Canoeing with Stephane (Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 2))

The iMedia Brand Summit has kept me a little busy, and I do keep my promises.

One of the folks I asked about Sentiment Analysis prior to writing Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) was Stephane Hamel. I asked Stephane for a site I could analyze without my knowing anything about their strategy, demographics and such. Stephane suggested since it’s a well known Canadian site that receives lots of traffic and has lots of diversified content.

Canoe French homepage

The site has an English and a French version so we analyzed the homepages of both versions to demonstrate the differences in cultural cuing. This image is the Canoe French homepage. Below is the English homepage. The information I’m sharing comes out of our tools, specifically the one I described in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1).

Canoe English homepage

This image is the Canoe English homepage. I’ll share at this point that the tool I’m using reads whatever digital information you give it exactly like a human of the intended culture would read it, provide it material in French and it thinks in French, provide it material in Gaelic and it thinks in Gaelic (we get a lot of calls for that, you betcha. The first language our technology understood was Gaelic because if you can do Gaelic you can do anything. Now we’re teaching it Etruscan because you never know when you might want to sell sandals to a dead gladiator). What makes the tool different from the standard human is its ability to report on what will or would happen in the reader’s mind at the non-conscious and conscious levels. Most people don’t have that kind of training, our technology (Evolution Technology or “ET”) does.

Age Appeal

Both homepages are designed for (not necessarily intended for. We’re not talking about who the desired audience is, we’re talking about who this material is going to work best with) relatively tight demographics. The French homepage will appeal to about 71% of the 25-34yo native French speakers who see it, the English homepage will appeal to about 60% of the 35-44yo native English speakers who see it.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
When I originally presented this analysis to Stephane for comment I thought that a possible reason for the different age appeal targeting was that the site was a Quebec specific site, hence English might be a second language — meaning learned via education or life experience — for Canoe visitors (ET will interpret higher levels of education and life experience as “more mature” hence add a few years to its age appeal estimates).

Stephane explained that was created in Toronto then moved into Quebec, and that the English site is still done in Toronto and the French site in Quebec.

In any case, what’s most interesting is the relative spikyness of the Appeal charts. This material — regardless of the intended audience or its origins– is designed to best appeal to a limited age demographic.

Stephane noted:

Another thing… your classifications aren’t equal… why 15-19 (5 years), 35-44 (10 years), 55-59 (5 years)… Does each of the graph age ranges have the same “population size”?
The age groupings are based on neurology more than much else. The five year groups occur when the brain starts to change, the ten year groups are when the brain is relatively stable neurologically.
Usually, I think each segment should be the same range (number of years). If population is different sizes for different ranges it usually mean the number of classes should be reviewed. Am I wrong?

Excellent catch. The age breakdowns are based more on the most recent and most well documented neurology studies than anything else. As such, they can fluctuate from time to time. ET’s basis for understanding and decision making is neuroscientific, not marketing demographics per se. Originally we tailored the age breakdowns to match the US Census bureau’s breakdown and do our best to match those the best we can.

That offered, if you can define the age breakdowns of greatest interest to you (maybe 15-24, 25-39, 40-54, 55-74, … work best for you) we can tell ET and have the results appropriate to your needs.


</ET Tool Training Alert>


Readers of Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1) or Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds will remember that there are three “age” levels designers really need to be concerned with; Appeal, Clarity and Actionability. The brain-mind system doesn’t “think” in terms of a chronologic age, it “thinks” using one subsystem to determine “Is this going to be important?” (that’s Appeal), another subsystem to determine “Do I understand why this is important?” (that’s Clarity, Cognition, Understandability, call it what you will, god knows we have) and yet another subsystem to determine “Shall I do something about this?” (that’s Actionability).

The chart above shows that both English and French homepages will be best understood by a broad demographic, yes (the curve doesn’t spike), as well as a large population (its position on the chart).

<ET Tool Training Alert>
There is a possible problem when the Appeal and Clarity charts are taken together. The ideal is that Clarity peak at an age demographic just shy of the Appeal peak. This is necessary because humans, once you’ve got their attention, want to quickly determine if something is important or not. This desire to quickly understand something’s importance means less neural activity is required and ET reads that as a slight drop in neurologic age requirements.

