A few weeks ago I visited the Chocri, the brilliant "design your own chocolate" website. I was instantly hooked, and quickly designed some chocolate to buy. The only thing holding me back was their shipping policy - they don't ship to Australia!
However, the whole experience really resonated with me. It was fun, easy and I had my credit card in my hand in less than 5 minutes.
After all of this, it made me think about our own website for Shoes of Prey and how we could improve it. Admittedly, we're not selling $6 bars of chocolate - but the principle, I thought, should be the same.
I set upon redesigning the site using a style heavily inspired by Chocri's experience. This is what I ended up with:
The design I came up with was definitely different - in fact it completely moved our positioning on the spectrum between being a "designer shoe" brand to something closer to a transactional site (like Zappos) or a shoe making service (not unlike a dress maker, just for shoes):
"Wow - that's heaps better. Doesn't really give the "bespoke" feel that you were going for before but does look more "legitimate"."
"This version definitely appeals to me more."
"f*^% yeah, heaps better!"
"100% better than the current design."
"In short - that new design rocks my socks off."
"Love the new site design. So much cleaner and cooler and more professional. The look and feel is great."
Our Japanese partners were the only ones who had reservations. In the nicest way possible, they said the site looked "cheaper."
But buoyed by the positive reviews, and with high expectations, we launched the site to our $USD traffic (roughly 50% of our visitors).
The result? .... Let's just say it didn't set the world on fire. If anything, our sales went backwards. Our bounce rate increased and time on the site dropped as well.
We wanted a revolution, and it just didn't deliver. More importantly it cheapened our brand; and in the long run, that wasn't acceptable. Consequently yesterday we switched it off.
Why didn't it work? It's probably because buying premium shoes is an emotional, self-defining experience. Consumers need to connect to the shoes above and beyond merely having an easy to use website. While our existing design has many flaws, it conveys certain emotional cues about how you will feel once you receive our shoes. For that reason it continues to sell shoes.
There's probably a lot more we can do from this point. In fairness, we might have tried to move too far along the spectrum towards being transactional. In the coming weeks we'll probably play around with some alternative designs that try to find some sort of compromise.
So, in summary, it's interesting to know that building a "better" website won't necessarily improve your sales. A lot depends on how you position yourself in the market, and how your customers want to perceive you. For a brand new retail concept like ours, it's really hard to know instinctively how to get this right. Experimenting, though, will certainly help.