Practical Ecommerce

The Shopping Experience: MusiciansFriend.com

“The Shopping Experience” is our monthly description of purchasing a product from a leading ecommerce retailer and then critiquing the process. For this installment, we chose Musician’s Friend, one of the largest retailers of musical instruments and accessories.

We chose Musician’s Friend because I was looking for an inexpensive starter guitar. I had only an inkling of exactly what I wanted. Price was the number one consideration, with a basic level of quality being secondary.

MusiciansFriend.com home page screen capture.

MusiciansFriend.com home page screen capture.

I will focus my critique, below, on:

  • Navigation. Could I easily find what I was looking for?
  • Checkout. Was the checkout process intuitive and easy to use?
  • Customer service. Did Musician’s Friend communicate with me about the status of my purchase, and did the product arrive as expected?

Multiple Navigation Options

MusiciansFriend.com "Guitar" product page screen capture.

MusiciansFriend.com “Guitar” product page screen capture.

Musician’s Friend has many guitars, but I was able to filter down to my needs fairly easily. From the website’s top-menu navigation, I chose “Guitar” and then further filtered to “Acoustic Guitars”. The resulting page was accurate to my expectations: a page full of acoustic guitars. What was particularly handy were the choices by which to further filter results, This included a top, pull-down menu to sort by “Best Selling,” “Brand,” “Customer Rating,” “Highest Savings %,” Price – High to Low,” “Price – Low to High,” Product Name A-Z,” and “Product Name Z-A.”

It also included the navigation along the left side of the page to select by “Category,” “Price Range,” “Brand” and other features.

As price point was my primary concern, I chose the top, pull-down menu to filter by “Price, Low to High.”

Low and behold, an inexpensive guitar, Rogue Starter Acoustic Guitar, was presented to me, clearly labeled as a starter guitar, and priced at only $34.99. It came in multiple color styles, and user reviews identified it as a quality option for a beginner’s guitar. I had identified my purchase.

MusiciansFriend.com "Acoustic Guitar" product page, sorted "Price - Low to High."

MusiciansFriend.com “Acoustic Guitar” product page, sorted “Price – Low to High.”

One interesting side note is that an alternative route through the left-menu faceted navigation did not locate Rogue Starter Acoustic Guitar at all. If I chose the path of going to the main guitar landing page, and then choose the subcategory of “6-string Acoustic Guitars,” and then sorted by price, the Rogue Starter Acoustic Guitar does not appear. Instead, the most inexpensive guitar is $199, which is much more expensive than the Rogue. This is an issue that needs to be addresses by Musician’s Friend.

Regarding Musician’s Friend internal search function, a search for the terms “guitar,” “rogue guitar,” “starter guitar,” and “acoustic guitar” all produced Rogue Starter Acoustic Guitar within the search results. This was helpful and confirmed that I had located the proper guitar for my needs.

Smaller ecommerce merchants should seek to incorporate the sort of faceted navigation, sorting tools and search that allow customers to navigate according to their preferences.

Usable Checkout

The checkout process at Musiciansfriend.com was straightforward and easy to follow. I especially appreciated the ability to choose alternative shipping methods before final checkout, with the total price adjusted accordingly. I chose the cheapest, UPS Ground, which was only $5.95. The item arrived in 3 business days, double-boxed and in excellent shape.

Customer Service

Within minutes of my purchase, I received a confirmation email of my purchase.

However, the day after my purchase, I received another email saying that the item I had chosen was out of stock and would be delayed. This was odd because the website had clearly indicated that the item was in stock. I called customer service (the phone number is gratefully display on each page) and was speaking to a representative within a couple of minutes. She explained that while the item was in stock, the particular color I had chosen was not. While an understandable snafu, his is something that Musician’s Friend should address. The customer service representative was helpful, though, and suggested that I could choose a different color that was in stock. I chose sunburst blue, and she had the order changed and back on the shipping schedule within five minutes. Overall, this was a satisfactory customer service experience.

Later that day, I received a helpful shipping confirmation email that contained the UPS tracking number, which I used at UPS.com to track the guitar’s shipping progress to my office door.

Summing Up

Overall, Musician’s Friend offered a positive shopping experience. I especially liked the multiple navigation options, which helped me located the type of guitar I was looking for. These options did not yield the same results, however, which is a correction Musician’s Friend should make.

The fact that Musician’s Friend prominently displayed its phone number helped me correct another small glitch, when the product I thought I had successfully purchased was, in fact, out of stock. I called the number and a helpful customer service representative fixed the problem for me.

The checkout process was easy, and the guitar arrived at my office as described.

Jeff Muendel

Jeff Muendel

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. frank65l April 8, 2010 Reply

    Hi Jeff,
    I too went through the store as you did, one thing i did find overwhelming was the amount of unrelated links in the left nav. These seem to take my mind off my original goal. Also, could you post what shopping system is used for this site. So many sites are reviewed nowadays without knowing the platforms used for building them. Thanks for the great write up.