If you visit the “About Us” section on the SportsRCool website, you’ll find a simple promise to offer the best possible products and customer service at the lowest available prices. And the company certainly delivers where customer service is concerned.
Each month, Practical eCommerce sends me shopping. I make a purchase from a real merchant and create both an article and a video of the shopping experience. My goal is to report back to you about the overall checkout process, customer service experience, and delivery. This review should provide a customer’s perspective about the featured merchant in particular, and about online retailing practices in general. To make sure that we don’t get preferential treatment, we do not notify the merchant about the impending review. Think of it as a secret shopper program for the Internet.
In this edition of The Shopping Experience, I was looking for wrestling shoes, an item near and dear to my heart. When I am not thinking or writing about ecommerce, I am part of a very engaged wrestling family (all of my four sons compete). We use nearly every evening for practice eight months a year and have not had a family vacation that did not include a wrestling tournament in almost nine years. Very few chain sporting goods stores carry wrestling equipment, so most of the wrestling community must shop online or from catalogs. As such, I have personally purchased from more than a dozen different online retailers. Although this was my first time on SportsRCool’s site, without a doubt the company provided some of the best customer service I’ve experienced. Unfortunately, the site’s poor aesthetics may mean that some customers will leave the site before they can ever experience the superb service.
Customer Service is King
I am going to start my review of the SportsRCool shopping experience at the end of the purchase process. Because it was the follow up after the sale that most impressed me about this small merchant from Slippery Rock, Penn. I had purchased a pair of lime green and black Adidas Response wrestling shoes. During the checkout process, I noticed that standard shipping was the only option, so I placed a call using the toll-free phone number listed on almost every page of the SportsRCool website.
At first, I thought SportsRCool was going to fail this test. I got voice mail and did not leave a message. But within seconds of hanging up the phone, a SportsRCool representative called me. “Sorry we missed the call,” he said, succinctly explaining why he had missed it and immediately refocusing our conversation on my needs.
I explained that I was wondering about shipping options. He acknowledged my question and said that the store used USPS priority mail, which usually takes only three days to deliver and costs much less than express shipping. He also said that even though it was after 4pm in Pennsylvania, my order would go out that evening.
Within minutes of ending our call, I received an email shipping confirmation. SportsRCool had kept their promise. My box was on its way less than an hour after I had placed the order. The store’s response and speed greatly impressed me. It was clear that SportsRCool really did want to provide excellent customer service.
The Shopping Cart: Checkout
While my customer service experience with SportsRCool was great, the checkout process was rather vanilla. Now, as checkouts go, vanilla or standard is not bad. The shopping cart took me through the process, collecting my payment information and offering an order conformation without incident. But I prefer single page checkouts rather than stepping through several pages and waiting for each one to load.
The Shopping Cart: Content Management and Aesthetics
Most shopping carts are really content management systems (CMS) that use a database to organize a store’s product catalog and offer up those products as site content. As a CMS, the cart is responsible for much of what a customer experiences. A feature-rich, highly customizable cart can dramatically improve conversion rates and leave customers with an impression of professionalism and, therefore, trust. Likewise, poor shopping carts make for poor shopping experiences.
While I could not divine exactly which shopping cart powered SportsRCool, I suspect it is using Go Daddy’s Quick Shopping Cart (the SSL is from Go Daddy and the site is a cookie cutter example of a Quick Shopping Cart store). While this cart is functional, it is far from ideal.
The main problem is that potential customers rely on an site’s aesthetics to gauge its credibility 46.2 percent of the time—more than any other factor, according to a joint Stanford University study of 2,440 people from 2003. Put another way, how an ecommerce site looks is more important than any other single factor when it comes to making a positive impression on potential customers.
SportsRCool’s site is in need of a visual overhaul. For example clicking on the “Shipping Policy” or “Fit Insurance” links takes you to pages devoid of any style at all.
SportsRCool provided me with an excellent customer service experience, but I fear that some would-be customers never give it a chance because of the site’s bland appearance and featureless shopping experience.