Tricks of the trade

Looking over the Groomers-online.com
website brought back fond memories of my grandmother Vera
Williams who spent her lifetime grooming the poodles and pampered
pooches of West Cork. Back in the 1930s and 40s, dog grooming was
viewed as something of a luxury, but today, pet owners have
access to a plethora of advice and products online to cater to
the needs of their beloved pets.

Groomers’ years of industry knowledge is showcased in its
“Ultimate Guide to Dogs” section, accessed in one
click from the homepage. Such on-site expertise validates its USP
as “The Professionals Choice” (sic) giving Groomers
an edge as one of the leading authorities on pet care and lending
further credibility to its product range.

First impressions

The website layout and design is conventional, with clear
navigation and a well-structured dropdown menu, which provides
excellent classification of categories and products. This could
be further enhanced perhaps by offering signposting, via product
images, of the flagship products in each animal category.
Overall, there are no question marks over what the website sells
and how customers start their buying journey.

The eye is drawn to the red text areas of Free Delivery, New Year
Sale, telephone order line and Cover Star Competition. Careful
use of impact colours like red can be hugely powerful at
directing visitors’ eyes to your most important marketing
messages. Too much can be distracting. Creating a harmonious
colour palette, with the use of one or two complementary primary
colours and one accent colour to draw the eye is best-practice
usability.

Enticing your visitors to sign up to your newsletter deserves
more than a cursory please click below to join our newsletter
mailing list
. By offering a key benefit like Be the
first to know about our discounts and grooming tips,

Groomers will stand a greater chance of getting those
all-important email addresses. And while it misses the
opportunity on its email sign-up form, it creates a stronger
message with its invitation to Join us for EXCLUSIVE
competitions/giveaways
on the Facebook button on the site’s
subpages.

Navigation and search

Websites have to work hard at directing visitors with different
needs to what they are looking for in as few clicks as possible.
At Groomers-online.com, site speed is good, and navigation is
fast. The site offers consumers the option to type their keyword
into the search field, along with the aforementioned dropdown
menu that usefully categorises products. In addition to this,
many consumers have become accustomed to searching via filters,
which enable them to drill down deeper, sorting by type,
category, colour, price and so forth. Adding the search filter
across all subpages would help enhance the user experience.

Further, on entering the internal pages, the left-hand vertical
navigation becomes inconsistent. When browsing the internal
pages, there are some minor navigation issues that could trip up
potential customers. The navigation seems to collapse or change
depending upon which category you’re in. Providing a consistent,
conventional navigation process on each page will help visitors
navigate the site efficiently.

Improving the user experience

Having a home icon or home field on the navigation can ensure
everyone at all times is aware of how to return to the homepage.
Not every website visitor is familiar with the convention of
simply clicking on the logo in the left-hand corner to return
home.

A minor point regarding use of colours: white text on a green
background may not be the easiest to read and a small font size
may be an issue for older users or the visually impaired.

I’d also suggest having a section on new arrivals on the
homepage, as it is always welcomed by potential shoppers or
returning customers keen to quickly learn what’s new.

Big on brands

The brands of Waifs and Strays and Royal Canin are featured in a
prominent place above the fold, and it’s always useful for your
website credibility to feature popular brands; however, I think
more could be done to emphasise Groomers’ association with such
brands. The fact that Groomers has its own reputable line of
grooming products absolutely deserves to be featured more
strongly. All will provide enhanced credibility for Groomers
products. With own-brand products usually also being the highest
margin, it makes good business sense to make these products as
prominent as possible.

Boosting sales with user reviews

Online reviews and testimonials have become powerful ways to
stimulate and motivate your web visitors to purchase. Providing
your target audience with honest product reviews from like-minded
customers can be just the catalyst to them hitting the buy
button. I would recommend bringing key web reviews to the
homepage, along with a star rating by product and access to
customer reviews within the product pages. The power of
testimonials is twofold: word of mouth is a proven way to drive
sales, plus the more reviews you receive, the greater the
potential for the search engines to bring your website up on page
one when your products are searched for. When buyers are giving
your products the thumbs up, these endorsements bring your site
credibility that can’t be replicated by a product description.
Consider the use of third-party review services for extra
credibility; although not necessary for every product, it may be
useful for overall endorsement of Groomers.

Attracting trade customers

Many websites, like Groomers, have the opportunity to build their
brand online and sell their products to consumers while also
offering independent retailers and online traders the opportunity
to purchase their products in bulk directly online. Offering your
existing trade customers a self-service ordering solution along
with attracting new corporate customers are just two key benefits
of opening up your consumer-facing website to the trade. It’s not
clear on the Groomers website if it is interested in attracting
bulk purchases from the trade; however the offer to open an
account at the bottom suggests that they receive some regular
trade business.

A hybrid b-to-c/b-to-b website that allows the consumer to
purchase at retail prices and trade customers to purchase at
their bespoke discounted trade rate is a powerful eCommerce
solution, but it’s important not to confuse the user by trying to
appeal to multiple audiences and doing none of it well.

A business-to-business eCommerce site differs considerably from a
consumer-facing site in terms of usability, functionality and
providing a different buying experience. Trade customers are more
likely to want to add multiple case quantities of products they
have previously bought to their basket, rather than see a lot of
product detail and images.

Should Groomers pursue a b-to-b wholesale pricing eCommerce
model, for maximum conversion and customer growth it would, therefore, be worthwhile creating a separate b-to-b login, with a
different design, look and feel. A hybrid site can function well,
providing there is a clear distinction for the trade buyer.

Optimising for search engines

With some 3,970 pages indexed by the search engines, this is very
positive and reflects the size and scale of the site. However,
with only 154 inbound links, quality link building would enhance
Groomers’ visibility with the search engines. Again, adding
customer reviews by product would not only help boost sales but
is excellent content for search engines like Google.

The use of video on-site is becoming increasingly important, not
only because it benefits the user, but also because of its
ability to positively impact your SEO efforts. Groomers could
integrate video footage such as how-to grooming guides, for
example. Alternatively, asking customers for video reviews is a
great way to add video content to your site or your social media
networks.

The final word on SEO, duplicated or poorly structured metadata
and missing descriptions are never good news for websites,
Groomers could benefit from focusing on this area. I always
advocate including a paragraph or two of text on the main
category page, which is useful for both users and search engines.
Groomers has a noticeable absence of on-page content throughout
its internal pages.

Groomers is a good, functional and easy to use website. With this strong starting point, by implementing some of these recommendations, this website can go from strength to strength.

Robert Williams is managing director of Williams Commerce, a provider of multichannel eCommerce services for b-to-b and retail.

A few important b-to-b requirements:

  1. Quick ordering, the ability to build orders by product code and quantity
  2. “My regular buys” allowing customers to repeat purchase quickly and easily
  3. Trade deals, offers and promotions
  4. Bulk order-based delivery model, for instance setting a minimum order level, free delivery threshold level and fixed delivery fee
  5. Full systems integration ensuring customer order history and pricing is accurately provided to trade customers when they log in.–RW

 

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