Three Paths Of The Modern Customer

Woman in yoga attire with arms stretched overhead at a diagonal.

1. "I want to learn more."

More than 50% of smartphone users have discovered new products or companies while conducting a search. 1

Key takeaway?

Users learn about new products or companies when they search for anything, and not just when searching to buy a product.

For example: a yoga trainer may set out to learn about to review the proper technique for an advanced pose they’re having trouble with. She doesn't intend to purchase anything, she just wants to learn how to improve her technique.

But, she may end up not only learning how to further her technique, but also stumble upon company that offers training for yoga instructors. Or, she may find a store that offers custom yoga mats.

Visitors might not purchase from you at the same moment they are learning something from you -- but depending on your product, some % may.

But, at the very least, your company will be in their mindspace now. And you could even perform retargeting campaigns, which (hopefully) yields some conversions of its own.

All these conversions because you appealed to a specific search query to provide something relevant to your niche.

Google emphasizes: "Showing up gets your brand in the game to be chosen, not just seen." 2

Don’t forget to show up.

It doesn’t matter where: a website, YouTube video, a Quora answer, a Reddit post. Whatever.

Just show up with content.

Make sure your content is mobile-friendly, no matter the price range of your product. Even expensive products in the tens of thousands of dollars benefit from mobile-friendly content.

In the auto category, for example, searches on mobile are growing 51% YoY. 3

Mobile devices have a unique advantage in that they let people research those big, massive purchases, little by little over long periods of time. Someone might study cars for multiple seasons before deciding to spend nearly $30,000 on a 4WD Hatchback that'll be perfect for his snowboarding trips up in Lake Tahoe.

"90% of smartphone users say they've used their phone to make progress toward a long-term goal or multi-step process while 'out and about.'" -Google/Ipsos n=5,398 4

Customers can spend weeks or months learning bit-by-bit, until they feel comfortable enough in their decision to purchase.

Hip wooden-interior pizza shop with a light pink neon sign saying 'DESDE 1942' and a sign in spanish.

2. "Where can I get it right now?"

Not all searches have the luxury of time.

Sometimes we just need something, and we need it now.

Searches related to “near me” are continuing to accelerate in volume.

Much of the increased volume is likely due to increased mobile adoption.

When strategizing your digital marketing campaigns, it pays to keep “near me” search queries in mind.

And it goes without saying, but check your listing on the map once in a while, just in case Google breaks, or something ;).

Users are impatient.

Your mobile site has 3 seconds to load, before 53% of users abandon it (n = 3700). 7

However, if your site loads quickly, you will be rewarded with 70% longer sessions. 8

Young model in short blue shorts and a t-shirt listening to music while waiting in the makeup room with other models.

3. "I'm ready to purchase."

Bottom of the funnel.

60 seconds left on the clock.

They’ve decided to purchase.

But they haven’t made the purchase yet.

That's an important distinction.

TFW things don't go as planned and the ball gets swatted out of your hands right before you dunk.

Deciding isn’t the same as doing – doesn’t matter who or where you are.

The amount of people who decide to buy your product, will always be less than the amount of people who do buy your product.

This is simply because things go wrong between deciding to purchase, and completing the purchase.

Let’s call the list of possible things that go wrong between deciding to purchase, and following through on that decision, “friction.”

Here are some examples of friction:

Bad Info. Architecture. Someone is trying to buy plain white cotton fabric to sew their own T-Shirt. They click a compan's sponsored Google link when they search for “white fabric.” The first result lands on a page that is only for satin fabric, and has the option to sort by color, but has no mention of cotton or any non-satin fabric type. The user leaves the website since they can’t find cotton fabric on the page they landed on. "29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if it doesn't satisfy their needs." 9

No Pricing. A digital artist’s website showcases their portfolio of work, but doesn’t list pricing. They lose out on leads who have no idea if they’re a budget match, and would rather use their time to go back and click on another website, than to fill out a form to ask what the price is.

Loads Slowly. A college student had just finished some research on TV’s, and had decided on a model. It had very low input lag, making it perfect for gaming. She loads up a nearby electronic’s store’s website, but it loads too slowly. After 6 seconds of waiting, she just searches for it on Amazon instead.

Customers on their phones while inside stores, is not a new sight to retailers.

Some may be price-checking, but many are actually just searching for reviews of the items they’re considering.

This actually was the case for Sephora. They noticed that many customers were looking up reviews for the items they were holding in their hands. Sephora took advantage of this situation by pre-emptively providing a clear list of reviews and information for searches related to reviews of products that they sold in-store. 9



  • Make your product easy to buy.
    • Website information architecture matters.
    • Users can't buy what they can't find.
    • Make sure reviews of your products are easily available.
    • Provide price info.

