behind the site is to get a REACTION from everyone. If we aren't doing that, something's wrong. Apathy is our enemy, and the last thing we want from anyone visiting. We want the Marmite effect.

And for the 404 page, try: http://www.lingscars.com/typeanyoldstuffhere :)

almost 5 years ago

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Craig Sullivan, Customer Experience Manager at Belron International

@Wong Ching Har
Nice to hear your interest in these techniques is growing <grin>

@Ling

If you were doing A/B testing, your site might look just like it is now - but making more money.

You can't just rely on gut feel all the time - it really helps to know what fails, as well as what works. This helps you build a library of good and bad techniques to drive further lifts in sales.

My big takeaway is nobody on this thread, including Ling, actually knows the size of potential sales on the site. It's like an iceberg. You might be sitting on 10M or 30M of improvements but you'll never know unless you experiment.

Stop guessing, using gut feel and start testing. Ling - I'd be happy to run a test on your site for free, if you'd give me a tiny percentage of proved revenue uplift. I would work all the hours for nothing, so confident am I that I could increase revenue for you.

I'd take the job in a flash - even though there is evidence that your site is not 'as bad' as some design obsessed people say, it's clearly nowhere near as good as it could be.

Worst case scenario, you're all sitting on a local maximum problem here. The site does well - it sells lots - we're on a peak of a mountain - why bother? Because, above that cloud layer of the mountain you're sitting on, is another mountain. You just can't see it yet.

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for the comments so far. Just picking up on a few of the points raised..

@Andrew - it sounds like you must be one of Lings very happy customers, who completely bought in to what she tries to deliver online. Just some of the words you used include 'fun experience', 'huge amount of information' and 'content and personality are king'. I reckon this sums up their business philosophy quite well!

@Dan - thanks for the comments and the additional insights from the Q&A you did. I'll have to take a look at the mobile version - is is the same fun experience?

@Craig - thanks for your feedback. I do like your summary 'If the outcome of the design is that people trust you to be cheap, explain things and give good value and social proof - then job done.'

@Graham - do you never learn!!?! It sounds as though Ling has been in a good mood so you won't be getting shot down again this time!

Personally speaking, there is absolutely no doubt that more revenue could be generated with a bit more of the u word adopted, whilst still maintaing what makes the site such a success currently.

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Ling - I suppose I should be chuffed that I have nailed you!?! Wah!

In all seriousness thanks for your detailed comments which provide me and the readers with some very interesting insights about your business strategy, customer motivations and their time to buy period, and your LINGO system, which you are right in presuming I haven't seen as yet.

almost 5 years ago

Brian Clifton

Brian Clifton, Author, CEO & Web Metrics Strategist at Advanced Web Metrics

@Ling: you misinterpreted my input - then again it sounds like you have had quite a lot of "critique" in the past, so may be that was inevitable...

I am not saying be serious or be boring. I am saying take a look at the usability and accessibility on your site because I believe you are missing out on even more sales...

Brian

almost 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

I think Ling's point is applicable to other sites.

Most usability thinking is around 'make the site as painless to use as possible'. Ling's point is, 'if you make things actually pleasurable, people aren't fussed about a little pain anyway, so focus on the pleasure part'.

Matt Curry once wrote a great piece around fun in ecommerce (actually I think he called it goodwill). Ling's site essentially fills up the goodwill bucket to the point that *enough* people head for her site again & again rather than the bland competitors in the fairly commoditised market.

dan

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Sorry, I am just a bit busy this hour.

I will just quickly say that Jamie Hurst is my top IT person and that Dan Barker says exactly what I feel, except: I think there should be some pain. I want people jumping through hoops. If it's too easy, I spend my day fending off idiots who don't qualify for cars.

Try my "quote form", look how many variables:
http://www.lingscars.com/quoteform.php

Please choose my Zil 131 and then I'll know you are just testing. Feel free to go right to the end and enter LINGO.

Ling

almost 5 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Thanks for a brilliant article Paul,

The comment thread is interesting. I like Ling's approach - sometimes gut feel and learning from the conversations you have with customers is sufficient to bring 'success'. And you don't want to theorise the personality and uniqueness out of the site, that's counter-productive.

However, I also think Craig makes a good point. Testing doesn't mean killing the brand/voice/humour, it means finding ways to improve performance of the website and that can often be via subtle tweaks and changes, especially to user journeys and conversion paths. Testing should be complimentary to developing the brand, not used to replace it.

I don't think Ling has to ignore proven e-commerce techniques in order to maintain the fun and enjoyment.

