Great Product Selection Trumps Elegant Website Design. Re-emphasized lessons from The Popcorn Factory

Screenshot of the homepage of The Popcorn Factory's website.

Summary: The other day I wrote an article that analyzed the key reasons for The Popcorn Factory’s astounding 29.5% conversion rate in December of 2007. To translate, this conversion rate means that nearly one out of every three visitors to The Popcorn Factory’s website actually bought something! Today, I want to re-emphasize those lessons in a more concise manner so that you can improve your own site conversion rate.

After looking at the success of The Popcorn Factory, and the relatively simple website they use to generate this success, the natural question is, « does website design really matter? » The answer is No…to an extent. How can we show this?

First, from the standpoint of aesthetic beauty, The Popcorn Factory website is not one of the more attractive websites out there. It’s design is very plain, and really not very attractive compared to the really good sites. There are no pictures of beautiful people eating popcorn; there are no animated videos; the color scheme is a rather bland pastel purple, dull pink, and red.

Secondly, there are few calls to action and no empty marketing slogans like, ‘Putting quality first.’ or, ‘Perfectly popped popcorn every time.’ They do have an Easter sale currently on the website, but it doesn’t scream at you with flashing lights or multiple exclamation points!!!!

Put simply, the website does exactly what its supposed to. It sells popcorn. No more. No less. And sell popcorn it does, very well in fact.

As mentioned, the key lesson from The Popcorn Factory is the importance of choosing products that are already primed for success. Don’t choose a product that will require you fight an uphill battle just to get customers interested in it.

Warren Buffet has been known to say, ‘Give me a great [profitable] industry and poor management any day, over great management and a poor [unprofitable] industry.’ What did he mean? He meant that a profitable industry allows even the worst managers to have a measure of success. Whereas, an unprofitable industry will make even the best managers look like perennial failures.

The same applies to websites. As an owner, it is better to have a poor website selling a great product everybody wants, than to have a great website selling a product nobody wants. The website selling the in-demand product will win every time.

Does this mean that anything we can say about website design then is invalid? Absolutely not. If the Popcorn Factory improved their website, no doubt they would also improve sales. Warren Buffet would not turn down great managers in a great industry. That’s a one, two punch. Similarly, no company would be wise to turn down having a great website, just because they’re already selling a great product.

What’s the conclusion? Absolutely, review your product selection, and make sure you’re selling products that the customer already needs or strongly desires. Once you’ve reviewed your product selection once, review it again. Keep doing it until you know your product selection is excellent. Then, once you’ve done this, start investing in improving your website to further improve your conversion rate. Don’t do this process in reverse.

Review your products, then improve your website. If you do these two things, in this order, you put yourself in position to maximize sales growth and profits.