This is a guest post by Jon MacDonald. Jon MacDonald is founder of The Good, a conversion rate optimization firm that has achieved results for some of the largest online brands including Adobe, Nike, Xerox, Mercy Corps, The Economist, and more. He regularly contributes content on conversion optimization to publications like Entrepreneur and Inc. He knows how to get visitors to take action.
It’s no secret that subscription services are quietly dominating the ecommerce industry. It’s predicted that by 2023, 75% of brands selling DTC will offer some form of subscription services to their customers.
Here’s the thing: Subscription-based brands are growing faster than ever, but they all seem to be struggling with the same issue: customer retention.
Take the popular meal subscription service Blue Apron, for example. The brand that only just a few years ago was flourishing as a leader in subscription commerce (with a $2 billion valuation), is now struggling to reach profitability due to its staggering churn rate, reported in late 2019 at upward of 70%.
At The Good, we find too often these companies neglect the customer experience of their service, opting to focus instead on customer acquisition and advertising to promote their service. This choice to ignore the on-site customer experience is at the heart of the problem.
You may be wondering what a “customer experience teardown” is. Essentially this is an in-depth analysis of a brand’s customer experience that moves beyond just complaining about poor UX design choices.
In this teardown, we’ll be taking a close look at the customer experience of Frank And Oak’s clothing subscription service, Style Plan. We’ll walk you through each step of the customer journey—from the homepage to checkout—and identify key conversion blockers that may be hurting the website’s conversion rate.
Let’s dive in…
Starting with the homepage, we’re immediately greeted with an auto-rotating carousel of images moving at a swift pace.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from A/B testing of auto-rotating carousels, it’s that they don’t convert visitors to customers. Every test our team has conducted using auto-rotating content on the homepage has lost against a single, static image.
There are a few glaring usability problems with auto-rotating carousels:
- They make visitors lose control of their interactions on the site. This can be especially troublesome for users with motor skill problems or users with vision impairment that require a screen reader.
- They create what’s called “banner blindness” and are very likely to be ignored by users. A study by Notre Dame revealed that only about 1% of visitors interact with the content in an image carousel, and a majority of these visitors (84%) interact with only the first slide.
After reaching the Style Plan product page, you’re shown two separate pop-ups that offer conflicting discounts.
The first pop-up (shown below) advertises a $40 discount on your first Style Plan order. If you move your cursor out of the browser window you’re shown a second pop-up up offering a $30 discount.
Clearly this was a developer’s misstep, but it reveals a larger problem with the way Frank And Oak positions its product. From the minute you reach the Style Plan product page, you’re met with multiple offers encouraging you to share your email in exchange for a discount code.
Keep in mind, you’re shown both of these pop-ups before learning anything about what the service provides or how it’s different than every other clothing subscription service.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the discount business model—especially for companies in the subscription service market— it is that discounts can have a detrimental impact on customer retention. Discount promotions are great for attracting new customers, but they cut into your margins and often contribute to a higher churn rate.
This is yet another indication that Frank And Oak is focusing their efforts on customer acquisition rather than retention.
If you provide your users with an amazing on-site experience, that alone should be what motivates them to complete a purchase, not the fact that you’re throwing multiple discounts at them. If you give all your new customers a discount at the start of an engagement, they’ll expect to continue receiving that discount for the entire time they remain a paying customer.
Only after closing all the pop-ups are we finally given some detail around what Style Plan is.
The value proposition reads, “Quality, responsible essentials curated just for you, every month.” Based on this statement, we’re able to gather that this service focuses on providing high-quality, sustainably-sourced clothing. This is a perfectly plain value proposition, and that’s exactly why it isn’t very effective at conveying the unique selling proposition of the company. The value proposition for an ecommerce website needs to speak directly to why this product is better than every other product in the market.
Why should someone choose Style Plan over any other organic essentials brand?
