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I came across this website today www.735pm.com through Diversity.net.nz today and couldn’t believe what I was seeing – I thought that as an industry, these types of abysmal web business attempts were a thing of the past. Not just the bad design, but the fundamental concept as a whole and the dollars behind it all. If you think I’m just being negative, then read the comments on Ben’s post and you’ll see this is a general consensus.

Here’s the article on the New Zealand Herald if you want to read the PR guff… There are plenty of hard working genuine businesses out there needing a push – shame on NZ Herald for printing this…

“Nelson businessman Alan Trent says he is committing more than $1 million to the development and launch of a shopping website, 735pm.com, aimed at New Zealand retailers and consumers.

One of the site’s features is it gets redesigned every day at 7.35pm. While retailing websites including Telecom’s Ferrit have struggled to win significant numbers of customers, Trent said 735pm.com would provide a unique shopping experience and offer significant opportunities for companies to market nationwide.”

I’m fairly black and white with my opinions, but I also like to explain. I’m going to point out some areas that need consideration or work. Also just some random thoughts. The main issues I have with the concept are these:

Be Careful What You Say!

Be sure that if you make claims through PR that you can back them up. Bloggers are sitting there ready to pounce on every opportunity to prove people wrong (if they are)

1 Million Dollars! – Holy crap! Development is Cheap These days!

“Alan Trent says he is committing more than $1 million to the development and launch of a shopping website,”
You have to be kidding me! EVERYTHING on the website/sites shown could be developed by a single basic developer for 5-15k max. Any web person reading this will agree. Unless we’re missing something here, basic configurable shopping cart software to build a website like this can be purchased for next to nothing offline.

Just look at these Google Searches:
http://www.google.com/search?q=free+shopping+cart+software
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=cheap+shopping+cart+software

And even most hosting providers throw in e-commerce and shopping cart software as standard these days. It’s so cheap they can hardly give it away!
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=cheap+web+hosting+with+shopping+cart
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=free+web+hosting+with+shopping+cart

And as for CMS (Content Management Software) to actually build the structure of the website – that’s dirt cheap these days as well…
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=free+cms
Note: There are some great, more powerful tools in this space that cost a bit more, but for this website, it could have been done easily on the cheap in a few weeks.

Development Note:
This is a business model that ABSOLUTELY should be market tested before throwing ANY money at it. The reality is that the entire concept could have been tested using a custom WordPress blog for the website, and link daily blog posts of products to a simple PayPal account. It would have taken 1x day to setup, and I actually think would have been more successful, not to mention actually able to be found in Google, unlike many of the pages on the current site (Don’t use flash – Google hates it).

“Unique shopping experience” – The Concept isn’t Unique!

I’ve seen it done heaps before. Here’s just a few:
http://firstin.co.nz/splash/index.php
http://1-day.co.nz/

Think About Conversion!

Ok, here’s the crux of e-commerce – it’s all about conversion rate and conversion cost. Let’s say you had 1000 people visit the website. How many people are interested in purchasing a $399 jacket right now? (note: coming into spring). 1% maybe? so you have 10 people wanting to buy a jacket. Great! oops! We only have one style? Ok, so how many of the 10 people (out of 1000)wanting to buy a $399 jacket want that exact style – perhaps 5%? 

So we’re getting somewhere now – we know that 5% of 1% of 1000 visitors want to buys this exact jacket (coming out of winter). So the conversion rate is 0.05% of site traffic.

But! Wait! How many of them, actually not only want the winter jacket coming into spring, and that exact style, want to purchase now, but ALSO have a credit card (most kids have eftpos – buy in malls), and how many want to buy sight unseen without trying it on for size/feel???

Can you feel the conversion rate dropping here? I would guess it could be down to 0.01% by now! And that’s no problem as it’s a numbers game, so all you do is lift the website traffic. So with a 0.01% conversion rate, how much traffic do you need to sell a jacket?  Answer: 10,000 genuine visitors (if you’re lucky)

So to sell two jackets? Another 10,000 visitors? These numbers are very difficult to achieve and sustain naturally as to drive a free ‘social’ marketing campaign, as anybody in the know will tell you, it takes a HUGE about of work. The work would cost more in time and effort than you’d ever make in profit from the margin on a cheap traffic. I mean would you stay up day and night for months building social traffic just for a few dollars?

So that won’t work. It’s a one sided affair for the business, but it’s not the sort of model that’ll virally spread – it’ll take effort.

So that leave paid marketing. And simply put, the ongoing cost in banner ads, CPC’s, Adwords etc to drive 10,000 unique’s a day to the website will be WAY higher than the profit from the margins on the products shown after expenses and wages come out.

