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.
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
Design and Aesthetics C
Ease of Use C
Safety and Trust C
OVERALL GPA C-
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