Give Shoppers A Reason To Come Back

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Let me get one thing out there right away. I do not design merchandise websites. I don’t have the technical expertise to design a website, nor do I know how to tell someone how to create a user-friendly website. Having said that, I know when I see a website that is tough to navigate. It’s sort of the analogy I’ve used before; I don’t need to know how to cook to tell a good meal from a bad one.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, have you been to the latest incarnation of the IndyCar Shop website? I hadn’t for a while, but I have received a few e-mails lately asking me to go experience it for myself and to write about it.

It’s not the worst site I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly not the best. On the positive side, they have done a good job differentiating between IMS and IndyCar merchandise. They could have forced us to go to two separate websites, but they’ve incorporated both entities into one.

But I went to the site this weekend and found it a little confusing. The first and only thing I noticed was a coat with front & back IndyCar logos with wording that said “keep warm this winter”. This box filled up the screen and had a big button underneath that said “Shop Now”. Thinking I would begin my IndyCar shopping experience, I clicked it. Instead it took me to a page describing only the coat that I had already determined was a little too garish for my taste.

I backed out, scrolled down and saw they had three big buttons labeled “Gifts for him”, Gifts for her” and Gifts for kids”. OK, I thought…that divides it up pretty simply. But then directly beneath those buttons were about twenty random items and a drop down on how to sort. The choices were Featured Items (not real sure what that means), Newest Items, Best Selling, Alphabetical A-Z, Alphabetical Z-A, Average Customer Review, Price: Low to High and Price: High to Low. I was starting to get confused. I attributed it to old age.

I was actually looking for a logo patch of this year’s upcoming Indianapolis 500. I’ve said before that due to my disdain for polyester, dri-fit or whatever fancy label they use these days – I prefer to get my own iron-on patch and have Susan affix/sew it onto a 100% cotton polo. I like for my shirt to breathe at the track and not make me feel like I’m wearing a Glad Trash Bag. I also don’t like paying $70 for a shirt made of a plastic fiber. Last year, I actually saw a warning on a shirt that said the material would melt if exposed to flame. That sounded pleasant.

I scrolled back up to the search box and entered the word patch. That didn’t work. It returned three items – two wing & wheel patches and an ugly kids hat. Typing in the word logo produced twenty-two items, some of which had the race logo on them, but they were not what I wanted. The third time was the charm. I typed in 2016 Indy 500 logo. Bingo!

Patch

I found what I wanted and at the same price as last year’s; $8.00. I splurged and ordered two of them – one for me and one for Susan. I figured I could afford $16. But when I checked out, my total was $28.35. Wait…what??

For two little patches that could have been stuck in a simple envelope and probably mailed with one forever stamp, they charged me $9.95 for shipping. Even though they were shipping out of state, they charged me tax and then had the nerve to base the tax off of the total of my purchase and the shipping. So my little $8 patches really cost me over $14 each. Hmmm…

I went ahead and completed the purchase, but by this time I was in a bad mood. I started scanning the other items. I came across this shirt. It’s not the best looking shirt I’ve ever seen, but it’s not bad. Clicking on the item blew it up and gave more options. I clicked on description to see if they divulged that this was 100% polyester.

Polo

Instead, I found this under the description of the shirt: “Next year will celebrate the greatest milestone with the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, which will take place on Sunday, May 29, 2016. In preparation for this historic event, IMS unveiled the logo that will provide a symbol for the year-long celebration. Be one of the first to get your "100th Running" merchandise today!". Nowhere did it tell me anything about the shirt – most importantly, what it was made of. Had I spent a small fortune on the shirt, shipping and tax – thinking it was all-cotton, only to find out it was polyester – I would have been furious.

Suddenly finding myself even more cynical, I started browsing through. On the plus side, they had a lot of different items with the “100th Running” logo. The downside is that I didn’t see that many items that would appeal to my generation. I’m lucky that at my age I still have my hair. But many my age do not. I found the choices of headwear to be minimal and very ordinary.

In fact, I found many of the items rather ordinary and uninspiring. There were the obligatory key chains, shot glasses and coffee cups. But there seemed to be a huge gap between the plethora of $10 items and those going for $800. There was also a large assortment of items leftover from the 2015 and 2014 races.

Granted, there is a large assortment of tee-shirts. The trouble with that is, I rarely wear tee-shirts unless I’m doing yard work or I’m at the beach. I know I’m in the minority there, but I’m not alone. And tank tops? Please.

About right now is where someone is going to say for me to suggest what they should have, since I’m so quick to criticize what they do have. I’m not that smart, otherwise I would do it for a living. But I do know that the selection left me very underwhelmed. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I was in the mood to buy something to get me more into racing mode for the upcoming season. Instead, I searched through pages of minutia that pretty much left me cold. After purchasing my two patches, I bet I spent close to an hour going through the site and saw nothing that made me want to buy.

There were a total of nine books listed on the site – two of which I already own and only two more that I had an interest in. I also tried searching for DVD’s, video and media – all came up with no results. The dearth of books and DVD’s may be the most negligent aspect of the site.

As for the site itself, I’ll give them a B-minus. I did not find it as hard to navigate as some had told me it was, but it was a little cumbersome. I did find it more suited for general browsing than it would be if you were looking for something specific. But the average selection combined with an unwieldy website and expensive shipping doesn’t really give shoppers a reason to come back.

