Conversion Review: Coffee Purveyor Needs Clear Purchase Path

Screen capture from jlhufford.comJL Hufford is a gourmet coffee company that started life with a small café in Lafayette, IN. The company went online six years ago and now boasts over 400 different specialty beverage blends as well as a wide range of “coffee lifestyle” products.

In this conversion review, I will evaluate the JL Hufford site at a high level, using it as if I was a potential customer. Specifically, I’ll pretend that “I’m really getting into good coffee and have recently completed a barista course. I’m now looking for a decent machine for home that will give me great espresso and frothed milk.”

Kyle Burke, JL Hufford’s marketing manager, describes the company’s unique proposition as a combination of excellent customer service, free giveaways, and risk-free buying. Kyle remarks on the website’s less-than-ideal conversion rate and suspects it may be due to issues with the checkout and the nearly product-less home page.

First Impressions

Am I at the right place? When I did this review, the JL Hufford Christmas campaign had already kicked in, so a great deal of the screen real estate was given to Christmas promotion. The countdown to Christmas and 5 percent site-wide promotions were nice and persuasive. However, I didn’t get an immediate sense that I was at the right place for my particular needs. I couldn’t see straight away that this company specialized in coffee or a place where I could get my coffee machine. There were no major cues (words or pictures) that indicated that this was a specialty supplier of gourmet beverages and “coffee lifestyle” products. Only by exploring the side navigation did I get a sense that I was at a place that could help me. The site would benefit from clearer visual statements and product pathways above the fold to give me an immediate sense of being at the right place.

An example of Ranking on the JL Hufford Website

Do I Trust this Company?

There are many aspects that contribute to the feeling of trust. My first impression was that this is indeed a trustworthy company. The site looks professional; the company’s telephone number is clearly displayed. I live chat with a real person, and so on. All these things give me a good feeling that this is a legitimate and trustworthy company.

I did feel that some areas of the site were less trustworthy. As an example, it was difficult to see what the product rankings meant and who had ranked them. If using a ranking system, it’s very important that customers understand and trust it. In this case, the rankings are actually related to the customer reviews. A simple statement like “based on 5 user reviews” underneath the ranking would be helpful.

Is It Easy to Find the Right Product for Me?

If you have specific brands or product types in mind, then you’ll probably find what you’re looking for here. But if you’re exploring, you may have some trouble. As discussed above, the home page did not provide me with any persuasive pathways or major cues that would lead me to my coffee machine. At the “Espresso Machines” page, I found that I could browse by type or by brand. This isn’t very helpful as I’m not sure what “type” is best for me and nor do I know what the best brands are. I decided to explore the “Pod” espresso machines and was confused, as I didn’t get any explanation of what a “Pod”-type machine was, or what situations it is good for. Furthermore, I found a number of machines in this category that looked very similar to machines I’d seen in others. In short, this site could be more helpful in supporting product choices, which would lead to more sales.

Will I Get Good Service?

If I were to buy my coffee machine here, when would I get it, and what would happen if I wasn’t happy with my purchase? What would happen in six months time if my machine broke down? Have other customers had a good experience with this machine? The questions around service are likely to differ from one product to another so it’s important to predict what the questions could be and address them clearly and up front.

The JL Hufford site did address some of my questions, although I found it difficult to find how long it would take for my machine to arrive. I couldn’t find any testimonials regarding JL Hufford’s service, and I found it difficult to locate information about after-the-sale service. I did find a link to JL Hufford’s “30 Day Satisfaction Policy” but it was buried at the bottom of the page near the footer. A number of small changes here could make a big difference.

How Easy was It to Buy?

It’s estimated that around 50 percent of all potential customers abandon the checkout process. So, once a prospect has decided to buy, it’s really important to make it as painless as possible.

The JL Hufford website uses a one-page checkout design. The experience overall could be described as average. There were a number of usability issues that could be remedied to increase conversions. As an example, the need for registration was confusing. The list of benefits suggests that it is not compulsory, when in fact it is.

Screen capture showing the additional shipping chargesWhen I selected a shipping option it resulted in two separate shipping costs, in this example $65.20 for choosing FedEx and another $48.93 for shipping and handling to Indiana. This is either a presentation issue or an actual error. Either way, it would cause confusion to some people.

Finally, I found the terms and conditions to be quite verbose and scary. As a consumer, I need to feel that my interests come first. This is always difficult for online retailers who need to cover themselves but also need to appear unthreatening to customers. Some careful content editing in this area would be beneficial.


JL Hufford is a credible online business and has a great range of products, but consumers may have difficulty finding what they are looking for. Addressing the issues we have identified would help JL Hufford to improve the online experience and increase conversions. A more exhaustive examination of the site would identify even more areas where JL Hufford can improve the customer experience and increase conversions.

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Alan Cox
Alan Cox
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