Surprise is the Key to Delight

One can spend years refining the color and shape of a single button to maximize clicks. Some companies focus solely on making sure that the User Experience (or UX as it is abbreviated) is as frictionless and as easy to navigate as possible. But the truth is that no matter how much a website is tweaked, the old maxim is true:

You can’t please everybody all the time.

– Abraham Lincoln, probably

Before developing a website, keeping it current, and driving customers to it, you have to first add value to the lives of your customers. You don’t have to be at the top, you just need to keep people happy. If customers find value in the total package you offer, then you’ll win hearts. And minds. And money.

One way to continually add value is to provide something unexpected. Small or large, good surprises have a positive psychological effect. The occasional unexpected treat conditions the mind to look for surprises, and to do so with eager anticipation. These bonuses can be tiny. While it is mundane now, not long ago children throughout the United States became accustomed to receiving a sticker or balloon during each trip through the bank drive-thru. While these little gifts might have cost the bank fractions of a penny, it gave busy parents a priceless respite from children complaining about one more stop.

Travel website Hipmunk offers the ability to sort flights by “agony.” Because they know that travel is a pain, and that travelers may pay more to get a flight with less pain. Another great example is KLM, the Dutch airline that offered Monday’s Mystery Tickets, allowing travelers the option to buy a ticket without knowing where the flight would take them. The tagline was “Book Monday. Fly Friday.” How many actually bought the trips? Probably only a handful. But I’m telling you about a Dutch airline from the middle of Kansas, and that’s the kind of word-of-mouth your bookstore needs.

Kenton Hansen

Technical Co-Founder Kenton makes digital things. He is a technologist and has had his part in a few startups including software, advertising, and client services. @KentonH