  • Mobile is where people research products bit-by-bit, over time.
    • Including products with large price tags.
    • So, provide exceptional mobile-friendly content.
    • Keep customers on your site by loading in under 3 seconds.
    • Optimize your "___ Near Me" Mobile SEO.


Consumers in the Micro-Moment, Wave 3, Google/Ipsos, U.S., August 2015, n=1,291 online smartphone users 18+



Consumers in the Micro-Moment, Wave 2, Google/Ipsos, U.S., March 2015, n=5,398, based on internet users.


Google Data, Q1 2014 vs. Q1 2015, United States




Google Data, Aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, n=3.7K, Global, March 2016




Unicorn Frap from Starbucks pictured on top of a myriad of dazzling Lisa Frank notebooks from the 90s

The Point of Starbucks' Unicorn

SUMMARY- By focusing on the aesthetics of the Unicorn Frappuccino, Starbucks was able to transform a commodity (coffee) into a marketing tool, as customers shared 100,000s of images of the frap on social platforms.

Hand with psychedellic, celestial nailpaint holding a unicorn-puke colored frap

When users do the marketing for you.


"Good marketing is just having a good budget!"


But first, here are some facts you probably already know:

1. Acquiring new customers costs several times more than retaining existing ones.

2. Starbucks is currently enjoying immense popularity and profitability.

So: they’re doing well, and it pays to keep momentum going.

In April, Starbucks released a "Unicorn Frappuccino."

This wasn't just another seasonal release to spike sales. (Although it did do that.)

This had a much more deliberate purpose.

When Customers Do The Marketing

The frappuccino was designed to be photographed and shared on social media.

It looked like a throwback to the bright colors of 90s, full of glitter and pink and cyan.

It needed to be shared, more than it needed to taste good. And shared it was.

This is “user-generated content.”

A full definition may be redundant, but it is: content marketing that is generated by customers/users.

In-house content marketing is more robust, and spans creations like articles, interviews, podcasts, videos, etc. By contrast, user-generated content is more lightweight and is often viral (since its medium is social media).

So, Starbucks wanted people to take pictures and post them across all social media apps.

Pretty creative strategy to keep customers engaged and happy to be a customer.

Barbe-looking girl with surreal swirls of violet/blue/pink/purple colored hair and shades.

Even fashion designers got in on the fun (and provided some great marketing!)


Sometimes, user-generated content can be more robust though. Such as vlogs, reviews, unboxings, or other, more "creative" types of content...

Young kid with geled up pink hair with a blue stripe going through it, just like the unicorn frap.

User-generated content for Starbucks and inbound content for @barberlessons_? That’s a win-win.


Not A New Tactic

Designing to increase user-generated content isn’t a brand new marketing tactic.

Brands like Lush enjoy a regular stream of user-generated content because their products are so visually appealing:

Bath Bomb vaguely in the shape of a watery planet.

One of many varieties of bath bombs, that are so shareable and have become so popular, that even if you don't use bath bombs, you've probably heard of them.


Targeting Millennials/Gen-Z?


Although some analysts claim that Starbucks was specifically targeting younger demographics with this campaign, that's unlikely.

Age-based cohorts are too broad to be the foundation of a campaign's targeting strategy.

Intent tends to predict behavioral patterns much more.

For example, if you sold garden supplies, you might get better results targeting ads to people who use the tag #garden or #gardening on social media, compared to simply targeting 25-54 years.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should start A/B testing LifeAlert ads on millennials Thinking Emoji with thumb pointed on chin in contemplation..

But strategizing around customer intent, always leads to a more well-analyzed, and targeted, approach.

So what demographic were they targeting?

I think the demographic targeted, was by definition, anyone who regularly shares pictures of their food, drinks, or daily life to social media.

Occam’s razor.

(Also, I sifted through a bunch of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram posts and although the age distribution seemed to be a younger crowd overall, there was still plenty of range of age, and plenty of general news buzz from it going viral in the general public.)

Can Your Business Encourage User-Generated Content?

Presentation matters.

Packaging matters.

If you sell physical goods, you’re already consciously thinking about how you package and present it to your consumers. Don’t forget that people like sharing things with their friends -- if you can make something look cooler/more “photogenic,” go for it.

Apple does a good job of it. Lush and Starbucks do a good job of it.

It takes certainly takes creativity -- but it can pay off big:

Over 155,000 #unicornfrap shares on Instagram. Over 400,000 #bathbomb shares on Instagram.



RIP SHA-1 ☠️

SHA-1 is officially dead.

SUMMARY- Humans have unique signatures. A hash function creates signatures for digital files. One particular hash function, called SHA-1, can no longer guarantee forgery-proof signatures, and is therefore a security risk to use.

Here's a quick recap.

As a cryptographic hash function, it receives a message (any given file), and then it returns a fixed-length, alphanumeric hash.

