First published on 23rd March 2011 on www.robinsonsequestrian.com
What an incredibly mad couple of months it’s been! We don’t seem to like doing things by halves and here we are about to open a new store in Cardiff and launch a brand new website in almost the same week! I’ve been promising a blog on our new site about why we feel it’s such a big deal, so here goes…
Some time in April (I can’t say when because at this stage we don’t know), we’ll take the decision to retire our current website, which has served us well for the last seven or eight years and replace it with a new, more powerful, more attractive version. Not only will it look different and do many more sophisticated things, it will also live somewhere else.
We’ve decided that the new website will live at robinsonsequestrian.com but don’t worry about updating your bookmarks or anything; we’ll do all sorts of linking to ensure that anyone going to our current site will be automatically forwarded to the new site instead. Below, you’ll see a graphic of the new homepage (sorry, we’re not really knocking 50% of Puffa jackets!). As you can see, it’s visually very different to the site it replaces but the differences don’t end there…
- Avid web users may be pleased to see that it offers a wishlist function – something that lots of customers have contacted us about over the years, er, wishing for. I’m a big amazon.co.uk fan and I was delighted to see that Father Christmas had clearly read my amazon wishlist last year, so it was hugely important to me that we gave him the chance to do the same thing with our new site!
- The search box looks the same but under the bonnet, it’s like comparing a lawnmower engine with a Ferrari V8. Our old site only searched the titles of our products and a few keywords, this will look at every word we use about it in the copy – it’ll even decide for itself what to suggest if you spell something wrong. We always had to anticipate that lots of people might search for ‘jodphurs’ and remember to add such keywords ourselves. Now the search engine will do it for us – wherever it thinks it needs to – which means you should find what you’re looking for much more quickly.
- In addition to organising our product range by types of product (i.e. footwear, headwear etc.), we will also be able to organise them by the activity you need them for. The new ‘Disciplines’ menu allows dressage riders to see everything we can offer them that are ideal for their sport, just as showjumpers, eventers and a host of others will be able to. You can also drill into this feature (and the new and extended Bargain Zone) even further by specifying items for Men, Women or Children.
- Overseas customers will also have the opportunity to order in Euros or US dollars.
Once you’ve found the item you’re looking for, the improvements won’t end there. Here’s another mock-up of the product page (I know, clippers shouldn’t live in the T-shirts section!) showing how we’ll convey a wealth of information about each product to you clearly and legibly.
- We’ll have the ability to display upto eight images or even a video file for each item we offer and all the information we hold can be sorted into sections, like johnlewis.com ond other major retailer websites.
- You’ll be able to rate an item and write a review, or use the information that others have already left to help decide if a particular product is just what you’re looking for – or not.
- In addition to everything we can write to describe the items we offer, we’ve also reached and agreement with the publishers of the Threshold Picture Guides to allow us to use some of their information to help you decide what items are right for you. We’ll also be asking all our suppliers to provide us with as many guides and as much associated information as they can. We really want our pages to be the source of all the information you’re ever likely to need about each and every product in the range.
We’ll be able to offer you ever more sopisticated offers like ‘Buy three rugs and get the cheapest free’ – which our old site would never have been able to handle. We’ll also be able to offer – and redeem – online versions of our popular paper gift vouchers, which is another missing feature that has been maddening to customers and us alike for years! All the best functions on our current site will remain – although many of them will be more prominent which should make them more popular. For example, our Live Chat feature has become a very popular and therefore important tool in a short space of time.
Similarly, the suggestion of related items (which I admit weren’t always that sensible) will also appear on the new site, together with the ubiquitous ‘Share This’ social media links. You always could post an item that impressed you to Facebook or Twitter but I bet you never have, in part, because the button was designed so appalingly. We’re doing away with a separate News section and incorporating all that kind of thing straight into an upgraded blog area and calling it all ‘News & Events’ and we’re also changing the way the site is hosted to ensure that we can cope much more efficiently with the mega-busy days like the first day of an online Sale.
I hope you can agree, this has all been quite sufficient to keep many of our admin team and Pod1, our web partners quite busy for a number of months now. We’re sure it will work and feel much better, which is, after all, the point of the exercise. It may however take us a while to acquire and organise all the extra product details we’ll now have the opportunity to provide. I’m currently leaning on all our top suppliers to get more words, more pictures and more video and of course, we’ll generate our own content too but with over 20,000 products to populate, that might not happen overnight.
Finally, one last little feature that we felt was important: The Trolley. What do you call the *thing* that you add items into when you’re ordering online? Every bit of advice we have been given has been to call it a ‘Basket’. That’s what everyone else does and it’s what customers expect to see. If we were aiming the site at Americans, we could get away with ‘Cart’ but here, it should be ‘Basket’ every time. Why then, did we decide to go for ‘Trolley’?
Here’s a picture taken in our ‘New Equestrian Superstore’ when we first opened it in 1982. The thing that made us different then – and to still some extent even now – was the humble shopping trolley. It was a time where only grocery ‘supermarkets’ used them and nobody had every heard of doing their equestrian shopping this way and it caused a huge stir at the time. Some people even thought it cheapened the experience of going shopping.
If you’re under 25, I’m sure you can barely imagine such a ridiculous state of affairs (in fact, I often struggle myself 🙂 *pretends not to be much older than 25*) but it’s true and if I could link to something that agreed with the point, I would. Anyway, that’s why we defied all the advice and we’re going with a Trolley.
Please don’t be confused by this departure from the norm because every piece of website user data indicates that you might be! I’m sure you’ll cope with the Trolley and I hope you’ll love the site. We can’t wait to get it online and I’m sure you’re looking forward to having a browse around too.
As soon as we have a launch date, we’ll let you know!