However, the Clarity here is above the Appeal of both English and French audiences, meaning both audiences will need to work (as in “think about”) what’s on each page in order to understand its importance to them. If these pages truly are designed for the Appeal spikes, then they will not be easily understood by those age groups, hence Actionability (click through, conversion, whatever) will be lower than it could be.

On the other hand, if the target audience is 35-59yo, this Clarity is fine. Now the problem is that the age group will not find the homepages appealing enough to devote time or energy to them (except possibly some percentage of native English speakers), meaning “your conversions/clickthroughs/… would be higher with a judicious redesign”.
</ET Tool Training Alert>

Actionability (conversions, clickthroughs, …)

Both sites are designed to be actionable by 35-44yo. This is great for the French site (and assuming it is correctly designed for its intended audience) and not so good for the English site. Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort and ET reports this as an increase in neurologic activity, hence a shift to a more mature age group.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The good news for the French site is that the Actionability spike is pretty much as the same height as the Appeal spike and it’s in the correct demographic. This means every native French speaker who comes to the French homepage will act on it.

Unfortunately, the Clarity value is way off from where it should be. Native French speaking visitors may find the site appealing and be able to act upon it but they will not understand what it is they should do, hence numbers could be higher with some redesigns.

The English Actionability is acceptable and is also quite the spike. It almost matches the Appeal spike, but the page also suffers from the Clarity issue.

</ET Tool Training Alert>


Both sites favor a male audience design wise and in roughly equal measure.

Rich Personae, {C,B/e,M} Matrix

Often this is where real cultural design differences make themselves known. The English site is designed for an A9 Rich Persona (I’ve written about Rich Persona on this blog and in iMediaConnection), the French site for a V16 Rich Persona.

The A9 Rich Persona has the following attributes when it encounters web based information:

  • These people focus on the negative, they make decisions based on what might go wrong
  • They are motivated to take action when things are phrased in the negative
  • They often need to confirm their beliefs with visual information
  • They’re motivated by avoiding trouble and are strongly influenced by the possibilities of difficulties down the road

The V16 attributes are:

  • These people need to have information presented to them in pictures, charts or graphs
  • They finalize their decisions by using internal dialog
  • They need information framed in a positive manner before they can accept it
  • They have no sense of time or process

So we immediately see that the French homepage is designed for happier people than the English page.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
The fact that the two sites target completely different personality types can be a plus or a minus based on how much of the Canoe visitor populations match these psychological profiles. What is most important is that what is essentially the same design will target very different psychologies based on the native language of the visitor.

Which personality profile is better? Couldn’t tell you without knowing more about the goals for the site.

</ET Tool Training Alert>

10 Must Messages


The basis for communication and relationship are what NextStage calls “The 10 Must Messages”, meaning unless your site is communicating this messages well your site won’t work at all.

Interestingly enough, during the iMedia Brand Summit Master’s Class I taught earlier this week I asked all the attendees what the basic function of a website was. There were lots of answers and none of them were the most important one; to establish a relationship between the visitor and the brand. Regardless of intent, a relationship is being established and the success of that relationship is going to be based on how well the site communicates these messages to the visitors.

What we see here is something I mentioned in Sentiment Analysis, Anyone? (Part 1), that Canadian based companies tend to shout “We’re a Leader”. The fact that the two lines have roughly the same shape is to be expected (my guess is the same design group handled both homepages or a single template was used for both). Again we see some cultural based differences in the strength of the messaging.

<ET Tool Training Alert>
Take each line separately and the values are fair, there’s not a lot of shouting. What is a problem for both sites is the “This Is Important” message’s relative weakness. It is so low compared to most other messages on either site that visitors will feel no sense of urgency, no impulse to act, and in any case nowhere near as strong as it could be. The ideal would be for the “This Is Important” message and the “This Is Important To You” message to be high with the latter just enough higher to have visitors non-consciously recognize the difference.

I tend to liken the difference between these two messages to hearing the newscaster tell you about some news story then call in their talking-head to explain specifically why this news story is important to the viewer. Another way of thinking about their difference is the recognition that something may be important but not relevant to the individual versus important and relevant.

In any case, you can’t convince people that something is both important and relevant unless you first convince them that it’s important, period.

