Practical Ecommerce

Conversion Report Card:

FirstStreet Online is a large, Virginia-based ecommerce company that offers gifts and lifestyle products to “boomers and beyond.” The staff of FirstStreet asked Practical eCommerce to grade its site for conversion issues, which we are pleased to do.

Conversion report card for FirstStreet

A site that is easy to find and easy to navigate will convert many visitors into customers. Let’s see how First Street Online stacks up.


Qualified prospects must first find your website, and once at your site it must be easy for them to locate products they are interested in.

We conducted a range of relevant searches in Google. The site ranked well for common phrases. The site did not rank well for long-tail terms such as “gifts for arthritis sufferers” nor for some of FirstStreet’s top sellers, such as “Philips HeartStart defibrillator.”

The on-site search was easy to locate and worked reasonably well. The site search responded effectively to need-based searches but was not tolerant to errors. Searches such as “Jitabug” or “televison ears” produced no results.

Design and Aesthetics

Shopping online is similar, in many respects, to shopping in a physical store. The look and feel of the shop is key to a positive customer experience. Moreover, you have only one chance to make a first impression. If that impression is poor, you can lose customers for life. Website visitors usually take just two or three seconds to decide whether to stay or leave.

We tested the site’s appearance with baby boomers who reported it to be busy and uninviting, with a budget feel to it. The product pages are busy and disorganized, with no clear visual hierarchy. Customers may find it difficult to navigate and make purchasing decisions here. FirstStreet could also make better use of the home-page space above the fold, adding relevant content, clearer pathways and more persuasive page elements. We suspect a high bounce rate as a result.

Product imagery was high quality and reasonably persuasive. There was, gratefully, no use of distracting or flashing graphics.

Ease of Use

Even consumers who know what they are looking for need support and guidance. If your website is difficult to use, you’ll have trouble converting prospects even if your online store looks great and offers fantastic products. We found FirstStreet’s site difficult to navigate and there were no cues provided to help visitors understand their location within the site.

While FirstStreet Online has a range of categories to help consumers locate products, some of these categories were difficult to understand. For example, products related to “better sleep” are categorized within the “life stages” section, which could confuse prospects.

The site needs to help the customer decide on products by providing decision-making support in the right places. FirstStreet does not provide this support where it is needed most. For example when considering a medical alarm, a customer may have concerns about contracts or how it is installed. Predicting and answering these questions would assist with his decision-making.

When we added products to our basket, it was difficult to see what the total charges were before FirstStreet requested our checkout information. This could be a big turn-off for prospective customers.

The site is designed as a fixed layout for 1024 pixel-width screens. Many people in the target customer group are likely to have a screen resolution of 800 pixels and would find it difficult to use as a result. Many pages appeared to be broken when we tested on the Mac platform.


In order to convert well a site needs to be persuasive. FirstStreet’s site lacked persuasive content. There were no testimonials, little to aid decision-making and no content to enforce credibility, such as endorsements or associations.

In our view, FirstStreet would benefit from implementing persuasive features, which would drive forward movement and decision-making. Such features could include using scarcity or limited-time offers to encourage purchases.


Effective on-site promotion can increase conversions. FirstStreet’s site has very little promotion. We suspect, therefore, that it misses conversion opportunities. The site does provide good alternative product selections, but these are not promoted in context. For example, the product pages could encourage up-sells or bundled promotions.

Safety and Trust

Consumers need to feel safe and otherwise trust the company they are engaging with before they will buy. As such, how an online store handles transaction security and credibility is very important.

We rated this site average for security and trust. It lacks content, such as testimonials, to convey trust and credibility, and there is no corresponding support content, such as blogs or a resources page. However, the existence of VeriSign and HackerSafe logos are good, and the “Secure Checkout” text and padlock at the checkout help, too.


FirstStreet Online is clearly a successful and credible ecommerce site. We believe it would convert more visitors into customers, however, by improving the issues we’ve identified.

Conversion Report Card

Findability C
Design and Aesthetics C
Ease of Use C
Persuasion D
Promotion F
Safety and Trust C


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Alan Cox

Alan Cox

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  1. Legacy User April 8, 2008 Reply

    Any suggestions as to how a small site is to gather customer comments? We find them very difficult to get for our site. We even follow up sales with an e-mail offering a discount coupon for customers who make comments, but we still receive very few. We do, however, occasionally receive emails from customers praising our products, but when we ask for permission to post on the website, we usually do not receive a response.

    — *KevinM*

  2. Legacy User April 8, 2008 Reply

    Over deliver and under promise.
    When you go above and beyond, people respond.
    When you get emails as mentioned, simply remove the customer's last name.

    — *Dennis*

  3. Legacy User April 8, 2008 Reply

    This is the first I've seen your conversion report cards. Working at which is all about personalization, persuasion and conversion…I think this is a huge service!

    I especially think it's great that web sites are stepping up to the review! After all, few web sites are doing it all right. So having these unbiased reports are such a huge benefit in terms of helping e-marketers build stronger business cases around the need to take the online experience seriously.

    Nice work!

    — *Carolyn Gardner*

  4. Legacy User April 9, 2008 Reply

    This review had some great take-aways for me, namely persuave elements that could be added easily, and the value of customer testimonials (another easy add).

    But if the site doesn't even work with Macs (it doesn't on mine)…well, you are an easy grader!

    — *Kristen*

  5. Legacy User April 10, 2008 Reply

    I just responded to another post about Conversion Consulting. Conversions are the wave of the future. While many companies, and many of our clients, already focus on conversions, it will become more popular and prominent very soon. As Search traffic slows its current growth rate, converting the visitors you get will become much more important.

    For KevinM – is your site a B to B site. If so, offering to share information about the company within their "testimonial" could be very inticing to them, especially if there is a link to their site included. If not, you say you receive very few repsonses…well all you need are a couple to post within your site and make sure to rotate them so they do not seem stale to repeat visitors.

    — *NateAgencySide*

  6. Legacy User April 10, 2008 Reply

    It looks like they already took your advice, the site seems to be fixed in Safari

    — *Jim*

  7. Legacy User April 11, 2008 Reply

    Re the comment by NateAgencySide, I totally agree with your point about search growth slowing down. By growth, I'm also meaning impact and effectiveness. Same is kind of true for email.

    What I would like to see is more marketers thinking differently. Instead of spending more and more money on search and email which are maxing out…focus on converting the traffic you do get. And to convert you have to consider the intent of every visitor and then serve the right message/offer at the right time. This right message at the right time is what persuasion is all about.

    — *Carolyn Gardner*

  8. Legacy User May 5, 2008 Reply

    Following on from the comments on testimonials in response to KevinM, I think you could be surprised at the availability of testimonials. It's often a case o simply asking in the right way and maybe even getting on the phone to some of your customers.

    The critical thing here though is credibility. It's easy to put up a testimonial but it's not so easy to make them really believable. Take a look at sites like which even manages to post believable customer video testimonials. To get people to do this willingly then you need to have a great product and follow it up with great customer service. Get these two things right and good testimonials should be relatively easy to get.

    Hope that helps.


    — *Alan Cox – Conversion Report Card Author*