That said, it's her party and if she's having fun and not concerned with potentially improving the profitability via testing for fear of compromising creative freedom, then I say fair play.

Thanks
james

almost 5 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

@Craig @James

Any thoughts on complications around the 'very long sale cycle' side of things from an A/B point of view?

dan

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Dan, Craig James,

This long sales cycle (front end before car order) is also often followed by a long customer maintenance cycle (waiting for the damn cars). Only today (20th Feb 2012), I delivered a Land Rover Evoque orderd by the customer in August last year. I recently delivered a Skoda Yeti that had been ordered for a full year!

To have customers in my LINGO system for so long shows how much work goes on, as not only are they frustrated with the manufacturer lead times, but I can't afford for them to buy anything else in the meantime. They are being bombarded with offers all the time. It's hard to keep their goodwill and loyalty. Remember - there is absolutely no money down at all, I do it all on trust. Customers can walk away at any time.

I often have over 200 customers in my system queueing for cars. Currently have 160. That will increase to 180/190 by March 1st.

Every customer gets communication every 4 days. It's a massive commitment to maintain long term customers, often without ever talking to them on the phone, all done online.

Luckily, customer service expectations with other companies is so low and dire (in and out of this industry), ... and with car dealers regularly lying to their customers as a matter of course ...that my system is viewed as the very best in the industry. I spend my days screaming at manufacturers and dealers to give me basic accurate info, So I can chat to my customers with good, useful details, often daily, usually every few days. It is a terrible industry in many ways in the UK (guess elsewhere too), and these issues are rarely discussed about the car industry. Good car dealers are rare and a godsend when I find them. Often depends on the people/staff, not the brand or name above the door.

I am well known for screaming at dealers, and I am very unpopular in the industry. The few good car dealers are gems.

That stuff does not affect my front end (discussed here), but ongoing customers are often forgotten and ignored. I spend at least as much time on them, than I do on the front end.

Ling

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Mark - thanks for your comments. Yep as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs I would never have reviewed this site purely from a usability perspective - it is so unique and the prospect > customer lifecycle so very different to more of the FMCG and fashion retail sites I spend most of my time working with, it would have been completely naive and blinkered to do that.

I also thought this article was the ideal opportunity to bring a bit of fun and personality in to the writing for a change, knowing at least Ling couldn't critisise me for that!

Oh and yes the 404 page is genius and in complete keeping with the rest of the site experience.

@Brian - you make a very good point that the site wouldn't need to lose any of its personality, fun and craziness by reworking some elements of the user experience.

@Paul - thanks for sharing your views of the site. For some brands like Lings Cars breaking the rules creates the opportunity to truly differentiate themselves, especially for transactions which as Ling mentioned are typically around £12k over many returning visits and lots of communication pre and post sale.

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Ling - thanks for your further insights in reply to Brian's comments.

In some ways you have encapsulated why your site can break so many basic usability principles yet continue to deliver a hugely successful commercial operation. The nature of what you are selling is in such stark contrast to what people generally think of when looking at e-commerce businesses, although the depth of prospect and customer understanding you and your team have is absolutely priceless.

Oh and yes, people sure remember your site once they have seen it!

@Ben - thanks for your input regarding the PR and marketing opportunities that the website provides for Ling. To reference a recent quote from Brian Eisenburg at Conversion Conference London, with the clients he works with, typically for every $92 spent on acquisition, only $1 is spent on conversion.

With the case of Lings Cars, this has been completely turned on its head, although what would typically be seen as conversion spend (split testing, MVT, user testing etc) is replaced with truly understanding customers and delivering the most memorable and marketable online experience available in their industry.

And then the clever bit - by doing this the conversion strategy delivers the primary acquisition strategy too!

almost 5 years ago

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craig.sullivan@belron.com

Ling - the offer still stands.

Paul and I are old hands at checkouts, forms and persuasive pages. Let's pick a micro test area (one form or a simple page) and run a test for you on there.

If it works well, we can do more.

My original point I'll reinforce. Nobody on this list knows what stuff might be acting as an emotional or technical barrier to sale here. Analytics, Clicktale and other tools can help you find the issues. Testing then lets you propose a solution and also tells you the difference.

If you could increase revenue by 10% (not hard in my opinion, for this particular site) - would it be worth running a few tests? Absolutely!

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Jamie - thanks very much for providing some information on what it is like working at the coal face! You are certainly succeeding in making the website feel as alive as possible, I don't know another site which contains anything like the amount and style of changing content that you deliver. When I was writing the article I was constantly surprised by the new elements that were being introduced.

