Everything wrong with eTail summed up in one site

First, I should say I am a big fan and customer of  Express. Their fitted MX shirts are the only shirts that fit me since I’ve been working out, they are not crazy expensive, look great, good quality, and they offer a fantastic selection in all of their stores. I received a direct mail piece from them today to entice me to shop online with them (I almost never open a DM piece anymore, but since I’m a loyal customer I thought it was a great way for me to pick up a few more shirts at a discount).

The offer was $30 off a purchase if i shop online with them… I went to Express.com and landed here:

express.com 10/7/2010

There are thousands of wanna-be ux experts in the world that love to pick on the design – it is easy to be a critic. But I think this site epitomizes the issues I have had for quite some time with how retailers approach their online experience.

My primary issue with the site is that it does match not their brand. If you walk into an Express store, you notice that it is clean and a bit modern – not over stated. It has a slightly pretentious decor with european house music softly playing in the background, white walls, clothes meticulously folded and stacked. The site however tells me their brand is all about spamming me and offering me discounts. It is what I would expect from a store that sold neon lights and bar stools.

Most of their site is dedicated to signing up so they can send me more marketing stuff – if their emails are as thought through and targeted as their home page, why would I want more of it? It is the equivalent of a man standing outside of their store holding a megaphone shouting “give me your email address and I’ll give you 15% off in this here place”.

I came here to buy something (which I assume most people who navigate to express.com do). How much room did they dedicate to that activity on their home page? 10%! I guess the second reason I would go to their site is to find a location – all of 2% of their site is dedicated to FIND YOUR STORE.

I would wager this site is the frankenstein of decisions by committee and mis-guided customer feedback. A VP said “we need social networking” and the facebook & twitter badges appeared. A few vocal customers in a focus group said “is the site secure?” and the McAfee badge was added. Someone in marketing said “we need more email addresses” so they popped up a modal email window the second you hit the site. Someone said “we need to increase sales” and coupons and discounts appeared. Someone said “people like our music in our stores” so the Express Radio appeared.

This site is a clear demonstration of what can happen when you do not take the time to really understand what your customers want from a digital channel and mapping a strategy and rules of engagement to those user needs.

I wish I could say that this site was unique. They they are making mistakes nobody else is making. Unfortunately, etail sites are incestually bad. They all steal their bad ideas from one another instead of looking to their customers to create something meaningful.

2 comments
  1. Kevin said:

    I thought this post was spot-on. Too often disparate part of a business (or product or service) feel as though they were created by totally different parts of the organization (and probably were). As much grief as Apple gets, they nearly always create a single, unified experience across stores, hardware, and software. I wish a few more businesses would start think of the various parts of their “message” as elements of a unified strategy.

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