Measuring time in bananas

An old movie was on TV the other day, and the story came to a halt when the main character started dialing a rotary phone.

It was painfully slow. Halfway through the second number, I was shifting in my seat.

Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh TAP tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh TAP …

I kept thinking, "They have to cut away from this, right? Surely we’re not going to have to watch this person dial the entire phone number."

A banana a day …

I was thinking about that old phone while I was in the shower the other day (stay with me), and I remembered these bananas I saw on Twitter:

Bananas packaged every day

The original tweet by @AskAKorean has been removed, but these are bananas sold by E-mart in Korea.  Each one is at different stages of ripeness. You buy a package of bananas and every day you have a perfectly ripe banana waiting for you. Brilliant.

Buy these bananas and:

  1. It saves you time in the store. Everyone has stood in front of the banana bin, sifting through bunches of bananas that were either too ripe or too green.

  2. You waste fewer bananas. You no longer have to scarf down half a dozen bananas over the course of a couple of days before they go bad. One banana a day — it's guilt-free, banana-bliss.

  3. Meal planning is easier. It’s dead simple — Just pack a banana every day for lunch, and shop once a week. This a nice win for the grocery store: They take credit for streamlining a tiny bit of your day, and they make more money by encouraging customers to eat bananas on a regular basis. (Banana subscription, anyone?)

But I want to focus on benefit #1 — saving customers time.

Going bananas for customer research

(There may be more banana puns to come. I'm so sorry.)

Whatever company came up with this banana-a-day idea must have studied how customers buy bananas. They looked at the barriers to purchase and presumably found things like:

  • The bananas aren’t ripe enough.

  • The bananas are too ripe.

  • The customer has purchased bananas in the past, but they’ve had to throw out bananas because they bought too many before they went bad, so they rarely buy bananas now.

  • Bananas are part of a much longer process (grocery shopping), which means customers have often already made so many choices by the time they get to the fruit aisle, they can’t be bothered with spending 30 seconds deciding on bananas.

Now imagine the conversation the designers had with the powers that be within Bananas R Us. I don’t know the real numbers, but it could have gone something like:

Designer“The average customer spends 25 seconds choosing bananas, and 24% abandon before completing a purchase. Our research suggests this new banana-a-day product will save customers an average of 8 seconds, which will decrease abandonment by 19%.”

Executive“That would be about a 5% increase in sales. Go for it.”

Designers at the phone company had a different conversation.

Now let's go back to that rotary phone.

It takes about 13 seconds to dial a seven-digit phone number using a rotary phone. I imagine the conversation — at least for a while — went like this:

Designer“Touch-tone phones can save customers 9 seconds every time they make a call. We should build touch-tone phones.”

Executive: (Blank stare) “Go back to picking new colors for next year’s phones.”

Who cares about saving customers time, right? How does that make a phone company more money?

Ring … Ring … Your content designer is calling …

For anyone working on the web, the conversation often sounds similar:

Designer: “We can make the site load 3 seconds faster if we remove some of these carousel images. Our research shows few people ever see them or click to view them.”

Executive: “3 seconds is nothing. And the CEO likes those photos of smiling people on the home page.”

But a few extra seconds on the web is like dialing a rotary phone. And we don’t see many of those around these days.

Your content is a service. Your customers aren't just comparing that service to competitors in your industry — they compare the experience to all other digital experiences. That means they compare your website to posting a photo on Facebook, depositing a check through their banking app, and finding information through Google.

Here’s a (rather rough) translation of Lee Jin-pyo, a fruit buyer for E-mart, commenting on the banana-a-day product:

Even if the taste is good, products that are difficult to eat like coconut are not easy to reach. I will show more diverse ideas by listening to the inconveniences of consumers.

What about you?

Is your organization offering your users bananas or rotary phones?


Kyle Bowen