Web sites Vs Web Business

It’s been a while since my last post so I better explain what’s been going on. Since my blog post about the Life Art coffin featured on the TV show Dragons’ Den, I have been working for the Dragons’ General Manager setting up web businesses for the companies the Dragons invested in.

The problem is we’ve been working on an incredibly tight deadline as we try to get new sites up and ready for future shows… plus make over old sites that simply sucked. We’re talking three sites in just over one week… shopping carts, admin sections, art the works! So my friend and code guru, Murray, and I have been burning the midnight oil.

There are some interesting products on the show. So let me show you the sites we’ve developed and the lessons we’ve learned on the way.

Surfume is a great product designed by Jake Alberts. It’s a uni-sex fragrance for surfers. Jake is only 19 but has something like 40+ stores stocking his product. We had to design the website from scratch and focussed on creating a web business for Jake… and his core business is to: get retailiers to STOCK IT and customers to BUY IT.

The job of the website was to make it EASY for visitors to sort themselves into those two groups and take the appropriate action. Jake isn’t that keen on selling online because it might upset his retailers so we incorporated a neat store locator where visitors can type in their postcode and the nearest retailer is found for them.

Jake can then use those postcodes to find out where his customers are located and then approach retailers with the data to encourage them to stock his product in locations where he doesn’t have a presence.

We still incorporated a shopping cart but only for international orders or places where there are no stockists.

Stikboards are a skateboard with no wheels. You can use it as a snowboard, wakeboard, sandboard etc… and laying down a garden mesh means you can turn any surface into your own skate park (see their website for more details). All we had to do was give these guys a shopping cart but once we saw the original site we had to change it. The old site looked like a few kids with a copy of front page had designed it.

While re-writing all the copy for the site and giving it a quick make-over I realised that the real miracle in this product is the special mesh that allows you to glide over grass, dirt, ramps etc. For parents this means that kids can create their own skate park in their backyards and play in a bully-free, drug-free, supervised environment.

The real hard part has been getting quality art work and product shots from these companies. Kudos for getting the product off the ground etc, but nothing lets a product down like bad art and crappy website design. I think all these guys are learning that packaging and design is just as important as creating a great product.

Surfasaurus is fascinating. A surfing dinosaur that appeals to kids and has neat sun and surf tips in the books as well. We were asked to implement a shopping cart and keep the original design… but along the way we learned some interesting things about selling to kids.

If your users are Kids you need to keep the language simple, make the font BIG and we found a great way to make a Comic Book font using this groovy css attribute: style=”font-family: cursive”. We then simplified the navigation and created some zany, fun newsletters and order confirmation emails.

Surfasaurus was a classic example of a website not a web business. If you wanted to buy a book, you clicked a link and were transported to an entirely different website. I have no problem with that per se but people need to be told if they can’t buy from you directly.

To cut a long story short: In the past these guys were earning about $1 for every book that was sold. By selling their own products online they buy wholesale from the publisher and now make a healthy margin on online sales.

Last major lesson for those of you who have read this far.
Shopping cart abandonment is a major issue when selling on the web. A customer is more than happy to put stuff in their shopping cart but if you make paying too hard or confusing, they will leave the cart and head off to some other site in a heart beat. Sometimes the cost of implementing a shopping system and payment gateway is less than the amount of sales lost at check out using a cheaper generic system.

The problem is, no-one measures or test this.

Published in: on December 18, 2005 at 9:19 pm Comments (3)

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