For such a milestone event such as the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, I expected more than just your everyday run-of-the-mill offerings that are currently on display. My hope is that this is just a sampling of what’s to come and by April, there will be some very unique and in-demand products that will be must-have items. Let’s hope so.

George Phillips

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15 Responses to “Give Shoppers A Reason To Come Back”

  1. Just last week I went to http://www.indy500.com and tried to find a link to the merchandise – was looking for a 100th running hat. I found it almost impossible to find the actual link as you have to go to the window on the right side of the screen and then scroll down, click on “Get the Gear” and then it takes you to merchandise from last years race – if I wanted that I would have gone straight to the clearance section! I sent IMS an email letting them know that the website was not set up well from a shoppers perspective, and they have not responded and have not made any changes to the website. I love IMS and the 500 as much as anyone, but their lack of common sense at times just blows me away. Thanks for the great job here George, it’s obviously a labor of love to maintain this site for us readers!

  2. The IndyCar sites are a microcosm of the organization. They make you work far too hard to give them your money and don’t encourage you to come back again. It’s even more embarrassing/maddening when you compare the experience to virtually any other sports organizations’ sites. Last time I tried to buy something form IndyCar.com it errored out repeatedly so I had to call them. I told them about the problem on the site, they said they had gotten calls about it but it still wasn’t fixed months later. That was sometime in 2010 and I haven’t been back since. “We’re working on it; we appreciate your patience” is almost a corporate motto at this point.

    • It’s the organization that in 2010 offered a retro shirt with “Indianapolis 5 Hunedred” (yes, “Hunedred”) on it…and when I sent them an email noting the error, their response was:

      Good Morning,

      Thank you for pointing this out to us. We will get right on this and figure out if it is misspelled or not.

      Thank You,
      Leslie

    • Somewhat related. When the Indy 500 tickets first went on sale late last year, I tried repeatedly to order over their website. Once I tried to “send to cart” to complete the order, it would continually lock up. My choice of tickets continued to deteriorate. Finally, out of frustration, I looked for a telephone number on the website and finally found one to order tickets.

      I called, got right through. The woman in the ticket office was very nice and knowledgeable and in a couple minutes I had my ticket order.

  3. That $99 jacket has the old logo on it, too…and it’s not yet discounted.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I believe Indycar still does use that logo to represent themselves as an organization, separate from the title-sponsored series that they run.

  4. billytheskink Says:

    It looks like the website was created in Weebly or a service like that, which has limitations, but is more than capable of providing a modern and easy-to-navigate website and shopping experience when properly deployed. I find the site usable, but it certainly could stand some improvements to its organization. The irrelevant and non-existent product descriptions are definitely a serious problem.

    It has been my experience that IMS and Indycar provide a greater variety of merchandise on-site than they do online, which is… uh, not common in professional sports. I’d be willing to bet that this is because they do an especially outsized share of merchandise sales on-site versus online, compared to other sports organizations.

  5. George, everyone knows Nike Dri-FIT is a high-performance, microfiber, polyester fabric that moves sweat away from the body and to the fabric surface, where it evaporates. As a result, Dri-FIT keeps you dry and comfortable and look great whether you are at the track or enjoying an evening at Dawson’s.
    By the way, that shirt will look terrific on a future “One Take Only” show.

  6. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    Thanks for the article, George. I feel like I complain a lot about this organization, but I truly love the racing and want them to be successful. I’m excited for the season to start and I like to wear my IndyCar shirts as much as possible. I recently went to the site and ordered 10 items. It took me 2 hours, but I like to browse. My shipping cost was also $9.95.

  7. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    Also, something to point out, there is still a fair amount of IndyCar merchandise on the Lids website.

  8. I’m not one to usually complain (and I actually won’t complain much about navigating the site…I’ve seen better, but I’ve seen worse), but the options for merchandise on that site appear to be at an all-time low, at least from what I’ve seen within the last 3-4 years. Seemingly none of the driver or team merchandise items have been updated for 2016, and what 2015 items are on there appear wildly overpriced ($30 for a hat? Uh, no.). I guess I’ll hold out hope that the merch options are getting updated by the time that Barber rolls around (just booked my hotel and bought my tickets yesterday), and that I can pick some stuff up in person either there or at Indy. But until then…here’s hoping the reason new stuff isn’t out yet is because the first race is still 4 weeks away…

    • Lynn Weinberg Says:

      I actually think there is a lot of merchandise there, but you wouldn’t know it unless you knew exactly what you were looking for. I found many items by using the “Search Bar” that I would not have found by the navigational choices they gave me.

  9. As someone that worked for a company that for two years was the official retailer of IndyCar, I found this (and the comments) a very interesting read. As soon as I found out that my (then) company would be working with IndyCar, I went and asked the powers that be to be put onto that team.

    I don’t want to go into much detail, but I will say that working with IndyCar, IMS and the teams for two years killed a lot of my love for IndyCar. There are too many people that are very difficult to deal with. Now that I’m a few years removed, my love has returned. My wifey and I are roadtripping from Fort Worth for this year’s 500.

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