Boo2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
The collapse of Boo.com last May was a high-profile media event - and its name almost became synonymous with the downturn in the 'dotcom' industry.
However, putting faith in the old adage that 'There's no such thing as bad publicity', fashionmall.com snapped up the boo name and relaunched the site in October. While retaining its focus on the style-conscious 18 to 30 year old, it has changed its business model dramatically.
Boo.com no longer sells merchandise itself, it simply connects the consumer to people that do. It acts as a showcase for the products of a variety of retailers, searching for and recommending products that the typical boo customer may be interested in.
In February we (Frontend.com) looked at the first incarnation of boo.com, concluding that much of the site was unusable due to inconsistent navigation, slow download times and overuse of plugins. It was undoubtedly unpleasant to use, and perfectly demonstrated that sites loaded with technology do not necessarily serve the consumer.
So what of 'boo two'? It is fair to say that despite the complete reworking of the interface, back engine, and business model, scepticism remains about the user experience at the site itself.
So, What's Causing the Problem This Time?
Boo no longer stocks its own product - meaning that if the user requires more information, or wants to purchase a particular product, they are lead away from boo.com to the site of the individual retailer (although Boo's own top level navigation persists in a top frame). The retailer takes payment and commits to fulfil the order from there.
This means that there exists no central shopping basket or checkout facility. 'Pogo purchasing' results, as each product must be ordered separately through the processes provided by the various retailers. For each purchase the user is presented with an interface different to that of boo.com and any of the other retailers. There is no consistency in terms of colour, navigation, nature of information available or language used.
Moreover, the user must relearn how to place an order and refamiliarise themselves with the various terms, conditions and shipping arrangements applicable. This can be utterly confusing and unnecessarily time consuming for the user - especially when purchasing two or more products.
It seems that all the benefits of this approach (no need to handle goods or delivery) are reaped by Boo themselves, whilst all the costs are picked up by the customer.
The site adds up to little more than fashionmall.com opportunistically trading under a name bolstered by $40m worth of marketing before its collapse. However, users may realise, once the novelty of boo's return has worn off, that they prefer a more integrated, straightforward approach to online shopping.