</ET Tool Training Alert>


That brings us to the last thing ET will report on, what to do to change the design for the target audience. I don’t know who the target is so any suggestions would be irrelevant, me thinks.

After reading this analysis, Stephane commented:

I think what’s also interesting is ET gives you the data and the charts, but you still have to know that “Actionability needs to be a tad more than the Appeal because action requires effort”. The next stage of ET (no pun intended!) could involve bringing this “higher intelligence” (your intelligence!) to a rule engine that would gradually integrate this additional knowledge.
Let me take an example… web analytics tools today collect, analyze and provide the data, but they don’t provide any insight. Yet, some rules are readily applicable if we see high traffic from a specific campaign but a lower conversion rate than average: incoming traffic is less qualified, the campaign might need to be realigned. This intelligence could be integrated directly into the tool to raise “alarms” when things like this happen. The system would need to be trained and the architecture should allow to include new rules easily.

This is an excellent thought and yes, we’ve got it covered. People who’ve heard or seen my presentations know that one of ET’s differentiators is its ability to make suggestions. The tool that produces these reports — the one that doesn’t need a tag on a client’s site to generate actionable results — provides suggestions that incorporate “my intelligence” and additional knowledge (the system borrows heavily from knowledge management systems I worked on several years back) into its analysis. If I understand the rules system you’re describing, it’s already in there.

Anyway, we’re currently in the process of looking for alpha clients to help us integrate those rule engines into the product that does these analyses. [[(Already done and in NextStage OnSite, NextStage Experience Optimizer, NextStage Immediate Sentiment and NextStage Veritas Gauge)]]


And there you go, Stephane. Hope it’s useful.

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Evolution Technology and What It Gets You

Note: This post originally served as a marketing paper. Some things change, some things don’t. Most of what’s described in here is in NextStage OnSite, NextStage Experience Optimizer, NextStage Immediate Sentiment and NextStage Veritas Gauge

What is ‘Evolution Technology’?

Evolution Technology increases the effectiveness of website commerce by dynamically adapting presentation to a user’s personality. It makes using a website more comfortable and natural for users and promotes more frequent purchases by presenting opportunities that fit the user’s comfort level.

Evolution Technology’s ability to fine tune presentations allows it to perform targeted marketing and sales to members of different user populations visiting the same website. Other technologies recognize that user B behaves the same as user A and therefore would suggest policies and products to user B that user A was historically interested in or had purchased. Evolution Technology would be able to learn enough about the users by analyzing their usage profiles to determine which of the two was a better candidate for which service or product and tailor its presentation accordingly in real time.

How it Works

Regardless of culture or background, each of us has constructed over our lifetimes a kind of “map” that we use to guide our decisions. This map consists of the habits, perceptions, experiences, and beliefs we rely on to understand and deal with the world we live in every day.

Making a decision of any kind consists, first, of referring to this internal map and identifying various possible “routes,” then, second, applying our internal strategy — our set of unconscious “rules” — for making choices.

Behavior professionals — psychologists, neuroscientists and others — have standardized methods to “read” an individual’s map and identify the rules each individual uses to make decisions. These methods are easily codified.

Once a user’s map is properly understood and the rules are identified, it is possible to rearrange the “territory” of a web site’s presentation to match the individual’s map, making navigation easy and natural and guiding the user to the desired destination. This done, it is equally easy to present purchase choices in a way that conforms to the user’s “rules” for making a decision to purchase.

To date xCommerce and B2x systems rely on such methods as Bayesian Analysis (Autonomy), Syntactic Analysis (Sentient Systems), “Open Profiling” which is variations on ELIZA and HOMR analytic methods (FireFly) and similar tools to generate usage characteristics over time. All of these systems make use of questionnaires, response-analysis surveys, site-surveys and so on to create their demographic profiles.

Evolution Technology doesn’t interest itself with the ‘what’ of each web experience. In other words, Evolution doesn’t care that you bought a book or a sweater online, it is more concerned with the decision process that led you to make those purchases from that particular site at that particular point in time. This grouping of decisions to buy something when you did can be thought of as the ‘why’ of your purchase. Evolution Technology determines why purchases are made and then works to repeat the why experience whenever it finds you or someone who closely matches you online. In other words, once Evolution Technology determines why you made a particular purchase decision it works to recreate as much of the experience of a purchase decision as possible in order to encourage other purchase decisions.

