The Vitamin Shoppe is a multi-channel retailer that sells vitamins and supplements. They have a brick and mortar and an ecommerce presence. I’ll only be talking about their website, but the effects the website have on the B&M are important.
Again, standard disclaimer-this writeup probably sounds more negative than positive, it isn’t meant to. This isn’t a SWOT analysis, it is the “how I’d improve my favorite stores” series. Also, all comments are based on desktop, because, well, this analysis has to end sometime.
There are a ton of vitamin companies. Since the B&M came first…before the web, lets try to get a feel for what the brand is about by taking a look at the aesthetic of their stores. This might be a good place to start. Here is their logo above. (I believe this is their most current one).
Simple, classy. I notice the distinct looking “V” and the spelling of “shoppe”. I also note the blue and orange.
Let’s take a peak inside a store:
I am not a visual merchandiser, but I certainly note the blue and orange. The pics on the wall are of healthy, happy people and the “V”. Note, not all vitamin companies go for the “healthy, happy people” vibe. Beachbody.com and bodybuilding.com go for “ripped and hot…and healthy”. Note the two big sections on the wall mentioning “Vitamins and Supplements” and “Herbs and Homeopathy”. And of course, they carry tightly displayed vitamins. I don’t see any sales mentioned.
So I think we have some idea of the branding. At the very least it is orange and blue, healthy happy people are important, and the products they sell are vitamins, supplements and herbs”. I would recognize another Vitamin Shoppe if I saw it. If I were a vitamin shopper, I’d know this was a reputable brand if I walked past it in the mall and I’d go shop.
I see the logo in the top left. Good. But I don’t see any other instances of those oranges or blues. (The links don’t count…I don’t think they are the same color blue). On the sides of the website, that is not tire tread or walkway tread, it is a series of “V”s. But not The Vitamin Shoppe V’s. It is clever but it misses. Not because you can’t instantly tell what it is. These “easter eggs” can be fun. The reason it is a miss is because I feel the vibe is “urban” or “trucker” rather than happy and healthy. Also, it should incorporate orange and/or blue.
The creative is busy. I mentioned in my review of party city that the creative was too busy. That is a stylistic choice that their brand has chosen. I questioned whether toning it down a bit would lead to higher conversions. In this case, The Vitamin Shoppe’s brand is “simple and classy” were the words I went with.
In the next pic we come closer to the vitamin shoppe vibe. Notice what the only difference is. There is orange in the banner and it is less busy (but still busy):
A couple notes on the creative. Our eyes go to red use it once on something important. One more note on the creative. I have found that creative gets worse the more people that get involved. It is usually the creative and the acquisition people have conflicting performance incentives or instructions. While I am an acquisition guy first, I have found that nothing makes my life easier than a nice looking site. So I tend to be a mostly silent advocate of the creative team.
I don’t have the aid of analytics but I am pretty certain what the nav should look like. Vitamins, Supplements, Herbs and Food should be the four primary categories. (I am assuming that supplements are different than vitamins?) Those four categories should be bold and on the left. It appears people must search by brand and health concern.
Those are two great categories, but they still need to be to the right of those other categories. It just makes sense. I’d need more space to prove why, if this is not apparent. I like weight being in the top nav since I imagine most people are here for that reason, but I would try to limit the others. Make it a feature on the homepage.
The SEO & The Category Page
The technical SEO is a strength of the site. In one sense that is fantastic because you get free traffic, but sometimes your seo is so good that you don’t want to touch your site for fear that Google will wipe out your work. Free money really is that good!
One aspect of the SEO is puzzling. The lack of the use of the words ‘weight loss’ or ‘diet’. That has to be purposeful. Perhaps to get around child-blockers or google adwords restrictions? Hmm.
I have a feeling this (the good seo results) explains some of the decisions regarding the top navigation. You can see the benefits and the power of the top nav and how it can influence google’s rankings. Remember though, the point of making adjusting the site-including the top nav- is to improve customer experience and hopefully conversion rate.
Knowing this what would I do?
It would 100% depend on the analytics, and even then I am not sure the analytics could tell you everything you need to know. You would have to do a test which would involve redesigning your site and sending half your traffic to the new temporary site and seeing if the conversion rate improves well enough to justify making radical changes. Most companies can’t afford that. Or you could take a leap of faith. I don’t know if I’d do that either.
What I might start off with is removing one of the top nav sections (lets say the ‘kids and pets’) and moving it somewhere else…maybe a feature on the homepage. I’d wait three months and see what the damage is…concentrate on off-page SEO. If organic traffic remains flat, I’d pull the next section. The downside to this approach is that I do not think you’ll see a corresponding increase in conversion until the top nav is completely sorted out and pretty.
The Product Page
I think this page could be improved. It’s cluttered. But I want to draw attention to one huge missed opportunity. It turns out there is a huge community here that is participating in talking about this product and I really have to stumble upon it to notice it. I have circled it above. There have been 4 questions and 52 answers about this product! That is a big deal. Where are the comments? I want to see those and the stars when I come to the page. This should be the default view.
I’d like to see more orange and blue. Simple. Give the creative team the instructions “classy and simple” from now on…and fewer words. No one reads on the internet. And more pictures of healthy people. Simple.
The navigation is tough. I really think there is opportunity here but it would take a lot of study to determine how much to change it. I bet we could improve the product page with a little TLC…and money. And if your community is that big you have to show it off.
contact me at eric(dot)zwickler(at)gmail(dotcom)