Picking up on one of your comments, I wonder how many people can relate to both these things - "One of the first things I learned was how un-important my university education was, and how much fun I was going to have working for the mad Chinese woman who sells cars!"

Your final comment too I felt was really interesting - I can imagine you having a massive poster of a Marmite jar on one of your office walls... well that or WoMD :-)

"Ling wants to sell cars, of course, but the main idea behind the site is to get a REACTION from everyone. If we aren't doing that, something's wrong. Apathy is our enemy, and the last thing we want from anyone visiting. We want the Marmite effect."

almost 5 years ago

Paul Postance

Paul Postance, Profit Optimisation Consultant at t? ??????

Interesting article, its nice to see some more lively debate than the usual homogenous tweaking that goes on!

Not sure if Ling would agree but the discussion on design ethos and what might or might not be the best approach misses a key aspect which is the cultural context. Its been described above as ‘the hideousness of Ling's site’ but that’s viewing it from a local, parochial perspective.

Asian markets differ from Western ones in (now) well-known and characteristic ways. Here we favour simplicity and minimalism, whereas from an Asian point of view, complexity and ‘bling’ equate with value and authority. Not just my opinion I hasten to add, this is from direct experience at Yahoo and having lived in Japan before.

I don’t think Asian businesses are normally run by such a colourful figurehead though :)

almost 5 years ago

Ling Khang Lee

Ling Khang Lee, eCommerce Development Analyst at Bankwest

Some of the guys at worked showed me this website the other week and my jaw dropped!

1. This person shared the same name as me
2. I had the ultimate WTF moment
3. I was confused whether the site was actually effective given the claims posted.

All I can say now is that I have the utmost respect for Ling and her crew. I must agree with the other comments made that there could be more conversions if basic usabilty principles were put into practice, but I also agree with another comment that "if it ain't broken, why fix it".

Keen to see how this site goes in the future. Ling truly makes this site work by 'being human'.

almost 5 years ago

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Lizzy

I can't even drive but this has made me start following Ling on Twitter. what a legend!

almost 5 years ago

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Peter Davies

Having worked with Ling and her team for the past few years (and leased a few cars from her) I can guarantee that her service is brilliant, prices good - and her retention marketing is great fun and highly pursuasive. She is a PR dream - because she is genuine, authentic, sincere and has brilliant commercial acumen. The business works not just because of the digital marketing genius (and willingness to take risks - something sorely lacking in most digital marketers) behind it - but the fact that the team at Lings Cars live and breathe the brand - and that comes through to customers. Great work Ling!

almost 5 years ago

Ian Daniels

Ian Daniels, Head of Digital at Yard DigitalSmall Business

thanks for such a good article focusing on the huge amount of positives on the website! A lot that could be learned by many other eCommerce sites in there.

I'd also like to add that she's bang-on with the social media side of things too - I just tweeted a link to this article mentioning @LINGsCARS and it was RT'd within a couple of minutes! kudos!

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Massive thanks to EVERYONE who has RTd this (for what it's worth haha). I haven't RT'd everyone because that would just get repetitive.

I am being asked if I will take up Craig's offer... hmmm. This is hard. Because things are so hard to measure. Depends on the offers on cars etc.

Often I deliberately try to make things difficult, my car proposal form takes a full 5 minutes (but is fun), because I want to filter people. I don't want people applying cars lightly. This causes a lot of work... also, I want compliant customers who have got this far (past all the roadblocks), I don't want customers who spend their time refusing to use LINGO or complaining a form is not in 10pt grey helvetica. It's hard to say YES, Craig.

I am managing demand, I have 300+ car proposals a month (1/3 have cars eventually due to credit restrictions etc), 150-200 customers in my pot at any one time, and 40 quotes on cars a day, plus all the ongoing business stuff and general enquiries - so I'm not sure I want a race for volume.

My PPU is at the highest ever, due to the recession, I had to push margins up a bit due to the wait time on cars. I am constrained by physical car supply. I am constrained by deals available.

It's not simple.

Ling

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Craig - I'm liking your offer of services to Ling, although I don't think your current employers would be too pleased if you jumped ship to climb on the Ling army truck -)

Your cloud and mountain analagy is great too.. I expect to see photos of landscapes in your next presentation slide deck.