The Result

Evolution Technology’s synthesis of knowledge about human behavior and advanced internet technology dramatically increases the effectiveness of web sites. With each mouseclick, Evolution Technology presents a site that more and more precisely matches a user’s personal “map” and internal “rules” for making decisions. The personalized experience for users encourages comfort, repeat visits and repeat purchases.

Active Selling, The Web’s Missing Link

When a master salesman talks with a prospect, he unconsciously notices and processes dozens of equally unconscious cues from his customer. With each cue, he adjusts his spiel to choose just the right emphasis that will close the sale.

For all the power that the internet has brought to doing business, eCommerce websites lack that master salesman’s talent. They remain essentially passive, waiting for the prospect to choose where the transaction will go — if anywhere.

Active — Not Passive — Listening

Evolution Technology blends all we have discovered about human behavior with the best in web usability studies and advanced design techniques to power websites more like a master salesman.

From the moment a visitor arrives, Evolution Technology is processing subtle cues about that visitor’s interests, choices and preferences. It customizes the presentation to that visitor’s personality before the first link is even followed.

The Advantage

eCommerce sites have an average of only five clicks to capture a transaction before new visitors drift away in boredom or frustration. Any distraction or click that takes a visitor down a blind alley risks losing that customer forever. Some studies show those lost customers represent four out of ten visitors for most sites.

Evolution Technology brings active listening to the website, taking users directly to the places they want and need to go and guiding the visit toward closing a sale that will satisfy the customer. By sensing what the customer wants to see and delivering presentation that meets that search exactly, Evolution Technology dramatically improves the chances for closing, as well as for opening new opportunities and building customer loyalty.

The Difference

Evolution Technology does not rely on cookies or on customers’ actively providing information through filling out forms. Because it is dynamic and not completely reliant on databases of customer information collected in the past, it offers a technology that is unique in the market today.

General Use Case and Discussion

Imagine yourself sitting at your web-browser. You sat down just twenty minutes ago to go through a credit approval process and you’d been putting it off for weeks because you knew you’d have to answer lots of questions, have to look through your files, not be sure you were answering the right questions the right way… In fact, you gave up your Saturday afternoon because you were sure it was going to take hours, probably most of the day, and most of the time you were going to spend had little to do with your connection speed.

But that was twenty minutes ago and now you’re done. Not only are you done, but you’re relaxed. You’re happy. You’re glad. You’re smiling and you’re wondering why the gods smiled upon you.

This was easy. So easy.

You even printed out the forms the website asked you to print out and checked them over to make sure you’d answered the questions correctly, and you did answer them correctly. First time! Amazing!

You’re so impressed at how easily you managed this session and how expertly you navigated the website that you jump up to go tell your mate and your kids.

The only problem is you sent them all to the mall so you’d have the day free and clear with no interruptions and no one to hear you when you cussed the site, the computer, credit card/mortgage companies in general and yours in particular.

Now you’re left scratching the dog’s ears, explaining to trusty Fido how easy and effortless this was.

What happened?

Well, you’re not exactly sure, but you know darn well that you’re going to tell your friends at work and probably your in-laws when you see them tomorrow for Sunday dinner just how easy this was and what a genius you are for being able to get through this so quickly.

As you run your fingers through Fido’s fur, you tell that gloriously good mutt exactly what you’re going to tell your sister and brother-in-law. “How long does it normally take you to get your credit approved? Yeah? Well I did it in less than twenty minutes. No, I’m not! Where’s your computer? You got it hooked to the ‘net? Here. Let me show you.”

You finish by giving Fido a dog-biscuit and then you relax in front of the TV with a good book.

Yeah, this is the way doing business is suppose to be.

But what did happen? To answer that question we need to back up those twenty minutes and invite you to now imagine you’re the credit/mortgage company’s computer. There are lights blinking on and off on your faceplate like eyes waking to the bright morning sun, disk drives are whirring and spinning like arms and legs stretching from a welcome nap, somewhere deep inside your silicon heart electrons are pumping information through hardwired arteries and programmatic veins.

