<TFM> 1.03 Common Sense Is Uncommon

Number 1.3
About TFM | Archives | Number 1.3 (originally published Mar 2001)

Common Sense is Uncommon

How would you feel if you had to surrender your name, address and phone number before you could see the products at a local electronics store?

Would you shop there? Or would you find a more customer-friendly place to spend your money?

Common sense suggests that you’d want your storeopen to as many potential buyers as possible — which meansminimizing the barriers to entry.

However, the good folks at Sony Corp. (at least the home electronics portion of the company) haven’t learned this lesson, based on a recent visit to their web site.

Electronics Shopping – Japanese Style
I’m in the market for a DVD player and (probably) surround sound speakers. Being a long-time Netizen, the Web is the first place I turn to do my researchfor big-ticket items.

I already own Sony CD players (I’m on my third one over a 16 year period) so I’m predisposed to the brand. And many of my friends have Sony DVD players. But I don’t know anything about DVD specifications and what I should be looking for — so I want to arm myself with a bit of knowledge before setting foot inside a store.

Not surprised to find the Sony home page an advertisement for media. A very long drop down menu lets me go straight to home electronics (once I get the scroll up-down-up bit to where I can click on that section title). I’m greeted with a loading Flash animation, which I ignore as I move straight to “browse products.”

Next screen says, “Before you build, browse.” Exactly! That’s what I want to do, browse – discover the differences between products.

Sony Product Selection Screen Shot

It takes me a moment to figure out that the funky image on the left is my navigation image. I find the DVD player icon and click … now there’s another hoop: select between DVD Players and DVD Changers. And then …

What is this? Registration?!?

Sony RegistrationScreen Shot

Notice the navigation at the top of the page. The highlighted button is “plan a system.” But I don’t want to plan a system! I want to browse products. And I’m not going to register to look at DVD players. I back up and try this with another product – I’m so certain that there is a coding error. Nope. Each choice hits the “registration firewall.”

I leave. In a huff. If I could have slammed a door, I would have.

Electronics Shopping – U.S. Style
Because I have the spring cleaning/media updating bug, I also want to replace my vintage speakers. A long-time fan of Bose, I head to their site to see what’s new in small speakers with big sound.

Bose isn’t a conglomerate like Sony, and that is evident from the accessible home page. I’m impressed that there is both a “products” and “online shopping” link — and head straight to online shopping.

I’m greeted with an easy-to-scan, comprehensive product list. I’m not sure if I want “music speakers” or “home theatre” — but I notice that there are a couple of systems that overlap, so I’ll start with these.

Bose ProductsScreen Shot

I have made one click on the Bose site and I have found a listof products.

Two clicks and I’m looking at Bose5 Acoustimass speakers – the modern day version of the ancient set in my living room. Bose makes it easyto see other products — either through scanning or through a drop-down. Pricing, details, technical specs — all right here.

Bose ProductsScreen Shot

After four clicks at Sony, I was facing a registration page and had yet to see word one about a product line.

Bottom Line
Does Bose expect to sell a lot of speakers from their online store? It really doesn’t matter — because by making it easy to find out what I’d need to know to buy online, Bose has also made it easy for me to be comfortable making that decision in a local stereo store.

Bose seems to understand that information is an essential element of sales. To borrow from The Cluetrain Manifesto, it’s part of the conversation. This site design is clean and attractive; navigation lets you know where you are (context); and the designers provide more than one way to get to a bit of information.

Sony, on the other hand, has a site that feels like it’s part of a movie trailer or online game. The site is very linear (you shall see what I want you to see and when I want you to see it!) — and “arty” in tone. Perhaps this is the image that they wish to make; I certainly hope that is the case. But the requirement to register to browse products is over the top — there is no common sense in that decision.

Which site exhibits “common sense”? Which is the more customer friendly? Bose, hands-down.

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