Every so often, I’ll come across a website that does exactly what I want it to do. This online tennis store did just that!
Whether it is finding the cheapest price for a hotel, booking flights, or shopping, I’m sorry to say that the majority of sites are still poor.
Of course, there are great exceptions, like Amazon.com, which have been extensively tested, but the basic usability of most websites in 2012 still leaves much to be desired.
Not so this week, when I decided to order tennis rackets for me and Sally. Neither of us had played in 20 years, but, inspired by Andy Murray’s demolition of Roger Federer in the Olympic men’s final, we thought we’d take to the courts once more.
The first thing we discovered is that racket technology has come a long way since the 1990s. Today’s rackets are a lot lighter and a LOT more powerful than the ones we used to use.
So we needed help – lots of help! We browsed a few sites and then came across Tennis Pro Store, which has been online for just a few days.
This site just works. It doesn’t work because of any fancy tricks or gimmicks. It works because it takes good marketing, good sales, and good service, and does it online.
Here are some of the things I loved…
I didn’t have a clue about what to choose. What weight of racket would suit me? What about strings? (They offer 34 different choices of string, and thirteen different tensions!)
Tennis Pro Store have a free email address dedicated to giving you advice on these choices.
Why is it good practice?
Simply, free advice really costs nothing, and builds trust. There are too few trusted sources online, and we’re all desperate to find a supplier we can believe in. When you find one, you stick with them, even if the prices are not the lowest. Trust is worth so much more.
I invest a significant portion of my time creating free or low-cost advice. And it pays.
When you have chosen your weapon of choice, they’ll help you choose the right strings, and then string your racket exactly according to your specification before shipping. I don’t know if any other online tennis store does this.
Why is it good practice?
Too often, ecommerce is about finding the cheapest price. But, in reality, very few of us actually shop on price. We think we do, and we even say we do, but we don’t.
Even if you’re trying to find the same room in the same hotel for the lowest price, as we did last week, we spent 45 minutes and basically found the same price everywhere. Any discount we might have found was not worth the 45 minutes we spent.
What the guys at Tennis Pro Store did for us didn’t feel like e-commerce. It felt like you were dealing with a local specialist store run by enthusiasts. The only difference is, it’s not local.
Here’s the trick… Whatever used to work in honest-to-goodness face-to-face mom ‘n’ pop stores, and DO THE SAME THING ONLINE.
- Listening (I cannot overstate the importance of this)
- Providing free advice
- Offer choices
- Going the extra mile
- Giving guarantees
- Following up
Tennis Pro Store does all these. They have prominent telephone numbers, and easy email support on any aspect of tennis equipment.
Easy to use site
An obvious point, but as I said, there’s very little best practice around.
Tennis Pro Store is really easy to use, clean, professionally designed site. Why? Because they did the right thing.
Let’s be clear, TPS is professionally designed but it is not custom-designed. The site is built on the Shopify platform, which is an online e-commerce management system.
Why is it good practice?
Ten years ago, if you wanted an e-com site, your only choice was to hire a developer to customise an application like OSCommerce. It would cost you thousands even to get open for business.
No offence to developers… but the worse thing is that you would get a site built on a system that had been designed by developers, implemented by another developer. Customisation options were very limited, and very expensive.
Today, whatever you want to do, my advice is never to reinvent the wheel (unless the wheel literally doesn’t work).
If you want a blog, use WordPress… If you want to take payments online, use PayPal or another If you want an e-commerce site, I would advise Shopify.
Things that are done for the first time are more likely to fail than things that are tried and tested.
When you use a system like WordPress or Shopify, you get the benefit of a system that has had literally years of design and development invested – possibly decades of effort!
With a hosted system, you can get a website up and running almost immediately, without the thousands of dollars of custom design and coding you would need with an old-style model.
You can be confident that it will be reliable. You can be confident that it has been tested thoroughly. And you know that you will benefit from continual improvements, along with all the other customers using the system.
You get none of those benefits with a custom-built system – you have to pay for everything.
The flip side is that you may need to pay a monthly fee, as you do with Shopify (but that is from only $29 per month). That’s fair, because they are providing an excellent service.
So we should always use best practice, use conventions, use what works (when it works). And for me, in almost every case, that means using hosted systems, existing platforms, themes, plugins, and widgets wherever possible.
I’d love to hear your comments on Tennis Pro Store below.