This is why people build stores with VARIETY: http://dse.co.nz, http://www.blizzard.com/store/, http://ascent.co.nz, http://www.gpstore.co.nz, http://www.amazon.com, http://www.trademe.co.nz etc…

In this day and age of people and businesses competing for eyeballs, you HAVE TO convert AS MANY of your traffic leads as possible, so any model that limits product selection is doomed to failure in the long term. Simply put, the maths won’t work.

Some Other Observations

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On this page, there’s no way to get back to the homepage. Stick a link on the logo or at least a text link.

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“Please Wait…” – aaaahhh, nup – Off to TradeMe. There is no excuse for a black loading page like this.

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Here I can sign up to be notified 4 days before the Official Launch Date set for 24th of August, 2008.
They should sell an ebook on how they invented time travel as it’s the 28th today. Come on guys! Remove old links like this! You say you’re in ‘Daily Update’ mode. The least you can do is update your own blog’s main post!

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I got to this page, which said “We will have products…” (haven’t you launched?) and it also had a typo “Click a catagories…”   sheesh!
So I clicked the categories and nothing was in there? No prob, I’ll click the 735pm logo to go back to the 735pm website. Nup! Took me to the blog! Aaargh!

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Saw this ad on their blog! (Note: Image was scaled and this made the ad text rough) Can you believe it? They are wanting to tell people this is the ‘Ultimate Website’. Maybe tell ya nana, but hold off on the intelligent web community for now mate.

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I had a hunch… Checked the bad ad image and found it is code scaled from an un-optimised 800px wide JPG.

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I think this is the current website. nice lady. Not sure who she is or why she’s there… Maybe they just like her? It’s a huge image though, 600x1200px so they should keep in mind download time… Heaps of people will want to download her – she’s Russian (russianchick.jpg) ;-)

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Also, can’t click products to purchase off the homepage.

Anyway, back to the main launch website…

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Personally, this brings back memories from 1995 (December). It’s all Flash, and badly designed. I thought that they’d have at least put some good SEO bits in the source code…

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I like the Meta bits…

<meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html; charset=iso-8859-1″ />
<meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”no-cache” />
<meta http-equiv=”expires” content=”-1″ />
<meta http-equiv=”pragma” content=”no-cache” />
<meta id=”metadescription” name=”description” content=”735pm” />
(What, no description to give to your friend Google?)
<meta id=”metakeywords” name=”keywords” content=”b & b, boats, cheap, coffee, concrete, cool products, deals, food, furniture, garden, gifts, holiday, houses, landscaping, luxury, quality, restaurant, shopping, specials, stocks, sweet as, travel, wine” />
(Seriously, who searches for the keyword: “Sweet As”, and are you planning to sell “Boats” and “Concrete” on one day sales via the web? If so, will you still honour the $7 shipping fee?
<meta id=”metacopyright” name=”copyright” content=”copyright © 735pm” />
<meta id=”metaauthor” name=”author” content=”735pm” />
<meta name=”resource-type” content=”document” />
<meta name=”distrbution” content=”global” />
<meta name=”robots” content=”index, follow” />
<meta name=”revisit-after” content=”1 days” />
<meta name=”rating” content=”general” />

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Ok, so I want to buy a snowboard bag…

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Wow! That is a punchy layout! I’ll check the terms and conditions. I’m sure they’ll be thorough as I’m trusting this business with my credit card…

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Excellent, I like doing business with simple terms and conditions… Where’s the privacy info though? This is credit card stuff we’re talking about? Maybe in the spirit of all things Web2.0, they decided it was just ‘to cluttered’. So anyway, I signed up and activated my account… Then go linked to my friend again…

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But I like the last line underneath the lady (A mouthful):
“Your account has been activated, click the link below to be transferred to 735pm.com. 735pm.com Welcome to 735pm.com!

So let’s buy it…

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“More Shipping Options Coming Soon” – eh? What’s the current shipping option? I have no idea if it’s even going to arrive on a Camel?

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Country? You mean they’ll ship to my PO Box in Russia for only $10 (by Camel?)
Wait! What’s this ad in the corner….

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Ahhh!!!! I get it now! It took me a little time, and I’m a bit slow. It’s a short term venture. According to this website, the business must be planning to go under on the 10th September 2008.

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Let this be a warning to all. If you plan to launch a new web business, make sure you’ve run it by some people in the tech industry first. Otherwise you could launch into a storm. Sack the developer of this project now – today.

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About the author:
Julian Stone, CEO – Project Management Software visionary for: ProActiveSoftware.com, ProWorkflow.com & Julian101.com
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About The Author:
Julian Stone begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting is the CEO of ProActive Software, developers and creators of the leading web based project management software http://www.proworkflow.com.