Critiquing the Crazy Baker's Website

CEO Gabriel Shaoolian provides feedback and advice.

Last week, we asked, “What’s Wrong with The Crazy Baker’s Web Site?”

As you may recall, The Crazy Baker is Hall Hitzig, who owns a gourmet bake shop in rural West Virginia. It was Mr. Hitzig’s hope that the Web site would expand his customer base across the country. But, while the site generated significant traffic, the visits led to few sales. So what’s the problem?

We posed that question to the readers of this blog, and they responded with an overwhelming number of comments — far too many to quote here. But many of them were insightful, and they tended to emphasize certain themes:

Is It the Business Model?

Many of the readers who visited the site concluded that the problem with Mr. Hitzig’s online business isn’t the Web site but the business model. Some simply had no desire to purchase baked goods online. No Web site, they contended, can compete with the experience of a visit to your local bakery.

“I don’t think a Web site is a good way to sell baked goods,” wrote Ellen. “I can’t smell or taste the way I could in a real bakery.”

Part of the concern was freshness. As Pennames put it, “I would think the biggest inhibition would be the fact that the food would arrive days after being made, so no longer fresh. All the European butter in the world doesn’t make up for a less than fresh product.”

The Crazy Baker may be compounding the problem with some language that doesn’t exactly encourage purchases. His shipping page says, “We ship each order as soon as we can, often within a week.” That, wrote Mike, “is not welcome information for a person used to 2nd-day free shipping from”

Perhaps the biggest reason the business model came into question was the pricing. Some visitors said they would never pay $18.95 for a half-dozen brownies even if they were a quarter pound each and made from the finest ingredients on earth. Tack on some hefty shipping fees and the brownies go from expensive to prohibitive. “I just checked the site, fairly randomly chose a ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’ cake,” said John L. “It comes to $45 with the lowest cost delivery. Gourmet is expensive. However, in these tough economic times, it’s easy to forgo a $45 cake.”

Is It the Look and Feel of the Site?

You would assume that The Crazy Baker’s target audience is sophisticated and relatively wealthy with a taste for the finer things in life. Sites targeting this audience tend to have an upscale feel. But readers used terms like “ugly,” “busy,” “cluttered” and “amateurish” to describe Mr. Hitzig’s site.

Read more at the New York Times

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