The star of last week’s Future Of Digital Marketing (FODM) conference in London was undoubtedly Ling Valentine. 

She had the audience in stitches several times during the presentation, but there were some valuable lessons from Ling’s approach to ecommerce and especially customer experience. 

The Ling’s Cars website may look crazy, but there is definitely method behind the madness, as Ling explained in her presentation. 

First of all, in case you haven’t seen the Ling’s Cars website, here’s a screenshot of Ling Vader: 

In her presentation, Ling explained why she opted for such an eccentric website design, and why she has been successful to date. 

In a recent guest post, UX expert Paul Rouke explained why the site is great at persuading visitors to buy, but here are three key points from the presentation: 

Dare to be different

As Ling explained, first time visitors to the site will either love it or hate it. With the former, she has a good chance of persuading them to purchase, while she doesn’t care about the latter: 

They’re boring, and I’m not interested in talking to boring people.

There’s no denying the fact that the site stands out, and this fact alone has generated almost as much publicity as her Dragon’s Den appearance back in 2007. With a more sober site, few would have heard of her. 

Clarity of information

Leasing a car, and spending £250 a month or more to do so, is a serious commitment to most customers, and one thing Ling’s Cars does so well is to explain the charges and the steps in the purchase process. 

There are no hidden charges here, everything is explained upfront, why is crucial for building customer trust. 

For example, Ling spells out the £150 + VAT fee, and explains what happens next after users press the order button:

As Ling herself said, in a comment from a previous post: 

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?

Customer focus

Ling is very focused on customer service. There are live chat options all over the site, so customers can contact Ling or her staff with any questions about the process. 

A lot of the sales work goes on behind the scenes, in the LINGO system (you can see a screenshot of this in the video). There’s an account page for every customer, where customers can discuss their car and the potential purchase.

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 five 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.

The Future of Digital Marketing 2012 Keynote by Ling Valentine