SHA-1 has three main properties:

  1. No matter what size a file is, its corresponding hash will always be the same length.
  2. Because the files being hashed can be of sizes larger than 40 characters, this means that hash keys will inevitably be reused for different files. (Pigeonhole Principle)
  3. Files that are similar to each other, should never have the same hash key.

Think of SHA-1 as a tool to create signatures for files.

A pen-signed signature

In order to know if a signature is valid, you have to know what the authentic one looks like.


One common use for hashes is to upload a file to a website, then publicly list its corresponding hash signature (created, perhaps, using SHA-1).

A visitor downloads the file from a mirror, then applies the hash function (SHA-1) to the document, and checks to see if the hash it produces, matches the signature posted online.

If the hash signatures don't match, then the file isn't the file it claimed to be.

You may have realized that this depends on you being provided the "right" hash key to begin with. That's true. It's just like if you were trying to find out if someone's signature wasn't a forgery. You'd have to be certain that you know what the real signature looks like.

Good Hash Gone Bad

Here's an example of 2 unique "messages" (documents) returning 2 unique keys, as expected:

Normal behavior yields two different hash values on two different files



Here's a "collision": when two different files, passed through a function (such as SHA-1), produce the same hash key.

Collisions are when two different files yield the same hash



In late February, infosec researchers from Google provided the first working example of a "collision attack."

This is different from a mere collision -- which is expected to happen between files that are extremely different from each other, due to the pigeonhole principle.

A collision attack is when files that could be mistaken for another from a human's point of view, have the same hash signature.

It's an attack because it lets people slightly modify files, without others noticing.

Whereas in a typical collision, the files that share the same key have absolutely nothing in common -- from file size, to file type, to content/subject matter.

It's much harder to intentionally manipulate documents to have a hash collision, than it is to create a huge number of documents that have no relation to one another, and have two eventually end up with the same hash.

The Attack

So what did the attack look like?

First: they had 2 .pdf's that were identical EXCEPT for a few characters of code that set the color of one block.

Then: they passed both .pdf's through a hash function, but instead of receiving two distinct keys, they got the same key.

Malicious Use of Collision Attacks

Malicious actors could use hash collisons to:

  • Alter the terms of a contract
  • Alter the presence of signatures on a contract
  • Hide malware in digitally-signed software / drivers


Some of our favorite recent web creations

Aesthetic af Glitch UI

1. Glitch

Glitch is a cloud-based web development platform that runs in a browser.

Let me rephrase:

Glitch is GeoCities in 2017.

Back in the 1990s, web development was at most:

  • HTML (Website)
  • HTML + Styles (...Stylish Website)

A lot of us had fun creating fansites and etc. on services like GeoCities (or AngelFire! Or Tripod, or AOL, ...)

Beautifuly glitchy fish!

But, web development has evolved since the 90s.

Now, the line between website and app has extended into a gradient.

And depending on where your project idea lands on this gradient, determines what kind of support you need.

Glitch is the platform that can support all your web development needs in the cloud:

  1. No dumbing down. Use any web stack used today in industry. ex: You can make an app that processes payments with Stripe; or make a Slack bot)
  2. Get support from an active and knowledgeable community.
  3. View other projects source code
  4. Template off of other projects. Glitch calls this "remixing." (The rest of the world calls it "forking.")

Check Glitch out here, and give it a whirl.


Square Tiles maintain their orientation as they translate around each other clockwise.

2. Square Tilings Animation

Ana Tudor is well-known in the frontend development community.

A mad scientist whose medium is often CSS, she tends to set her sights on math-heavy animations, sometimes pulling from physics or chemistry.

And the results are frontend inspiration at its finest. (Don't you dare ask me what one could "do" with this animation. I just told you what it does.)

Graciously, Ana also provides both videos and articles that explain how she codes these math-heavy animations.

In this square animation (based off of GeometryDad’s tweet), Ana rotates colored square tilings to make a very fluid, and very sweeet animation.

Here's a link to the CodePen.

3. Apartment Life Animation

Christian Östman is a game developer at asmallgame, an independent game studio located in Stockholm, Sweden.

He has some awesome CodePens on his profile. One of his newest ones, is not only technologically impressive in its optimizations, but also shows off some great art direction and design.

Check it out here.

CSS Grid Garden screenshot of a grid of water and plants

4. CSS Grid Garden

Created by Thomas Park of Flexbox Froggy fame, CSS Grid Garden is “where you write CSS code to grow your carrot garden!”

It’s an ingenious creation which gamifies the process of learning a new CSS feature, grid.

There are 28 levels total.

Level 10 is pictured to the left. (The answer is grid-column: 4/6;)

Don’t worry though -- it starts much simpler than that, and ends much more complicated. But, it’s explained clearly every step of the way through, making for an incredibly efficient learning tool.

If only all tutorials were made this way.