Take a look at the compete traffic chart of boutiques.com (screenshot below). Google shut it down in the last month amidst the shut down of a host of services.
Now when you visit the site, you get this page.
Why did Google launch such a product in the first place?
Well, their Froogle experiment died a long time ago (nearly a decade, in fact) and was rebranded, “Google product search.” It’s still a useful tool when you know you want to shop for something…but, as people are lazy (I know I am) I simply type in my search on Google.com and expect things to work. If I want to shop, I don’t go to Google, I’m an Amazon Prime customer, so I start there most of the time but it really depends on the product. Search works extremely well on Amazon, and I find browsing only enjoyable *after* I have started with a search. Boutiques.com was a real head scratcher for me, especially after what happened with Froogle. The idea never resonated, and given their resources, to only achieve a few million visitors per month is akin to a dismal failure for a startup.
Still, there is a lesson in this shut down which we should all contemplate as we suggest new strategies, or try expand a business upmarket, grow usage or otherwise make things better. People appreciate simplicity. A customer will never ask you for two things to remember, they don’t want to remember anything more about your product than they absolutely have to. So if you have a search for this, a search for that and yep, a search for a third thing…sigh. You’ve already given competitor’s all the ammo they need to take you out. Why else would Google have bought Youtube, which is still the number two search engine? Google Video just doesn’t have the same panache that youtube does, because youtube = place to watch videos. Google = place to search for stuff. Line extension, as it’s commonly called, only works for three to five things. After that, people get confused, don’t know which five to remember and you have created a brand nightmare for your team as they try to put polish a very lumpy product.
How does naming strategy impact your product?
Think about your name, for example. A lot of people have two or three, few have more and fewer still have five plus. At work, you interact with people. At home, you interact with people too, right? We’re all social creatures. Do you frequently find yourself calling your spouse, your manager or a collegue by three to five names, even if they have that many? Absolutely not – if you called your boss eight different things throughout the day, you’d be viewed as either insane or an imbecile, neither one a label that is conducive to getting ahead in life. Sure sometimes, you give somebody a nickname, and sometimes, you might use more than one. But as a general rule, people you interact with routinely but don’t have any special relationship with are those who you have one, and only one, method of addressing.
If that works for people…shouldn’t it work for your product too?