Practical Ecommerce

Conversion Review: The Russian Store is Well Designed with Clear Navigation

In Conversion Review we visit a website as if we were a potential customer and assess how well the site does at converting visitors into buyers. For this review, we visited The Russian Store, acting as a customer who wished to purchase some Russian collectibles. Staff of The Russian Store requested this review.

Russian Store Screenshot
The Russian Store has been selling Russian imported gifts and collectibles for over 10 years and has had an online presence since 2003. The website offers roughly 5,000 products for sale at any one time.

First Impressions

Arriving at The Russian Store website, my first impression was positive. The design is uncluttered and there are a variety of clues that indicate this is the right place to buy Russian collectibles. These clues include photographs showcasing classic Russian nesting dolls, amber jewelry and colorful Pisanki eggs, as well as some brief information about The Russian Store, and a navigation bar showing the major product areas. The search function is prominently placed, giving me confidence that I could easily find what I was looking for. However, the heavy focus on nesting dolls on the home page may mislead some customers into thinking that The Russian Store has a very narrow product range.

Does the company seem trustworthy?

The home page inspired my trust. Not only was the design clean and uncluttered, but there was a “Customer Service” link at the top of the home page along with the company’s phone number. Making it easy for customers to contact you is good.

Also on the home page is some brief informative copy about the company. The fact that The Russian Store has been trading since 1994 is missing from the home page and this could be a selling point as customers like to feel that they are dealing with an established company. This information is in the “About Us” section, however, the link to this was at the bottom of the page and not very accessible.

Some positive customer testimonial snippets would also have added to the overall feeling of trustworthiness.

Is it easy for me to find the right product?

I found it easy to find gifts because I could narrow my search by price and by theme. I also found “Gift Ideas” a good place to start. When I found a nice pair of earrings, the website helpfully suggested other jewelry ideas.

However, the product information was often insufficient or just plain wrong in some cases. For example, the Cute Pigs Nesting Dolls refers to a family of bears in the description. Good product information is crucial to support customer decision-making. Poor product information will impact sales.

Customer reviews or ratings, particularly for the books, would have been helpful in supporting my decision-making. I also wanted much bigger photos (the large photos were not particularly large), and in some cases I wanted more photos (not just one or two). While the product page provides a link to more photos, it would be a good to show a list of small thumbnails on the page.

What was missing was any sort of information for each major product category. For example, something about the history of nesting dolls, what makes them unique, and so on, this would have significantly enriched my shopping experience.

Will I get good service?

As a potential customer, I ask, “If I were to buy something from this site, when would I receive it and what would happen if I wasn’t happy with my purchase? And, have other customers received good service from The Russian Store?”

The Russian Store website addressed my questions well and a “Customer Service” link was prominently displayed on the top of each page. However, there were no testimonials relating to previous customers’ experience of the service they received. Testimonials are an important tool for establishing trust and credibility, and converting visitors into buyers.

How easy was it for me to buy?

About 50 percent of potential customers are lost in the checkout process so it’s important to make this as easy as possible. While I found the checkout relatively painless, I was frustrated by the fact that there were no gift-related options (such as omitting the price from the packing slip).


Overall, The Russian Store website is well-designed with clear navigation. It largely supports the main roles that customers take when buying online. However, increased sales would be likely if gift options were offered, and more category and product information was included to support customer decision-making.

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Alan Cox

Alan Cox

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  1. Armando Roggio March 27, 2009 Reply

    Great article.

  2. Chris "Cartel" English March 28, 2009 Reply

    Nicely designed store.

  3. flyingkites March 31, 2009 Reply

    I think this review was superficial and unnecessarily negative.

    I think your comment about the Matryoshkas (nesting dolls) was completely off the mark. Every site features some brand or product on its home page and this site happens to feature one of the most known icons in Russian souvenirs. Nothing wrong with that especially given 3 other products sets are also featured on the home page.

    Trust does not come from things as simple as how many years you have been trading or unverifiable site testimonials. People make that up all the time. Trust comes from phone numbers, physical addresses and seals like their Verisign, BBB and McAcfee Secure seals. Plus they offer Google Checkout. They have got "trust" covered.

    And so what they had one product with a description wrong? You think people would really be confused given the image and name were right? I bet I could find issues on this site too including this article. That is a trivial observation. As for more category and product information, I cannot imagine what more they could possibly add!

    As for being able to ship as a gift, the site is clearly geared towards the gift concept. INcluding being able to ship to an address different from the CC billing address. So it is not a given their packing slip even includes prices. If you wanted them not included then that is what order comments are for. And if you wanted to make double sure you could have asked them about it before you placed your order – that is what their customer service is actually about. So did you bother to ask?

    This is a nicely designed site and while it has issues, you picked up on none of them.

  4. Alan Cox April 2, 2009 Reply

    Hi ‘flyingkites’.

    Thanks for your feedback. I respect your opinion.

    I must admit that I’m a little surprised that you felt the review was negative. Overall, I felt the report is is very positive and we’ve actaully received a good amount of positive feedback from e-business owners who found it useful.

    The purpose of the report is to help identify that things that could be improved to support the customer experience. So I guess people can take these things as negative or more as they are intended as pro-active findings/recommendations.

    Please also note that this is not an in-depth heuristic study and not intended to pick up everything. The report was actually the findings from a brief customer walkthrough.

    However, I fully respect your feelings and opinions and thank you for your feedback.

  5. Alan Cox April 2, 2009 Reply

    "Plus they offer Google Checkout. They have got "trust" covered."

    With respect to this comment, [here is an interesting article of note]( that does question the trustworthiness of Google. Hope it’s useful.

  6. IBIMA May 12, 2015 Reply

    A study conducted by a group of researchers from University of Massachusetts Lowell, Department of Operations and Information Systems has investigated the role of reviews on reviews.

    The study stated “People read online reviews and are influenced by others’ opinions when making purchase decisions. The magnificent power of crowd is further enhanced with User Generated Content (UGC) websites and social media platforms where users can easily access the information about users’ choices and decisions.”