@Dan - thanks for your additional comments about the potential pain that some users face not being such a bad thing for this site. As an interesting comparison, my article titled 'Amazon relying on brand credibility rather than good usability' is an example of where the goodwill bucket starts off over-flowing so new customer pain points aren't conversion busters - http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/3777-amazon-relying-on-brand-credibility-instead-of-good-usability

@Ling - you make a brilliant point around how you ask for many variables to fend off idiots (or I like to call un-likely to purchase). Another article I wrote was titled 'Why asking for more not less can increase enquiry form conversions' which discusses this approach in detail - http://www.smartinsights.com/conversion-optimisation/form-conversion-optimisation/

Great touch with the 'Friendly name' field too (not to mention the purple firefox lady).

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@James - thanks for joining in the lively discussion. I agree with your comments - as I mentioned in one of my earlier comments there is absolutely no reason to lose the fun and enjoyment element (sorry whole creative approach!) by adopting a few more proven e-commerce techniques.

The interesting thing though is that as my article demonstrates, the website is following many of persuasive design techniques that constitute 'best practice for conversion', its just the way they are delivered isn't the norm (could that be the understatement of the day?).

@Ling - thanks for more extremely frank insights of the inner workings of your industry, your business and the sales lifecycle and challenges to get the sale when the damn cars finally arrive. Are you not in danger of putting too many of your cards on the table, having today seen that this article and comments have been picked up by some of your competitors?

@Paul Postance - thanks for getting involved and sharing your views too. You make some superb points about the cultural context, and I do like your last point -)

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Ling (the male one!) - good to see you also had the WTF moment! You're not the first and you certainly won't be the last...

I wonder how many other websites out there who truly make it work by 'being human' like this site?

@Lizzy - "I can't even drive...' - excellent, love it!

@Peter - thanks for your insights on what it like digging around helplessly looking for PR opportunities for Ling and her team!

Your comment on how 'the team live and breathe the brand' is much easier said than done but they certainly appeared to have this nailed based on Jamie's insights.

In all honesty have you worked with any other brands adopting such a unique approach out of interest?

@Nadine - thanks for your comments, I'm glad you found the article useful. Oh and yes Ling does appear to be a true advocate of building brand awareness, loyalty and live consumer engagement through Twitter.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

WoW! Another Ling! Ni hao, ni hao.

@Paul "Are you not in danger of putting too many of your cards on the table, having today seen that this article and comments have been picked up by some of your competitors?"

Have a free rant (hahaha):

====

Are you joking?? :) I doubt there is one motor industry business in the UK that has more than the first clue about how to interact online. All they do is take offline techniques and write them down on a flat, non-interactive website.

Most dealers in the UK will not even reply an email within 24hrs, let alone interact on a website. When you get their email, there is often 1,000 words of legal threats on the bottom about how the contents of the email don't represent them. They are mostly, idiots in the e-commerce, I am afraid. They are offline businesses, with "a website" (last update 2008).

My leasing competitors are fixated on price and offer illegal ex-VAT lists (because it looks cheaper) of cars with spitty, small, blurry, distorted images of cars.

And *ALL* of them use the dreaded "WE" word, throughout. ...does anyone know who "WE" are or is? It's like being spoken to by a committee or at best a hired-in 2-bit website coder.

They all leave you hanging with unanswered questions, and make lists of wonderful claims. In reality, the online service is universally crap.

===

Today there was a UK dealer conference run by Automotive Management in Coventry at the motorbike museum. Hashtag #AMDD . I did not attent because apart from being rubbish, they only allow "manufacturers and franchised dealers". Only a few dealers were online on Twitter during the event, very little SM discussion went on, nothing was streamed, they had people from Google talking rubbish, and in a blurry picture it looked like 20 bald-headed men eating mint imperials in a Travelodge. They asked people to "tweet in" questions, and they would read them out. There was one question asked. There were lots of companies like Autotrader's dealer development people flogging stuff. They pointedly ignored just about every tweet I made.

That's the UK Motor Industry. So, I'm not too worried. :)

===

My business model has always to be very open and very blatant. It's the only way to build trust. After all, everyone (within reason) of a sensible credit status is a potential customer.

Hope that helps :)

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Not many people know this... by the way, I also am boss of a company that sells UK clothes into China. (ie, the Chinese girls want a TopShop dress as worn by Kate Middleton etc). Middle class girls order them from all over China, and I supply, from UK retailers. I sell them in Chinese RMB and then draw back revenue from China in £££ (not many people can do that hahaaha). Margin is handsome. Currently turning over £3000 a week. It has been running 1 year.

I think you would call it coals to Newcastle, eh? :)

===

So, using that experience, I am developing a portal site to sell British goods in China, on the same basis. I will run fairly templated shops for British businesses (maybe big, maybe SME, maybe cottage) selling to Chinese middle class in RMB, drawing money back to UK in £££ once goods are received by the customers.

