Steep and Cheap, Now Even Cheaper


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Updated October 9th, 2009    

If you’re online as much as I am and wishing you were offline, knee-deep in some powder at Vail or ripping around on your mountain bike in Moab then you’ve probably heard of the suite of websites at Steep and Cheap. They operate much like those shopping network channels (secret addiction of mine, please steal the remote from me when I’m sitting on one of those channels) where they sell one item for twenty minutes or until they run out.steepandcheap-logo

I’ve been using this site over the past couple of years and have successfully bought a pair of sunglasses, snowboard bindings and some googles all for more than 50%  off their retail price. However, it was only recently when they added a few additional site features that made me become even more endeared (read “addicted”) to them.

These three changes, with the last being an innovative web marketing idea, are all brilliant.

1.Individual Quantity Drill-down for each Color and Size

steepandcheap-product-qty-bar-graph

Quantity listed for each color and size

They used to show you just the total quantity left for the item. Now, they offer their users a small image of the item in the corresponding color with a bar graph showing that items color and size remaining quantity. Underneath the graph they even offer the total purchased and total available.

This small change allows for users to easily identify their color, size and quantity remaining. This is the small, big thing.  It allows Steep and Cheap to put up more “Sold Out” images and dwindling graphs that encourage users to act now before “it’s gone.”

2. Time Remaining

They used to show a stat called “Sellout Rate” which would tell you have fast they were selling the listed item. For example, “1.3 per minute.” For most users this is too much math to figure how much longer the item will stay available. Steep and Cheap was just simply converting the time the deal was up by how many items they had sold. Since the deal would remain up for a certain maximum amount of time or until all the items were sold, the sellout rate really only hindered people from feeling the need to jump in a purchase that item right away.

steepandcheap-time-remaining-qty-graphs

Time remaining tick down bar graph

So they replaced it with a time remaining bar graph that changes color from green to yellow to red as the time ticks down. This allows users not interested in this auction to know how long until the next. This allows the current user who are interested in the deal to read some reviews, do their research and then get the deal before its gone, much like the time limit attached to online ticket sales which helps you feel more comfortable with your purchase. No buyer’s remorse. But, the engineering behind this is also intelligent. If the item isn’t selling you can just quickly add a few minutes to the clock to adjust to the sell rate. And with the total quantity graph placed right below the time remaining graph the user can easily see if they should add to cart before the quantity hits zero.

3. $1 Deals

Introduced just over two weeks ago, the $1 deals have added traffic to the site, refreshed the site to its loyal users, increased word of mouth marketing, offered a great value to their customers for a very low cost to their bottom line and inserted even more excitement into their online shopping experience.

The secret that Steep and Cheap uncovered is that their best assets are their current customers. Probably, like myself, most users have bought more than one item. With $1 Deals you are targeting the already converted with an even sweeter proposition, you’ve made loyalist out of just average shoppers, pushing more people into advocates and die-hards.

Now offering $1 Deals

Now offering $1 Deals

A few times each weekday the page flickers, the favicon in their open browser tab flashes yellow and a leftover item they couldn’t sell goes for one dollar. They offer a few colors and sizes, but honestly, its sold so fast it’s hard to even click over fast enough to see what you’re buying. But at $1, who cares? Its a steal no matter what it is!

$1 Deal traffic spike

$1 Deal traffic spike

They sell a few items they couldn’t previously get rid of for next to nothing and gain the equivalent to the Black Friday doorbuster crowds everyday. These $1 Deals encourage users to sign up for an account and stay logged in so they can quickly process through checkout for the $1 items. This also leads to a lower overall effort required to sell other items since users already have an account AND are signed in. These deals encourage users to keep the Steep and Cheap website open all day in an easy-to-reach browser tab.  With a nifty yellow flash of the favicon every user gets a notification to the deal and Steep and Cheap drives more traffic to their site. And the proof is right there in front of you. These two screenshots were taken not 10-seconds apart. The first one, right as the $1 Deal goes up shows 9,060 people on the site. This quickly jumps to more than 13,200, over 4000 new visitors in a matter of seconds.

Small changes to design and knowing their customer has increased the user experience and brand value.

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