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What's the opinion of using humor on an ecommerce site?

 5:07 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

I will be opening a new online store soon which will sell Mixed Martial Arts gear and apparel. So things like boxing gloves, Muay Thai shorts, etc.

What is the opinion of using humor on an ecommerce site?

I used to have a blog that tracked my online stock trades. I wrote like I spoke and and quickly gained a lot of blog followers and links, from other online traders, due to the humorous nature of my posts.

So wondering if I should bring that same humor over to the online store I'll be opening.

Your thoughts?



 6:18 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

Informative product descriptions that include a touch of humour can be an attractive, profitable combination.

One of Canada's most prestigious specialty hardware chains (Lee Valley) owes much of its success to just the right mix of wit and fact in their catalog descriptions, especially in their early days when the founder was still writing all their product descriptions.

Exercise your wit, but take care to treat sensitive topics with respect. Your goal is to amuse, not to hurt. Be alert to unexpected nuances, especially if your audience is cross-cultural.

A skilled humorist can deliver chuckles without causing pain, and that's what you need in a commercial context.


 6:22 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

What people find humorous is problematic. 10, 100, or 1,000 people might find one thing on your site funny, even an inside joke related to the product, but it only takes one to be offended, and from there it is down hill. Can you say 'litigation'? While a lot of people complain about being politically correct, it is safe even when it seems stupid.

I worked for the federal government for a while and I do have a "unique" sense of humor. I was constantly being told, "Marshall, the government has no sense of humor." It took the fun out of the job, but I never got in trouble.

Bottom line, IMO, don't do it. The only exception I can see is a site that sells humors products, and even then, it is still problematic.



 7:12 pm on Feb 9, 2012 (gmt 0)

woot is a great example of an ecommerce company that uses humor (even after being acquired by amazon for 110m).


 11:08 am on Feb 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I won't buy on a website doing humor with my money...

My feeling if it doesn't look serious enough.


 11:28 am on Feb 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Too many factors to give a definitive answer but when it works well you can be onto a gold mine - simples!


 2:24 am on Feb 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Can you say 'litigation'? While a lot of people complain about being politically correct, it is safe even when it seems stupid.

If you're a big corporation things like that are definitely a concern, but for any small to medium sized business it's not really a factor (I'd love to hear a case of a small business being sued for exercising humor in poor taste). And that very fact is one the reasons why small businesses, IMO, can use humor and being irreverent as a competitive advantage- they can take risks the big guys can't.


 9:32 am on Feb 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just make it clear that Our Billing Department Has No Sense Of Humor* and you should be fine.

* "Our credit manager is Helen Waite..." et cetera.


 6:09 pm on Feb 12, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think it depends on your audience.

Engineers are going to expect a different level of seriousness than, say, hippies (ok, exaggerated example, but you get the idea).

I remember reading how the order fulfillment email by CDbaby "went viral" and I think you can look up an example of it.

So I really think it depends on your audience.


 1:33 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I wont use humour ! It an cause a major headache...


 2:08 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

It an cause a major headache...

Yes, you end up spending a fortune giving customers toy meerkats!

Yulia from DNP

 2:31 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

No way man, when it comes to your business , i suggest to keep the boundaries where they always have been in terms of humor, meaning that if that something you are selling has potential of being funny-go for it.
Martial Arts?....emm. no


 5:05 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Maybe write like your target audience speaks?


 5:17 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks everyone for the feedback. Seems like the replies are on either ends of the spectrum. Do it right, and it's gold. Do it wrong, and you're screwed. The more I think about it the more it seems that this IS the ideal situation to carve out a niche.

Now it's just a question of how much humor. That's something I'm still contemplating.


 10:32 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

You could post funny and non-funny descriptions of the identical item, and see which one gets more sales and more page hits. You may not want people reading a page, laughing heartily and then spending their money somewhere else-- unless the "somewhere else" is another page on your own site.


 11:01 pm on Feb 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Humor that is natural and not forced can have beneficial effect... however, if EVERY item is made into awkward humor (ie, not natural) it might backfire. I let humor in when it is appropriate, the rest of the time it's just business.


 7:21 am on Feb 22, 2012 (gmt 0)

My site employs humor within every product description along with a funny inspiring quote. Two things to consider with my approach, the products are fun (neat), and the quotes are directly related (relevant) to the product.

Humor does fail. Purchasing power tools is an example product I would be not buy from a merchant with humor within the descriptions. A toy for a friend, yes. But as one poster stated it has to be mild and not belittling. One thing that grinds my gears is when companies are trying to be cute and attempting to present an attitude of nonchalance by tagging everything with annoying trite sayings. There is a fast food restaurant that has, "this bag doubles as an air freshener", printed on their take out bags. yuck, that's what I really want, my car smelling like a $2 hamburger.


 7:56 am on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'll lend you what I humorously use on my site as a shipping option:

"Hand delivered by Chuck Norris- add $60,000"


 3:40 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hah, that's awesome, Cliffud.


 6:52 pm on Mar 16, 2012 (gmt 0)


"Chuck Norris once ate a whole birthday cake before his friends could tell him there was a stripper inside"

"You know how children check the closest at night for the Boogieman? Well, The Boogieman checks his closet for Chuck Norris"

"Superman wears Chuck Norris underwear"

"When Chuck Norris goes swimming he does not get wet, water gets Chuck Norrised."

Oh, I can go on and on.........


 3:10 pm on Apr 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think it really depends of your target market/audience and your positioning. For some companies, humor is used to oppose themselves to the current establishment: Groupon does it to show how cool they are/were and how different/unique they are (so you think, wow they are so different, this must be a unique deal) A little similar as woot did, targeting originally geek customers and trying to convey the "super unique deal" from the " super unique company"
Other companies do it successfully. You know your market and your target best. Think long term too. Are your target customer going to be able to age with you (meaning: will you lose customers that you gained early on because they get tired of buying from the funny guy) or is it a specialized age range target?
It is not just linked to age range either.
And clearly the comment about $$ and security is a major one.
Overall, it is a fine line to walk, that can possibly be beneficial if a/ you can reap social media benefits 2/ get to your target more efficiently 3/ does not seem to hurt in the long run
But that is all relative of what you are trying to do. imho.
Now they are is also a component of the type of company you want to be. Breaking the codes a bit can be ok, if it is done truthfully and honnestly. and not as a gimmmick.

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