There are many tricks to China, like having full-time online sales girls to answer questions. EVERY customer wants to chat and ask questions (in Chinese of course).

Remember, the Olympics will do the advertising this year.

So, here's my pitch: If anyone has a business, or has interest in talking to me about selling goods in China, suitable for a standard-format e-commerce shop (no bespoke ideas, please) alongside other high quality shops (in a kind of loose trading group of branded shops), please email me at LINGsCARS (sales@lingscars.com) marking the subject "Retail to China". Just a few lines please, not war and peace, and give me your outline of goods to sell.

Remember you recover VAT as a quarterly refund, so VAT becomes margin.

Note, you need cashflow, as the payment cycle can be around 25 days.

Be interested to see if anyone has interest?

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Rachel Buck

Thanks for a truly fascinating post, brilliantly written and insightful. It's great to see someone pushing the conventions of web design, and with such personality.

almost 5 years ago

John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

Just a quick observation really - although it all sounds impressive... 35m of cars when, let's say the average price is £25,000, makes it about a four to five cars a day operation.

Which is actually quite small for a car finance company or dealer group (admittedly larger than a single-premises dealer, though).

Which leads me to suggest... not that it's not a good business, these kinds of ones can still be very profitable and well run. But that given all the publicity Ling has received, and the traffic she gets, and the positive press and PR... that, actually, she should be doing better.

So, perhaps, it's not as easy to say 'this is an example of a great site because it's quirky and different' but that Ling may be actually losing more custom by adopting this approach.

Finally, just would add that in the car trade, it's all about the 'deal'. No more, no less. Which means aggressive haggling with dealers in the supply chain (or possibly manufacturers) as well as securing the right underwriters is more important than the user-interface.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

@John "Finally, just would add that in the car trade, it's all about the 'deal'. No more, no less."

Nope, you are wrong. If it was all about the deal, either EVERYONE would use me, or NO-ONE would use me.

Why not simply open a website, advertise some good deals and sit back? You'd patently make a fortune :)

There is so much more to this business than the advertising front-end which is what Paul examined.

I don't want to take over the World, and have other businesses interests in UK/China (I described them in a reply here, but E-Consultancy have withheld it, why, I dunno). I think the business is more in looking to do business in China, not in the UK/Europe in the next few years.

I'm competing against massive manufacturers and franchise dealers and most are trying to stop me selling their product. Car supply is a nightmare. Car dealers are dropping like flies and going bust, as their cashflow overtakes them.

Why do I want to create a monster? I have £ 6-figs in the bank, no borrowing and no liabilities... yet I have >£5 million of new cars on order at any time without a penny down, with no risk, just based on my word. I think that is a better business model than being a franchised dealer.

:)

Ling

almost 5 years ago

Matt Clark

Matt Clark, Analytics / CRO Consultant at Userflow

Great article Paul, there are some elements of Ling's website which individually could be very powerful, but ALL together on one page perhaps sometimes makes things a little convoluted / confusing.

Ling's website is great at generating organic traffic through engaging and fun content, but I definitely feel there is big room for improvement in converting more of those users into customers.

(No offensive if you read this Ling, the website is definitely a lot of fun!)

Was interested to see some figures disclosed on Dragon's Den last year...

Unique Visitors per anum: 1M
Sales per anum: 1,200

Conversion Rate = 0.12%

(Source: http://bit.ly/zR0SHg)

I'm not sure what's typical for this sector, but the CR definitely feels on the low end especially when consider Ling already has pretty good brand awareness in this market, which is a big plus for conversion rate.

Think the key to improvement would be splitting out the functional (sales) parts of the site and the content (fun) parts of the site and ensuring that once users have being engaged by the brand/content there is a smoother journey through to sale using more traditional UX techniques.

almost 5 years ago

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Laure Moyle, Conversion and Insight Manager at Protect your bubble

"Thanks for a truly fascinating post, brilliantly written and insightful. It's great to see someone pushing the conventions of web design, and with such personality."
@Rachel- totally agree! :)
proof that there is room for radical experimentation on websites. That's what makes web related discplines a never dull area to work on! really brightened my day. Love it. Think outside the box, don't be afraid to play and test.
Wonder what the mobile site is like...got to go and check....

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Ling - I'm guessing thats a no then!!! Cracking rant if I ever I saw one, and your #AMDD tweets did make me grin it has to be said.

