shoe websites

www. stevemadden

Reviewed April 19, 12 noon, Explorer

For all those naysayers who think the Web is impersonal and cold, please defer to the Steve Madden Website. It is almost better than the in-store experience, because you can order shoes as you sip your morning coffee in your pajamas, and you have the authority and direction of Steve to call on at any time. There is a conscious effort to make the shopper understand that not only is there a real Steve Madden, but that he is also actively involved in the design and production of the shoes. As I click on one pair of shoes for a better view I find a warning (from Steve) that this particular shoe runs wide. This kind of candid information can help keep returns down, which can only benefit the site’s business – and more important, improve customer satisfaction.

And if by chance you are not happy with your shopping experience or your purchase, you can let Steve know: His e-mail address is littered throughout the site, making him even more accessible to the customer.

This Website does more than sell shoes in a hip medium. It also communicates that the Steve Madden brand is the hip way to complement your wardrobe. The splash page has a picture of a morphed caricature of a woman, perfectly accessorized with Madden’s Lotus shoe and matching bag, walking a chicken with a studded collar. This immediately conveys a funky, cool image that the rest of the site reinforces with features such as the ultimate girl band search and the lovescope – a horoscope about love that also tells you what style shoes match your predicted mood – and gives you a rundown of current fashion trends from Steve.

Still, the site could be vastly improved if a search feature was added. Shoppers are using multiple channels these days, and it is more than likely that a number of buyers will see a shoe in a department store, write down the name of the shoe and later want to order it from the ‘Net. With a search engine, buyers would have the opportunity to find and order specific shoe styles quickly, rather than having to sift through a dense forest of products, contests, and advice.

Also, though the site is clearly targeted for the young, hip, shoe-conscious consumer, does that imply that customers are not concerned with online security and privacy? The statement regarding privacy is, for all intents and purposes, buried under “contact” and then shown again at the very end of the “frequently asked questions” portion of that category. This makes the Cybercritic uneasy, annoyed – and reluctant to order.

It does make me feel better, though, that when you go to check out you see a photo of each item (not typical of most Websites), along with the SKU, product name, size, and price. In the end, I decide is still cutting edge, despite the fact that it “disses” privacy and security concerns.

Reviewed April 19, 10 a.m., Explorer 4.5

The home page for the Nine West site indicates that this is a no-nonsense shopping destination. The product categories are clearly listed to entice customers to begin shopping immediately. Also, you can search items from this page as well as proceed to express checkout. Nine West also has two deliberate ways to make you feel comfortable with the site from the start. First, it has a prominent link to its exhaustively thorough privacy policy, and second, it has a sign-up for its Club Nine loyalty program. Club Nine provides its members with express checkout, order history, event reminders, e-mail announcements, special offers, and online sweepstakes; it also helps collect information about customers, even if they do not purchase at that specific time. (You cannot register with the Club until you fill in all of the information fields.)

Nine West can track you every time you visit because you sign on with a password, which automatically links you to your purchase history and customer profile. All this is very handy for the user, and presumably, is also an information goldmine for Nine West.

Despite the fact that some of the graphics take a long time to download, especially when you try to zoom in on a photo, the pictures are very clear. But while the Cybercritic understands that Nine West is an established brand that most customers are familiar with, some concise copy to describe the features of the shoes would greatly enhance this shopping experience.

Speaking of experience, this site is intentionally made to feel upscale and exclusive. The company has replaced the pedestrian “shopping cart” with a very fashionable, logoed “shopping bag.”

But just as this detail enhances the site, other details detract from it. For instance, it is not only difficult to know when you have ordered an out-of-stock item (the print is very light and very tiny), but the copy also reads “sorry, there are only left.” Huh? You have to wonder how the folks at Nine West, who seem to pay so much attention to detail, missed this one.

This site has an impressive product selection and just the right upscale tone. The company just needs to tweak a few of the weaker areas.

Reviewed April 20, 7 a.m., Explorer 4.5

The first time I enter the Sam and Libby site I have trouble downloading portions of the home page, and before I discover that my computer is to blame, I try to call customer service at the number provided on the site. When the operator finally picks up, I ask for customer service and get connected to a voice mailbox where there is no mention of reaching customer service or an alternate way to reach that department. I am discouraged (to say the least). Isn’t it supposed to be computers that are aggravating and impersonal, rather than actual living and breathing workers? But I bravely go back the next day and whew, I’m able to navigate. The first thing I notice is a promotion of “the perfect pair” program (a clever reference to the duo for which the shoe company is named, I’m sure), which promises to deliver sale announcements, e-mail, and new arrivals. But the Cybercritic is not motivated to sign up: There is only the promise of promotional mail, rather than the lure of concre! te savings if you join this Inte rnet shopper’s club.

The home page is somewhat plain (“Welcome to Sam & Libby” printed over a purple flower backdrop), but it is functional, with a set of navigational links to get you to all the categories – from sandals to the company’s trademark Barbie flats.

Unfortunately, this site does not include a search function. But since its product line isn’t that large, the omission is not that big a hardship. In fact, as I continue browsing I find a lot of repetition throughout the categories – the same shoes are featured in several areas. I can’t tell whether this is intentional. Does Sam and Libby want to show the practicality of the shoes for different occasions, or does it want to make the assortment seem larger than it really is?

Oh well, at least Sam and Libby’s product copy is superior. It provides you with all the answers to questions you would ask a salesperson in a store (without having to listen to a sales pitch). The detailed product descriptions lend authority to the site, making you want to buy from the company because the shoe just sounds so comfortable. This is important – while you can always see what a shoe looks like, it helps to know how someone else thinks the shoe feels when worn.

Ordering the shoes is straightforward. Everything I try to order is in stock, even styles in the most popular women’s shoe sizes of 6 to 8.

As for shipping and handling, the “shopper information” section of the Website explains how shipping is calculated, plus it gives you details of the return policy and a privacy statement.

In short, though there is room to improve, Sam and Libby seems to have a handle on how to make buyers comfortable in a cybershoestore.

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