Chef Steve had great intentions when he started 1-800-Bakery.com six years ago.
“With more competition opening up, like supermarkets with bakery departments, 30% of all retail bakeries have gone out of business in the past five years. What I wanted to do with 1-800-Bakery was help small bakeries survive the economy by taking the good products they make and giving them national distribution,” said Chef Steve, whose real name is Stephen Pazyra.
Chef Steve’s own small bakery, La Patisserie, in Winchester, MA, is one of 15 retail bakeries across the country that offer their best baked goods through the online store.
But even with a selection of award-winning cakes, pastries and cookies, his website wasn’t doing a good job of enticing customers.
“Sales weren’t good because the site didn’t look good. There was no customization. Eye appeal is necessary for baked products. With an online bakery, you lose the sense of smell so you have to concentrate more on imagery to show the customer the quality of the product,” he said.
Chef Steve decided on a two-phase redesign project. The first phase involved moving from his $30 per month, non customizable e-commerce platform to open source solution osCommerce. This allowed him to manipulate page design, provide a shopping cart that was easy for his customers to use, and create proper page titles for better search engine optimization
In late 2008, he embarked on phase two of his website update. For this stage, Chef Steve incorporated best practices in site design, usability and functionality which he had accumulated from three months of research, pulling from invaluable resources such as Internet Retailer Magazine.
Getting the design right was critical for Chef Steve. He used Axure RP to create his own wireframes, positioning key elements, like the store’s “shop with confidence” guarantee, customer reviews and appealing product photos, in prominent locations on the homepage.
“For a small business it’s important to show credibility as fast as possible. You have maybe only eight seconds to show customers what they want, and show credibility right away,” he said.
Customer reviews appear throughout the site, but the message of the reviews are appropriate to where the customer is in the buying process. For example, on the site’s checkout page, Chef Steve alleviates concerns about freshness and safe delivery using customer reviews that praise the store’s quality guarantee and express satisfaction in how an order arrived in impeccable condition.
Other features incorporated in the redesign are a separate sub-domain focusing on corporate logo cookies and cakes, the ability for gifting customers to choose the exact shipping arrival date, and easily accessible shipping rates.
“Right on the product page it tells you the shipping costs to get it where you want it to go. That probably hurts us because shipping perishable products can be expensive. But I thought it was just fair to the consumer that we are upfront with them,” he said.
For the project, Chef Steve took on a project manager role and hired a freelance graphic designer and coder, and worked with a marketing consultant from Noosphera. Phase two of his website update cost $30,000, which was within his budget.
His time frame of two months, however, was off—it ended up being six. Chef Steve pointed out that for a website update project, small business owners must be prepared to put in the time to guide the team, make decisions and review the work. The project schedule should also include allowance for unexpected speed bumps. “If you think you might get a project done in a certain time, multiply it by three,” he said amusingly.
Since the redesign, Chef Steve said conversion rate has increased by 30%, and the store has improved markedly in organic search ranking. It’s been almost three years since the update, so he’s planning a complete redesign in another 18 months. Just like his cakes and pastries, it’s best to keeps things fresh.
By Joseph Mutidjo, Reporter, Smallbiztechnology.com
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