@Rachel - thanks for your comments, I'm glad you enjoyed the read

@John - thanks for sharing your views. When I read that I would have wagered a fiver that you would get a firm response! Although I don't have years of experience in this sector, if its like any others that I work in, the user interface of the website (and all that comes with it in terms of user experience, usability, proposition, persuasive elements, transparency etc) play a pivotal role in the success of that business.

I suspect that from the very detailed industry and consumer insights Ling has provided the user interface is pivotal to the success of this type of business too, however good the deals may be.

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Matt - thanks for joining in the discussion. Did you not know that the words 'No offense if you read this Ling...' is likely to land you in hot water!?!

Thanks for providing the stats and the video link, I'll take a look at that.

Out of interest at which stage would you consider splitting out the user experience between the fun and functional/sales parts of the site experience, knowing that the sales process does in fact start with the whole persuasive experience the site delivers?

As part of this article I didn't review the experience from when you click order now, although I have seen the first step of this and although its in the Ling style, it does appear to be following what I would say are many best practice techniques for enquiry form processes.

@Laure - I appreciate your comments, I'd glad you enjoyed the read.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Just to say, when people start to talk about splitting and altering, there are so many variables it is incredible. It is complicated. Multiple layers. So many, we need 425 tables in our mySQL DB. Like a spider's web. That's why so many other companies struggle - all the time you must regress multiple stages to keep it working as a small thing changes.

It's hard to know where functionality and UX divide... they are incredibly interdependent.

Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Killian McAleese, Copywriter at Open Plus Ltd

This is a great article and I must say, what a great discussion it has prompted. I would suggest that the trouble with 'best practice' is that the term implies that we can't do *better*. Does Ling ignore it and do better? Anyway, really great interactions here. It's been an education!

almost 5 years ago

Nic Windley

Nic Windley, Founder & Practitioner at eB2BLeads

Personality is awesome in business!! Everybody's too scared to be different or not to be seen as conforming to the standard. Corporate sure does suck at times....

almost 5 years ago

John Braithwaite

John Braithwaite, Managing Director at Ergo Digital

@Ling Funny, I thought you'd rise to the challenge... what you'll probably find is that you have some manufacturers (i.e. Mercedes) you're strong on, and some you're weak on. It's rare that any finance company has great offers across the board. It can even vary by model.

Not only that, but customers don't see all the offers in one place, so you don't have to have the best price on the web - you just need to be there or thereabouts (if you can).

What I am suggesting is that the evidence is not conclusive (either way) that your unique approach works. The motor trade is notorious in quoting big numbers, but given the low margin and high ticket nature of the items - large turnovers don't mean big operations or profitability.

So, all I am suggesting is that your turnover is not evidence that your site is better than a 'boring' one.

But, in the end, if I wanted a C-Class on a cheap contract, if your monthly figure was good, then it doesn't really matter what the site looks like.

almost 5 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

@Killian - thanks for your comments. As you say the article has certainly led to some great debate, commentary and very worthwhile insights of a customer centric business model.

@Nic - yes if you looked up personality in the dictionary of websites, you'd be sure to this one! Do you have any other examples of websites doing things completely different to the norm whilst also delivering such rich personality?

almost 5 years ago

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Rich Page

Great Post Paul! Very interesting website too.

While the site uses excellent principles to convey trust and persuade, many visitors will be gone within seconds just by judging the style of the website. Often websites like these were very common in previous years with many flashing banners all competiting for attention, which this site conveys to me. And there really are WAY too many things competiting for attention. Running a simple exclusion test to find out what actually influences conversion would be a great way to remove some of the clutter from this page and convert even more visitors.

I agree with Graham - there is no reason why the site has to look this way in order to convey the same points. I would argue that makeing it slightly more professional by changing color schemes and less 'hand written' styles would increase conversions even further. Perhaps creating an additional version website for more upper class and discerning visitors?

But Ling - I definitely applaud you for taking such a brave and novel approach to selling cars.

almost 5 years ago

Mark Slocock

Mark Slocock, Managing Director at GPMD

@ Paul - This is the best post I've read in a long time and the comments are brilliant.

@Ling - great to see you answering comments and giving even more insight into your business.

For me its clear you get the Customer Service right and that goes a long long way - too many companies are slow to respond and difficult to deal with. Good Customer Service is vital.

Couldn't agree with you more about the 'WE' this and 'WE' that (must check my own website!) seeing the person (or people) behind the company is a big trust builder.

Content is where alot of sites are weak, it takes time and effort to put together but is a key part of selling online. The transparency on costs is a breath of fresh air.

I would be fascinated to see if @Craig and @Paul could improve your conversion, even though it's clear your comments about not making it too easy are spot on.

