WebWatch - Bigelow Tea Brew Masters
With an office full of tea drinkers, we're always on the hunt for blends of tea that'll suit every fancy. Some prefer organic tea, while others want green tea. As a result, I set out on a journey to buy tea online and came across BigelowTea.com, the Web site of Bigelow Tea, a 64-year-old purveyor of fine teas.
There are many ways to navigate the site via the homepage. Almost too many. With several banners, a top and left menu, it’s difficult to find the proper path through the site. Also, when using the Firefox browser, a nasty browser bug appears to cause the word “EMPTY” to come into view over the word “Tea,” which is most likely the company’s main category. That’s a big problem considering more than 30 percent of Internet browsers use Firefox.
While there are considerations a manufacturer that also maintains a direct online sales channel must face, Bigelow lacks clear calls to action on its secondary banners. These are prime places to drive visitors and tell stories about each tea in the process.
Internal site search
Based on my firm’s research, visitors who use an e-commerce site’s site search are nearly three times more likely to convert into customers. But after trying several searches on Bigelow.com, such as “tea” and “green tea,” the results were poor — if that.
The results interface is poorly designed and doesn’t segment the content pages from the product pages. The products should be returned first and contain the product image, name and a link to the product page.
In working my way through the category pages, I found it odd that each subcategory icon represented a single blend of tea while there could be more than 10 different blends associated with each subcategory. These subcategory icons are also extremely small and barely readable. This could be a situation where creating lifestyle shots of a much larger size may be in order.
How about the back of that box?
When moving to the product pages, it’s nice to see a legible photo of the front of a box of tea, but what about the back of the box? How about the nutritional information? It was also strange to see different blends using different angle photos. Keeping your products consistent is a major part of successfully selling online.
Lastly, the product pages lack a clear call to action to add a product to the shopping cart. Our research shows that developing a clear ready-to-buy box to the right of the product image can have a significant impact on conversion. This box should contain price and shipping time frames, as well as a large add-to-cart button.
I added an assortment of teas to my shopping cart, and then — wanting to continue shopping for items other than tea — I clicked on a “continue shopping” link that took me back to a main category page, which didn’t seem to be linked from the main navigation. This is like returning to the front of the grocery store after adding a gallon of milk to your cart, then going all the way back to add a loaf of bread.
After adding several products, I came to the “shopping cart” page. There, I also found the “continue to checkout” links weren't as clearly labeled as the delete button to remove items. By adding a minicart that follows users instead of returning to the front of the site, and clearly labeling the “continue-to-checkout” buttons, Bigelow surely could increase its conversion rate.
After clicking on the “continue-to-checkout” button, I came upon a five-step process to actually purchase tea. Step No. 1 asked for credit card information and to create an account; step No. 2 asked for shipping information; step No. 3 asked for gift wrapping information; and step 4 asked for “comments,” “how did you hear about us,” coupon codes and catalog source codes. Finally, after many unnecessary, but still required, questions and steps, I was able to actually confirm and complete my order.
Many companies still don’t realize that fixing issues with their checkouts to increase conversion rates is the only way to directly add top-line revenue to their sales. There are visitors who really want to make purchases but become frustrated and leave.
I even had issues about where to click next.Although the site had a progress bar, it didn’t clearly stand out. Although the site contains search engine-friendly URLs, it lacks a clear site architecture as well as on-page SEO elements. And internal links seem to be jammed with extra keywords that take away from the overall theme of each page.
Bigelow also doesn’t show up in the Google Product Search area within the organic search results. This could be done for free by creating a listing of all of its products and registering the feed with Google.
As the longtime manufacturer of an extensive line of products, Bigelow Tea can provide a better level of trust to its visitors. This trust can create a higher conversion rate — even at a higher price point-— since it's the trusted source. By creating a user experience checklist and fixing many of the technology issues discussed above, Bigelow could significantly increase its online sales from its existing traffic base.
Ethan Giffin is CEO/ founder of Groove Commerce, a Baltimore-based e-commerce consulting agency. Reach Ethan at firstname.lastname@example.org.