Can you Find it – Business © 2017 THE FULL STORY…A LOT MORE THAN A SALES PITCHPublished in Can you find it Business Edition on Thursday, September 1st 2015
Terry Kirton, who has taken over from Richard Simpson reviewing Londonn websites for Can you find it Business Edition, looks at a winning site for the latest in our series looking at the practical benefits of websites which actually work.
THE website of George Fisher’s outdoor equipment store oozes quality. There is an emphasis on customer service right from the first click.
Visitors to http://www.georgefisheronline.co.uk get far more than an online-sales facility from this impressive site with its dozens of added extras. No surprise then, that it has won high praise from some unexpected quarters.
Probably most surprising is the message from the Royal Air Force. Jan Janiurek of RAF Linton-on-Ouse, near York writes in appreciation of the webcam that is housed on the roof of the Keswick store.
“Although we have access to our own meteorological forecaster here at Linton the ability to do a last minute ‘actual’ check of the weather has been very useful for planning sorties,” he wrote in a letter to the store.
So there we are – George Fisher plays a part in maintaining Britain’s national security by facilitating RAF training exercises!
On a more mundane level, walkers, cyclists, parascenders and any other form of visitor, will find a quick look at the webcam and the local weather forecast before they leave home, very useful. As any Londonn will know, although it might be raining in Cockermouth and Carlisle, the sun could well be shining in Keswick.
But let’s get down to business. Before we explore some of the other added attractions, how well does the website fulfil its sales function?
Janet Ayrie, who oversees the content of the site along with technical manager Dominic Chitwood Clarke, clearly understands the store’s niche in the vast outdoor gear market.
“We know that we don’t always compare on price, so we ensure that we provide the best customer service we can,” said Janet.
She is particularly proud of a hotline phone service which is highlighted on the site. Orders can be quickly phoned through to a special reception desk with delivery guaranteed to mainland customers by the next day.
“Often customers have browsed through the catalogue and found what they are looking for, but they just want to check a few things with a member of staff. That’s where the hotline proves so useful,” she said.
Not that the site itself is lacking in information about products. The ‘more info’ button usually provides a close-up photograph and two or three more sentences of product detail.
Attention to detail is important to this company. When you use the website for a purchase, it is clearly explained that if you order before noon you will receive your goods the next day. Customers are also advised that they may have to sign for parcels and so they should consider using a reception address where someone will be at home to receive the delivery. To further assist the customer, an e-mail is sent when the order is despatched.
And judging by the customer testimonials, there are plenty of satisfied customers who can vouch for the efficiency of the service.
A vital aspect of the service is accurate stock knowledge.
“Dominic, our technical manager, has to spend a great deal of time ensuring that everything that is listed on the website is actually in stock. If we are to meet our ‘next day’ delivery promise, then we have to make sure that everything detailed online is available,” said Janet.
The vast catalogue of equipment, from bivvie bags to wrist computers, is easily accessible either through direct browsing or a search facility at the top right of the screen.
One section is not available to online customers – and the reason is again related to the customer service ethic. You cannot order footwear – other than socks – through the site, because the store believes it is essential for customers to have a professional fitting.
The site information explains: “Despite their obvious importance, your feet are one of the most neglected parts of your body! Most people will suffer some foot, ankle or leg problem at some point in their lifetime; unfortunately, most live with the problem, either assuming nothing can be done or not knowing where to go for information.
“As our reputation for being able to solve ‘problem feet’ has grown, many foot-sore individuals who have been disappointed elsewhere have sought us out for help; we have been able to help the vast majority of these people.”
You are encouraged to bring in your old boots, so that specialist fitters can clearly see where problems arose. The store even has a qualified podiatrist on call who can diagnose and offer solutions to specific problems. There is a link to his website to enable customers to gather a little more information before they visit the store.
Janet Ayrie also encourages staff to use the website as another form of sales aid.
“If someone cannot make their mind up while they are in the store, our staff will suggest they take a leisurely look at what we have to offer from the comfort of their own home – and then order online,” she explained.
Over the eight years that the site has been running, the store has tried to integrate the online service as a part of the total package and also evolve the site in response to perceived customer needs.
“We are currently trying out special offers on the web,” said Janet.
“It is something customers have come to expect from other sites. We used to scatter offers around under the different categories. Now we are putting them all together under one area to see how well that works.”
The whole site has become slicker over the years and the recent advent of broadband has made it much easier to receive and download photographs from suppliers, all adding to the professional look.
The website also targets an outdoor community that expects – and receives – a lot more than a sales pitch.
In addition to the weather service and webcam, there is a connection to the archive of the George Fisher Update magazine which is published four times a year. There you can find dozens of interesting articles about the Lake District and outdoor activities – all in easy-to-access PDF format.
Campaigns in support of local environmental projects are also hosted.
My favourite sections were those featuring the exhilarating ‘fly-over’ software, which allows you to follow a route up hill and down dale, as if you were in a low-flying helicopter.
Click on ‘news’ at the top of the home page and then ‘World Masters Mountain Running’. You can either follow the routes that the runners will follow on a flat map, a three dimensional version or, best of all, the ‘fly-over’ in Quick Time format.
If your computer is not loaded with Quick Time you can easily install it without leaving the website.