If you do a small isolated test what have you got to lose? You can always back out if it doesn't work.

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

"@Great Post Paul! Very interesting website too.

While the site uses excellent principles to convey trust and persuade, many visitors will be gone within seconds just by judging the style of the website."

I agree!!! Those people who leave immediately are (I am afraid) discarded. My objective is **NOT** to be universally acceptable, it is to polarise, and the people who are polarised *IN* may become customers. The people who are polarised *OUT* will not.

That is life. There is no product/business that everyone likes, Apple is a great example of that. And they do OK, too. - Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Ling Valentine

@Mark "If you do a small isolated test what have you got to lose? You can always back out if it doesn't work."

--- my problem is workload. I am fully committed just maintaining current workload both cars, customers and IT. I don't dispute at all that it is probably very possible to attract more business, but I am not aiming for an optimised website (that is not my goal). My goal is a profitable business and a website re-write experiment would not fit in with that. My next big IT project is upgrading my server to a Xeon 50 million core thing with 24Gb RAM and more well written to handle volume of tough queries and to launch elements onto Linodes (eg front page/LINGO/price list queries that nearly take down the server etc) to reduce load. Server load/mySQL queues is my biggest enemy at the moment. I have already bought the server at Bytemark and am configuring the swap from current AMD Phenom 6 core 8MB ram platform with old mySQL and AMD optimised php versions etc (or whatever the hell it is, forgive my tech ignorance). - Ling

almost 5 years ago

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Doug Fentiman

@Ling "my problem is workload."

Rather than you viewing optimizing your website as just bringing more "work", I suggest testing and making website changes could attract a better "quality" of customer who would waste less of your time and take less work to process. You have already done some of this with your website "style" but you may be able to fine tune even more.

You could also find some good employees to delegate some of your processing or customer relationship work which would give you more time to do the promotional work you are so good at.

almost 5 years ago

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Andrew Pallett

Great post and some really interesting comments that make great reading!

It's also great to see Ling replying to some of the questions. No one is disputing the fact that the site and it's personality is successful - a quick search shows that a lot of traffic is coming from people searching for Ling directly.

I'd be interested to know what simple stats like the bounce rate are, and what they would reveal.

almost 5 years ago

Mark Slocock

Mark Slocock, Managing Director at GPMD

@Ling, "my problem is workload" I think we can all relate to that!

Running a business is tough and there are always 1001 things to distract your attention.

Thanks for the response, I have the same goal - a profitable business and for me that means not taking on too many projects at once. Clearly you have a big job in the server upgrade project.

By the way I use Bytemark as well and think they are excellent.

All the best

Mark

almost 5 years ago

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Ben Thompson, Consultant at Trackly Analytics

@Ling your issue with the database may mean that your web architecture is out of date. How often does the data really change because I reckon an awful lot of that database traffic is totally unnecessary if you used caching correctly.

almost 5 years ago

Aidan Cook

Aidan Cook, Owner at Original Online

Late to the "party", but Ling's personality-driven approach doesn't always do her favours. I had a couple of cars from her, gave her a testiomonial for the site and recommended her to a lot of friends and colleagues.

One of my developers followed my recommendation, and the site crashed his browser - he tweeted about the problem, and got a tirade of abuse from Ling including some directed at my agency.

So she lost a strong lead from my developer, any chance of business from the 40+ people in the office that I'd praised her to, and my repeat business and any further endorsements. Simply because personality overcame personal service.

over 4 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Aiden sent me poetry, bless him :)

=======

"Uk car leasing?
- Laughed at by Ling,
Department of Planning?
- Wound up by Ling,
Google's China censoring?
- Chastised by Ling,
The new car I'm driving?
- Supplied by Ling,
The look on my face?
- Smi... Ling!"
Aidan Cook

=======

I seem to remember your developer was particularly awful to me and then my reply comments were taken entirely out of context. I explained that to you at the time. But I don't see why I should take crap, from anyone, Aiden (even your developers). Many things I do on my website are very unusual/difficult (for example my prison camp site map) and no one else even tries to do that, so of course there may be occasional browser crashes. Firefox memory issues are a big problem, for example. Anyone pushing the limits of development will find that may happen occasionally. I am trying to offer a fantastic web experience and sometimes I have to realise that software cannot cope, and wind it back.

Also, due to the complications of fronting so much data, queries can be complicated/heavy and mySQL queues can build etc. Occasionally tables lock, especially if traffic is high and people are clicking on big stuff.

But I refuse to take abuse from people (even your developers), I don't see why I should simply allow people to publicly diss me, because they work for a customer. He didn't choose to email me, he went public on Twitter. If he does that, he should realise he may get a public reply.

