Another Dumb Pet Trick

Bryan couldn't wait to email me the screen shots. "This is crazy! I can't believe they're doing this." There's a lot we can't believe folks do, so this actually isn't an unusual situation. But Bryan was ... um ... peeved. (That's putting it politely.)

You see, DJ needed a bowl for his water, and providing for DJ proved slightly more complicated than Bryan had anticipated. In his words ...

Bryan Has His Day

Bzzzzzz... The email comes through on my Blackberry. I glance down and it's from my wife - subject line "ooops." I open it up. It's short and to the point: "water bowl" and a link. No problem I think; I will just order the water bowl for DJ (our dog) when I get back home.

So my adventure starts...

Now that I am finally in front of a pc, I click through on the link and review the selection of sizes and colors. I finally decide on one (not that the page was that persuasive, but I didn't want to waste much time on a water bowl). So I go ahead and add the product to my cart.

The very next page requires me to register!

It's bad enough when a site wants me to register to start checking out, but when they require me to register when I put something in my cart, I see red. But for this once, I am willing to get over it because I trust the brand and I just don't want to hassle looking elsewhere. So I fill in my email address and click continue.

After I give them my name and a password on the next page I click continue again. So where do you assume the site should take me next? That's right... A Thank you for registering at Petco.com.

They offer me two actions to take next: "Update your account" or "Start Shopping." Start shopping? I put something in my cart! I want to checkout and give you my cash. Please just let me give you the money! You do want to GTC (get the cash), right?

I click on "Start Shopping," and it takes me to the home page. Sigh. An unfortunate diversion, but I'll just click on "shopping cart" at the top of the page even though on the product page there was an "add to cart" and an "add to fetch my sales" (not really sure what that means but I assume it works like add to cart).

Why am I not surprised when my shopping cart page loads up?

"There's Nothing in Your Cart For Your Pet to Enjoy!" My pet's enjoyment ... what about MY enjoyment. I've acted in good faith and wasted a bunch of time trying to buy with no luck. However, Petco successfully converted me to a registered user.

Congrats!

And in the End

Bryan did complete his purchase (for which I gave him a big, fat raspberry). No doubt, he will be "satisfied" with the water bowl, and since Petco.com has a broad selection of quality merchandise, Bryan might even buy from them again (heavy emphasis on that 'might'). But Petco.com probably has no idea Bryan is ready to defect to a competitor if the opportunity arises.

Petco.com considers Bryan a customer and perhaps somebody - if there is a somebody responsible for conversion - may imagine him a loyal customer if he buys again. But is he loyal? Was he delighted? Do you think he's going to recommend Petco.com to a friend without a strong caveat?

I figure Petco.com doesn't know what's going on. No combination of the A/B or multivariate testing they perform is going to alert them to this major conversion problem that I guarantee is losing them sales.

Perhaps if the good people responsible for Petco.com read this, they will download a copy of Frederick F. Reichheld's essay "The Satisfaction Trap," where they may learn that research shows 60-80% of customers who defect to a competitor say they were satisfied or even very satisfied prior to the defection.

A big part of amassing delighted, loyal customers is providing them with a delightful, hassle-free shopping experience. Are you asking and investigating the right questions about your persuasive process? Are you delighting your customers or merely satisfying them?

Volume 120: 11/1/05


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