It’s time to go to work, you know. Someone has just browsed onto your company’s website. You also know you’re serving up an Evolution Technology enhanced website. You’re designed to help whoever’s browsing get where they’re going. Because you’re Evolution Technology enhanced, you know that people don’t truly “browse” and don’t truly “surf” the net; they perform what are called directed searches. You know you will benefit them the most in two ways; One, you can quickly help them decide what they’re searching for is something you can’t provide and they should move on. Two, you can quickly decide if this individual is someone you want to do business with (such as recognizing an individual’s a bad risk and encouraging them to go elsewhere for their needs).

But here’s the big one; Because your site is an Evolution Technology enhanced website you can dynamically alter your company’s website presentation to maximize the chances this individual will complete their transaction before quitting, finish what they came to do before moving on, or become so exasperated they decide to call customer service anyway.


What does it mean, “dynamically alter a website’s presentation”, and how do you do that? Are you somehow modifying the basic content of each presentation for individual users?


So you mean what you send to Charlie is subtly different from what you send to Gladys and that the two of those are subtly different from what you send to Pat?


And you’re doing this in real time, click by click, so that what this individual is doing while they’re browsing is influencing your dialogue, tailoring your presentation to a specific, individual audience of one?


That’s kind of what a master salesperson’s does, isn’t it?


Wow. That’s impressive. But I’ve seen and heard all that before. You use some kind of marketing models, right?


Okay. Then you have some kind of personal history database you purchase or tie into, right, so you get a profile of this individual the minute they sign on?


How about this, then; You look at their address and income level and a few other things and run some numbers or something like that, right?


Okay. I give up. What do you do, some kind of magic mumbo-jumbo?

Well…yes…and no.
First off, Evolution Technology enhanced websites begin gathering data on individual users the instant they enter a site. If a person comes to a site from another site via a referral, Evolution Technology uses that referral as part of its identity information. If a person comes to a Evolution Technology enhanced site from another Evolution Technology enhanced site, Evolution Technology will alter and sometimes dramatically individualize the new website’s homepage during the referral process.

You’re kidding.

No, I’m not.

So what are you doing, watching click-throughs and things like that?

Again, yes and no. Evolution Technology does pay attention to click-throughs but lots of stuff is going on before an individual clicks from one presentation to the next. In fact, it may take a few minutes or more for a person to get from a company’s homepage to the page they were looking for. But during that time the individual is actually quite busy and here’s where Evolution Technology comes into play.
Everyone, regardless of their background, their homelife, their job, their this-or-that, manifests what are called psychomotor behaviors. Psychomotor behaviors range from distinctive walks to ways of reading a newspaper. Evolution Technology pays attention to these distinctive behaviors to determine one individual browsing the site from another individual browsing the site.

Yeah, well. How does Evolution Technology know how somebody walks or how they read a newspaper?

That’s our secret, but walk with me a minute and maybe I can show you. Does that sound like something you’d be willing to do?

Okay. You’ve got a minute.

You ever been to a webpage?

Of course.

Ever use a mouse while you’re looking at that webpage?


Ever move the mouse to what you were looking at on that page, to maybe focus your attention on what you were reading? Kind of like using your finger to highlight one line in your DVD burner’s instructions from the rest so you’d get it right?


And if you haven’t done it, ever seen anybody else do it?

Oh, yeah, well, sure.

That’s what Evolution Technology does. It pays attention to little things like that, things that most people aren’t even aware they’re doing.

So Evolution Technology pays attention to where I move the mouse. Big Deal. How much can you learn from that?

You’d be impressed. But Evolution Technology doesn’t just watch where you move the mouse. It does much, much more, and it links what it watches to information that’s too detailed to get into right now, but it does all this so that it learns — even before you make your first click — what types of things work for you and what things don’t. When you click to the next page it’s already subtly changed the presentation so that it’s easier for you to use. It’s kind of like talking to an old friend. Evolution Technology can learn enough and do it quickly enough to finish your sentences for you, so to speak.


Right. And it keeps track of who’s who so it can change the presentation for you, Charlie, Gladys and Pat and deliver the correctly modified content to the right individual as they’re browsing the site. Evolution Technology is true 1-1 marketing, done over the net.

So you’re saying Evolution Technology can take a two hour web session and turn it into twenty minutes, and make me feel glad about it, because it watches me and works to help me?

You got it.

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