Most people can make their own minds up about me, most people have their own minds, they don't take instruction from their employers where to buy/source cars from.

I never criticised your company, the comments to your developer were entirely mis-read in Twitter (I think he was trying to escalate it anyway), I clarified them... it is very hard to get everything you need to read perfectly in context in a reply to a 140 Char Twitter message.

Keep your developers on a tighter leash, I think, especially when they are Tweeting from work.

Ling

over 4 years ago

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Ling Valentine

"Ben Thompson

@Ling your issue with the database may mean that your web architecture is out of date. How often does the data really change because I reckon an awful lot of that database traffic is totally unnecessary if you used caching correctly."

===

Ben, you may be correct. I am doing my best to imporove the architecture etc, but my website built organically and is never a static thing. We are constantly churning it up as we attempt new stuff. I take a pragmatic view - it will never be perfect, it is designed to make money (not to be a perfect coding exercise), and user experience is what counts.

Jamie, my head IT chappy is contantly moaning about the impossibility of what we do. I tend to throw more resources, just got Xeon server with 26GB ram for example. Need to offloiad some work from the server, but aaaaagh... workload! hahaha

Ling

over 4 years ago

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Jeremy Young

The photo of the blue "Touareg Diesel Motor" is actually a 8 Cylinder Performance Marine Engine which was stolen from our website or an article at some point. Don't really care if they use it but credit would be nice.

over 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Ling Valentine

@Jeremy Young

"The photo of the blue "Touareg Diesel Motor" is actually a 8 Cylinder Performance Marine Engine which was stolen from our website or an article at some point. Don't really care if they use it but credit would be nice."

===

Have you reported it stolen? If you give me the engine number I will check. If you want me to replace it with a different stolen engine image, please advise. :) The image of Jeremy Clarkson is a fake one, though. I stole one, then I discarded it as I thought the fake one looked better.

Ling

over 4 years ago

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Aiden Redhill

I do a decent amount of vehicle leasing for my company, with a fleet of around 120.

I have to say that I was put off completely by LingsCars for the following:

1) Cheap Website, did not convey that I could trust this company - I just kept thinking I was going to get robbed.

2) Personality - I am a business person, and I expect professionalism - Ling couldn't offer me that. Now that's just me, not everyone is the same, but that my taste.

I think I prefer websites like Leasingoptions...it just conveys more trust.

As I say, that's just me. No disrespect meant or intended.

over 4 years ago

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Ling Valentine

Aiden, sorry for the delay in replying :)

I mainly deal with personal customers small businesses and not medium/big corporate companies with fleets. So your company is absolutely not the market I am aiming for. You see, if you wanted many cars from me, you would want to squeeze my margins, and I refuse that to happen in the current climate. I want my margins to increase. Also, I don't have resource to support fleet clients with any vehicle management duties. I don't want those costs. I prefer dealing with individuals and giving them the very best service.

I used to deal with Leasing Options, I was their biggest broker customer. But, after the financial crash, finance companies restructured and middlemen like them were squeezed, contracted substantially, reduced staff, and the trading relationship reduced to nothing. They could not offer me the deals in the end. Nowadays, I don't pass them a single car order. Their IT and web support was like trying to push water uphill, always 5-years behind what I do. Having said that, they are very nice people and are trustworthy and decent.

So you need to realise I am not looking for your business Aiden :) And you don't want entertaining... getting cars is your job. But, I take your points about my website, of course your opinions are valid.

- Ling

over 4 years ago

Seema Kumari

Seema Kumari, Head of Digital Marketing at Hearst Magazines

Wow what a refreshing read! Well done Ling for thinking outside the box and making a bold move with the design. Keep up the good work but do try A/B testing! I'm so curious to see how your site will convert if it followed the standard best practice principals.

over 4 years ago

Ling Valentine

Ling Valentine, Boss at LINGsCARS.com

"Ultimate Car Leasing" are spammy people. Some companies really can't help themselves posting utter rubbish (comment above in name of "Business Car Leasing") to spoil everyone's experience of reading this article.

They are desperate for their URL to be listed by google associated with this high-value page and EConsultancy's web site.

Cowboys and idiots - Ultimate Car Leasing. Their website has no contact info or company info, no T&Cs, no Privacy info. The domain seems registered generically. Is that a company ANYONE would want to deal with?

This dodgy company has proven everything Paul Roake has written above is true.

Ling

over 3 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Ling - sorry about that, must have slipped through the spam filter, comment now removed.

over 3 years ago

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