How I’d Improve My Favorite Stores: Tractor Supply Company

See part 1, 2, 3 in this series on how I’d improve my favorite sites.

Tractor Supply Company sells to the rural handyman and the small farmer. Interestingly, they don’t sell tractors (online anyway). Imagine a walmart merchandized for the Midwest- but without the human food. They compete with the homedepots and petcos. Keep in mind that huge farms buy wholesale, so they wouldn’t buy bulk supplies from TSC. Most of TSC’s business is done through their B&M stores.


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The Creative & Branding

The creative for Tractor Supply Company is solid; that is perfect for its brand. The space on the sides is used well- it is the side of a barn and it is light-almost white. Nice. Right away, I get that I can buy “country-living stuff”…but that is mostly because of what the word “tractor” conveys, and the slight barn feel from the side creative of the website. There are products on the site, which is good.

If I have any concern it is that the category is not completely defined for me in a 3 second glance. Can I buy hunting supplies here? Camping supplies? Maybe a tagline like “everything you need for the farm, except the land”. A better-defined, pared-down top navigation might go a long way to helping the creative and brand too. (More on this later).

The ‘know how’ section has a lot of good pics that shows off the vibe of your brand. You have to incorporate that into the site better. You could even use these as a homepage banner for a couple of days and see how it does. A manly-man picking up hay pushes your brand just as much as instructions on how to redeem your giftcards.

The primary color of TSC is red which is appropriate. I might check out other brands that are red (like target) and see how they used red on their website. You want to try to use your reds and greens judiciously, our eyes gravitate there.

Let’s take a peak at where they miss on creative…on the clothing:


Clothes Look Good on Models

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This picture shows that they are somewhat inconsistent about how they display their clothing. Some clothing is on models, some isn’t. I’d imagine that the ones that are are vendor shots. Here is a good rule of thumb for people selling clothing: Always show your clothing on models. It looks better, the quality looks better, and it converts better.

Secondly, when TSC uses a model, they make the creative decision to cut off her face. Presumably this is to show more of the product in the pic or so that the customer can concentrate on the product not the model. This is the wrong decision. It is distracting. Test it…

Several years ago a competitor of mine used this same logic-they photoshopped the heads off all the models. Well, one day they must have hired a new creative director and they reshot every pic on their site to include the model’s faces. They gained marketshare. Will this always work? I am not certain, but I would test it.


The Navigation

I don’t think “horse” should be a primary category on any site unless you are selling live animals. I could see “Pets & Livestock” or an “animals” section. I might make my nav- Hardware, Lawn/Garden, Animal supplies, Clothing, Vehicles & Parts.   Then everything would be a subsection of those…I think you could fit almost everything into one of those things and it would make it much quicker to find on the site. Now I can quickly know, “do they sell guns”? No. “Do they sell tents?” No.



The site is adaptive, but not responsive. For a multichannel retailer I would use both. At the top of the homepage you can see it tells me where my closest store is. It also looks like they are just testing out “free ship to store” or in-store fulfillment. I am not sure I would test that during q4 but whatever.

Here is a pic of the category page:


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The biggest problem I have with this display is that both online and in store welders are in the default view. Online-only should be the default and “all” should be the alternative. I would also set rules so that when all is selected, online always appears first. Get the bosses to agree then set the attributes correctly.

The only reason you need these additional attributes is for in-store fulfillment, and I am certain the customer doesn’t need to see those 5 options (just online and all inventory). On the backend I am not even sure you need these attributes to fulfill orders at the store anyways (if this is what we are going for here).


The Product Page

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See the alternate pics that are available to view? These are fun, and they do not cost a lot extra to produce. The vendor shots that come with the staged families are great, but for your other products just shoot two different angles so I can get a better feel for the product. Most of the products don’t have them.

Again, like The Vitamin Shoppe, TSC has an active community that likes to talk about their products…you need to have the default view display these reviews. (At least on the desktop…hide them on mobile devices if you must).

You also have the product manual on this page…that’s a cool feature that is kind of hard to find.

There is another cool thing that is going on here, but it feels like it is still in test phase…you can click the “check store availability”:


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This didn’t appear to perform any calculation…either that or their erp system is lightning fast. I am not certain whether it is saying “Yes we carry these here” or “Yes these are currently in stock at this moment”. If it is checking inventory, you could automatically check the inventory of the customers cart with your local store and offer them options like at checkout:

  • Want to pick it up at the store today for free? (if everything is in inventory at the local store)
  • Want to pick it up at the store in 5 days for free? (if you need to ship stuff to local store)
  • Just ship it to me now and ill pay.

That would be cool!



There is a lot going right. I think we could help the branding on the site by pushing the manly men pics and also tightening up the nav. Let people know instantly that they are in the right spot. Also, spend a little money for models and extra angles of product photos.

I am not certain what their multichannel capabilities are, but given the hints in the website, I have provided a couple applications to make it smoother for the customer. Make sure the customer experience on the web is solid then worry about them getting to the store. Either is hard to do well.

Also, celebrate and feature your customer reviews. They differentiate you from competitors and that helps conversions and increases engagement.

Two last tangential notes: It appears it is trying to install Silverlight and/or use an adobe plugin my cart. I am not sure why, just tell me what it is for. (I also would have another question- why not sell guns and camping gear? But this is a true question, not a suggestion based on any data…I would need to see analytics to see if your customers want that).


To contact me: eric(dot)zwickler(at)gmail(dotcom)




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