Another thing to point out is that I’m still unsure whether this service is targeting men, women, or both. There’s no explicit messaging that indicates who this service is intended for. The imagery seems to show a mix of both men’s and women’s clothing, but there’s no clear messaging to clarify that.
Scrolling further down the page you’ll find a relatively simple and thorough explanation of how the subscription service works. This is actually quite an effective approach to explaining how Style Plan works, and it does mention pieces of information that differentiate the service from competitors and adds value to the customer experience. It mentions that the clothes are “eco-conscious” and picked out by a stylist to match your style requirements. I also appreciate the honesty and transparency when it states that “…each monthly box is subject to a $25 styling fee if you return the entire box.”
Halfway down the page, we’re finally given some information that differentiates Style Plan from other clothing subscription services: the commitment to sustainability. This is a significant selling point for the service, but it’s hidden halfway down the landing page.
It’s clear that Frank And Oak is trying to sell us on their ethical responsibility, but they wait until visitors are well below-the-fold (if they even get to that point) before letting them know how the products are ethical and sustainable. The fact that they are a certified B-Corp is a hefty value-add for the brand, but that information is quickly glossed over.
Rather than highlighting discounts, Frank And Oak should focus on promoting their ethical responsibility. Now more than ever, being an ethically-conscious brand is important to consumers, especially those in the age demographic that Style Plan is likely targeting with this service.
Toward the bottom of the page, you’ll find (unverified) reviews from three past customers. Displaying positive reviews on your website is essential to building trust and credibility with your audience, but you can run into serious problems if your reviews don’t appear to be from real customers.
When visitors find that there are only three reviews displayed and all of them are overwhelmingly positive, it has a negative impact on the authority and legitimacy of the reviews. None of these reviews are verified, so there’s no way to tell if Frank And Oak made them up, or if they’re actually from satisfied customers.
It’s always better to show all your reviews rather than hand-picking the most positive. Hand-picking customer reviews is a surefire way to destroy your brand’s credibility.
The rest of the customer experience beyond this landing page consists of a survey that asks you a series of questions regarding what style of clothing you prefer, your waist size, etc. After the survey, you’re immediately prompted to create an account, and then checkout.
There are two things we notice immediately on the checkout page:
- The good: We’ve often found that showing a coupon code field on the checkout page encourages users to leave the site in search of a code somewhere else on the web. Frank And Oak provides a great solution for this problem by just asking “Got a coupon code?” It’s a simple and effective alternative to including a coupon code field, without making it obvious to the user.
- The bad: The biggest flaw on the checkout page is that there’s no indication of how much you’ll be charged once you fill out the “Payment Method” and “Billing Address” sections. I’m hesitant to complete the form because I’m not being told how much my card will be charged. I have no doubt this is having a significant impact on Frank And Oak’s cart abandonment and bounce rates. If visitors don’t know how much the service cost, they likely won’t follow-through with the checkout process.
The customer experience of Frank And Oak’s Style Plan service leaves a lot to be desired. Their landing pages appear to be sleek and polished at first glance, but on further inspection you’ll begin to notice the clear “conversion-blockers”, such as displaying multiple pop-up offers, an unclear value proposition, and unverified customer reviews.
There are three key recommendations I’d make to improve this site’s customer experience:
- Clarify the value proposition: Nailing down a solid value proposition that effectively conveys the unique selling proposition of Style Plan will have the biggest impact on their conversion rate.
- Stop relying on discounting to bring in new customers: Excessive discounting cuts into your margins and will have a negative impact on your customer lifetime value. If Frank And Oak wants to see their customer satisfaction and retention rates improve, they should focus on providing users with a better overall experience, rather than throwing customers a $30 discount code.
- Focus on value-adds: What makes Frank And Oak’s Style Plan unique is the commitment to sustainability and ethically sourced materials, but that information is barely mentioned on the site. To help differentiate themselves from other services, they should test different value propositions on the homepage that highlight these aspects of the business. Style Plan should be selling consumers on its ethical responsibility, not the simplicity of the service.
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