Even though the liquidators were called in way back in May 2000 to end the dream of sport fashion e-tailor boo.com and show the world the first massive internet collapse, we can still learn a hell of a lot from the disaster. Boo was a dream that went awry, showcasing the brittle dreams of the dot com millionaires of the time and how there is always a need for expertise in all quarters of a business. Boo.com was a great idea, but those in charge tried to run before they could walk, spent far too much money in all the wrong areas and focused on style over substance. It caught up with them very quickly and it ended in tears. 

Despite this, there are some positives that came out of the disaster. Some of the ideas of the time and the innovations are still in use within e-commerce websites today and a combination of bad management and being ahead of their time just did for boo where others have succeeded since. It showed the need for user experience to be key, and how UI within web design projects ensures that conversion rates are more likely to be high. 

The Boo.com story

Boo.com was launched in 1998 at the height of the dot com bubble in the late 1990s. The three founders of boo had previous success with their online bookseller website bokus.com and they expected Boo to be even more popular with the first generation of Internet consumers. Instead, the company went from a £200 million valuation and over 100 offices worldwide to bankruptcy within 18 months.

The Boo.com failure

There were so many problems with the e-commerce site that it was hard to ignore. The list is extensive and provides a good blueprint for any web development agency on what not to do when building an e-commerce platform for a client. The website was really difficult to navigate and to use at all, with many users complaining that it would just freeze their computers, and around 40% of visitors could not access the site at all! The site was so slow to load with the internet connection that most consumers had at that time, with a frustrating stat that only one in four attempts at making a purchase would be successful. As a result, the conversion rates were really low. A low-bandwidth version of the site was relaunched within a few months, but the damage had already been done to the reputation of the brand. A high-cost website that had so many gremlins and meant low sales, could only ever lead to one end result – bankruptcy.

In terms of marketing and other aspects of the business, things were just as bad. The founders spent monstruous amounts of money on marketing and advertising to position itself as a global business, before it really was. They were caught up in the challenges of different tax issues, pricing options and bringing a product and service to market across multiple regions, countries and languages at the same time. The marketing and branding took priority over any technical side of the business, and they did not have enough market researchers in the team. Overall, this meant that technical problems were never resolved and the style over substance approach became a problem when it hit the bank balance. 

Lessons to be learned from Boo

The biggest thing to take from the disaster of boo.com is to always think about your customers and what they need. You are there to provide a solution to a problem that your customer wants to fix. Boo.com looked to provide a virtual shopping assistant, mimicking the physical in-store experience online. It was too far ahead of its time and consumers did not want that when buying products online. Always think about what your customers want and how you can provide this to them in the simplest and quickest way. 

Thinking of growth, another lesson is to aim for steady growth and to never spread your company too thin, in any department. Boo failed in part because it attempted to launch in loads of different countries at the same time. Think about how you can grow in a methodical manner, with clear signposts to check for success along the way. This also helps you to put together clear and effective marketing and promotional campaigns that are suitable for individual locations, targeted customer profiles and make sure that your branding is spot on, rather than go for a catch-all approach for everywhere in one hit. 

The biggest thing though, is making sure that you have the right team behind you developing your e-commerce website. A web development agency understands the issues that many businesses face when it comes to designing and building a website that sells products direct to customers. Your budget needs to be directed in the right places, the website needs to be built in a way that makes it easy for the user to navigate, but that also makes it efficient for your employees to deliver the products being purchased. An e-commerce site also has to undergo rigorous testing that continue forever, tweaking things along the way to keep improving the user experience. 

The value of good branding and user-focus online

At Candy we have expertise in all things digital marketing. Our team knows that there is much more to an e-commerce website than just looking fantastic. We make sure that the websites we design do look great, of course, but that they also function in the correct manner that works for the target audience of our clients and pushes positive conversion rates. It is no good to have users flocking to your website because it has a certain style that you are looking for, if the user cannot easily become a customer within a few clicks. UX and UI are an important part of the web design process on every project we work on. We make sure that your website is fast-loading, that it is designed well and has clear messaging throughout. Over time, we’ll also monitor user behaviour to ensure that the website evolves in ways that are beneficial to the user experience and in turn, your profits.

Come on over and speak to the Candy team about how we can help your business evolve with the creation of an e-commerce website that delivers the goods to your customers in an attractive and efficient manner. You can call us on 0161 826 0123 or send us a note at hello@candymarketing.co.uk and we’ll set up a call at your convenience.