Sunday, August 03, 2008

Canadian Coffee Websites Need a Pick-Me-Up

I conducted a review of the websites of Starbucks, Second Cup, and Tim Horton's for my current class. I also reviewed Starbucks' parent company website, which is a bit slicker than it's Canadian counterpart. My impression from my review (based on content, design, multimedia, etc.) is that while Starbucks (unlike many multinationals) cares enough to have a unique national presence, they don't want to fork for a good website.

Starbucks' Canadian website comes across as quite cheap and hokey compared to Second Cup & even Tim's. Second Cup's seems like a rich, discerning and expensive website (although the wait time for loads would seem unacceptable to their customers). If I judged Starbucks solely by their Canadian website, I would think it is a very small, young company. Or it is possible they don't see the business value in using the web - which is possible, but considering their competitors are doing more, one would think they'd be forced to keep up.

Overall, all of the sites have some good features. Starbucks makes a more convincing case for prospective employees, Second Cup offers a more enticing depiction of their menu, and Tim's offers the best nutritional information options. All of the websites could be doing a lot more - and I don't mean expensive gimmicks or design , just some well-placed content would do the trick (except for Starbucks, which does need a redesign).

CharacteristicStarbucksSecond CupTim Horton's
Canadian websiteYesYesYes
Use of .ca domainYes NoYes (but redirects to .com)
Bilingual Yes - but defaults to English Yes - must choose language firstYes - must choose language first
Main colourBeige Brown Brown
Secondary colour Khaki CreamRed
Overall design critique Functional, spartan Rich, sleek Clean, professional
Approach to graphics Amateurish sketches Slick photography Colourful photographs
Store locator present Yes Yes Yes
PlatformMicrosoft content management system
PHPContent management system
Multimedia None Extensive use of Flash & slick user controls (many pages have wait time to load) Videos of happy employees (couldn't bring myself to watch)
Ability to load card Yes YesYes
Bells & whistles None Storybook presentation of their teas, which is graphically lush & ability to turn pages - also has virtual tour of a location Road trip planner - so you can plan your trip around Tim's
Glitches Dead links Content below the fold with no way to know it's there Road trip planner - took more than 5 mins. to load
Menu Bare bones -lists with descriptions, with exception of coffee -some content for connoisseurs Rich, graphic presentation with descriptions - special feature sections for coffee & teas Standard presentation of menu
Nutrition infoNoFairly detailed - but hard to find Extremely detailed including those with special needs - has a nutrition calculator
Social responsibility Very prominent -
item in nav and graphic promoting - although many links on this dead - supports several charities, including employee charitable work
Link on homepage to one charitable campaign - otherwise nothing Very prominent graphically and in nav - emphasizes charitable efforts for children & community
Corporate history As expected - no mention of CanadaEmphasized Canada Long, included storied history (ie. Tim Horton bio)
Mission statement Yes No Essentially
Employment info Detailed, enticing - emphasized commitment to diversity - links to own job finder microsite Brief & lackluster
Very detailed
Email newsletter No Yes (I got this for awhile - it was nicely designed, had a few useful mentions of new products, but was ultimately boring) No
Coupons No No No
Contests No Yes No (links to info on in-store contest)
Innovative use of web No No No
Compelling reason to return to site No No No
Notes significantly different from US parent company website
Extensive investor relations material & press info

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