How can you intrigue customers and keep them coming back? This is the top concern for most startups and small businesses.
It’s challenging and expensive to constantly generate new products. If your product is long-lasting it may be months before your customers need your products again. Will they remember your brand when it’s time to purchase again? Will they find another product in the meantime?
Another hot topic in ecommerce is personalization. 62% of online shoppers want more personalization, but in 2020 customers are also more guarded than ever about privacy.
Ecommerce Easter eggs can solve all of these problems and more. They are a way to show your customers how well you know them without overstepping. Digital Easter eggs make using your site more fun, interesting, and enjoyable.
A little Easter egg history
For some people, the meaning of Easter egg is pretty simple. They’re the decorated eggs that people hide and find on Easter. But anyone who has seen or read Ready Player One knows about the digital Easter egg in the Atari game Adventure.
Around 1979, Steve Wright, the Director of Software Development at Atari used the term to describe a hidden message from Warren Robinett in a game he designed. Since then, the most common meaning of the term Easter egg is a message, image, or feature hidden in media like websites, video games, and movies.
An Easter egg adds some mystery to life. It takes you on an adventure without any real risk. Easter eggs offer surprise and delight where everyday mundane tasks reign. They let you create a secret response based on the specific path any user takes on your website.
Easter eggs and security
You may not think that Easter eggs have a place in ecommerce. They are less common now than they were five or six years ago. Many companies feel that Easter eggs could act as a back door and pose a risk to security. Steve Jobs banned Easter eggs from Apple and several other companies have stepped back from including them.
In 1997 the updated Microsoft Office suite included a flight simulator in Excel and a pinball game in Word. Microsoft was known for many years for inventive Easter eggs in their programs and software. This practice stopped in 2012 because it was that felt Easter eggs can undermine trust.
That said, Google is well known for its many Easter eggs. Try searching in Google for the term askew. Or click “I’m feeling lucky.” Hit the spacebar the next time you search on Google with no wi-fi and watch what that cute dinosaur does. Google makes an exciting environment for users on their platforms every day with Easter eggs.
It’s true, Easter eggs are an untraditional surprise. This means that your site won’t always work the way users expect it to. Building trust is important. It’s also important to stay alert and monitor your Easter egg. You also won’t want to add your egg to a spot where security is important, like the checkout of your site.
An Easter egg can also be a way of showing your visitors how hard you work to make your site great. From Dan Sandler, a member of the Android smartphone software team:
“It helps establish software as an art form, following in the footsteps of painters and musicians and craftspeople sneaking little jokes and references into their work for literally centuries.”
More great examples of Easter eggs
Google isn’t the only site out there with great eggs. Check out these popular sites and Easter eggs:
Have you taken a close look at the rating for the movie This is Spinal Tap? These go to 11.
Scroll over the image on this page for an Easter egg within an Easter egg.
Disney and Pixar
More than a few animators are alums from a school known for its animation program. If you see the number A113, chances are it’s a reference to a room on the Cal Arts campus where students take graphic design and animation classes.
There are too many sites and videos listing Stan Lee cameos to count. Alfred Hitchcock did this too. People worship these two because of their role as creator.
Tesla eggs include Romance Mode, Santa Mode, and Emissions Testing Mode. Emissions testing is for mature (or immature?) users only.
Ecommerce Easter egg best practices
Using Easter eggs is just as tricky as using humor for business. To help you make the most of this technique, let’s run through some best practices.
Know your audience
And know them well. Gamers are most likely to be into ecommerce Easter eggs. With your tech-savvy customers, an Easter egg may even be something that they expect. This strategy may not be such a great idea for customers who are in a hurry. It will also flop with a customer base that is less than comfortable with technology.
Make sure your Easter egg is mobile-optimized since people are spending more time than ever on mobile devices. You’ll also want to use your Easter egg to build a stronger relationship between your business and the people who use your site or digital products on a regular basis.
Make it just hidden enough
It has to be a challenge or it loses the fun. If you’re stuck for ideas, try some Oblique Strategies. Also, let some people in on your secret. Tell just a handful of people that are likely to share.
Use pop culture
People love cultural references, so find a way to connect your ecommerce Easter egg to popular culture references in your niche. The more specific the better.
Think about sharing an inside joke with your community. It’s tough to use humor in a professional setting, but an Easter egg can boost shares and the feeling of being part of your in-crowd.
Give it a start and an end
Your Easter egg shouldn’t live forever. You want people to remember it, it shouldn’t be the only reason for extra traffic to your site. Give your Easter egg a specific time limit and if it’s popular, give people a way to revisit it. Think about how you can bring them back to your site in new ways.
Ecommerce Easter egg ideas for your site
If you think about it, the golden tickets in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory are another kind of Easter egg. The brand was fading from memory, but the excitement of the search for golden tickets made customers buy more chocolate bars.
People paid more attention to the different kinds of chocolate bars that Wonka made in hopes of getting just one of the five tickets into his factory wonderland. Ecommerce easter eggs can be useful for word-of-mouth, press, and advertising.
So what will your golden ticket be? Let’s talk about some ideas.
Your eggs can be as simple as a name or image popping up when one of your customers scroll over a specific point on the screen. Easter eggs can also be complex- prizes, secret codes, even the unintended consequences of a software bug can function as Easter eggs, though we don’t recommend that last one. If you have some coding experience, you may want to play with these instructions.
An Easter egg can also be a bonus feature, something unusual and worth the effort. It should give your customers something extra. You want to offer something they’re not expecting but it should be valuable.
Hide an image in plain sight
Add an image of your new product to an ad for a best-selling product. This is a way to give people that are paying attention a sneak peek of what’s coming next.
Audio and visual effects
Add a noise that goes off when someone lands on a specific page. Create a pop-up infographic when a visitor has clicked a set number of pages on your site or read a set number of posts on your blog.
Clicking just the right point in a page can pull up a hidden page to share new and interesting information about a product.
It costs more to place ads in some parts of the world than others. So, you may want to create an Easter egg for a state or region in lieu of advertising. If you have a product line that is popular with customers in a specific area, add an Easter egg to a blog about that product for extra awareness.
Rain or shine
The weather is important. Connect with customers tired of the rain or preparing for a snowstorm with a clever Easter egg about the weather.
Make a boring chore fun
Is there one link or action on your site for customers that can get a little dull over time? Use an Easter egg to make a regular task more enjoyable and provide a welcome interruption in the day.
Interrupt choice fatigue
Have you ever spent so much time looking at products on a site, so excited by the options that you can’t make a decision? An Easter egg can interrupt that process and help your shopper act. One idea to try, add an unexpected image or GIF with a multi-image bundle offer if someone visiting your site clicks on five or more products.
Make lemonade from a dead-end
Custom 404 pages are another great spot for ecommerce Easter eggs. You may not want any 404s on your site, but this is a great place to experiment with new ideas.
Create an egg hunt
Try an online egg hunt for discounts and sales. An egg hunt can get visitors to sections of your site they may not visit otherwise.
Also, most people scan rather than read when they’re on a website. Giving your users a specific set of tasks on your site, in addition to shopping, could help them notice details in your product descriptions and product offers that they might miss otherwise.
With just a few lines of code, Easter eggs can increase engagement and draw new customers to your site by word of mouth.
A digital Easter egg can put your users in a new frame of mind, and recent research suggests that novelty can make people more open to seeking a reward. Could that reward be making a purchase on your site?
Jana Rumberger is a writer and content manager for Selz ecommerce. She has expertise in strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, creativity, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.
In addition to her writing, she is an active visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.