Thursday, July 8, 2010

Baby Registries and Customer Experience


Thanks to everyone for the live feedback, comments on Facebook and here on the last post.  I had fun writing it and researching it.  And by researching, I mean that I watched that Huggies commercial multiple times.  Hey, I'm easily entertained.

Last month, I told my Budget car rental escapade (here, here and here) and it turned into an excellent discussion of why (and how) Jet Blue (here) and Zappo's (here and here) get it "right" when it comes to customer experience.  I also pointed out data from the always reliable Bruce Temkin to demonstrate the causal link between customer experience and business results.

In other words, customer service and customer experience matter.  We know that there are top line and bottom line impacts when we don't pay attention to either.  And, by this point, the fact that they matter should be more a "preaching to the choir" as opposed to a "teaching moment" for business people.  *sigh*

A friend was recently invited to a shower and the shower hosts instructed those invited to visit to purchase from the list the guest of honor compiled.  Easy enough, right?  Nope.  She had to call in reinforcements and when she couldn't find them, she asked me to navigate it with her.  It was probably one of the most complex things I've seen in a while.

Have you been to  It's a consolidator of store items into one master registry list.  After you sign up for an account on, you can add a "Add to My Registry" button much like you can add a "Share on Facebook" button to your browser toolbar.  You can visit any site you wish and if you happen upon a must have item, you simply click "Add to My Registry" and it's added to the master list.  You can also sync all of your store registries so, again, it becomes a neat one stop shop.  In theory, it's a gift registry tool for good especially for the discerning, discriminating, time strapped or nervous and for people looking to give gifts.

In practice, it's a gift registry tool for good only for the discerning, discriminating, time strapped or nervous bride or mommy to be.  It can be painful for everyone else because though one can sync lists from larger department store registries, it's also possible that the registrant can choose one item across multiple, obscure, small sites which, as luck would have it, was the case for my poor friend.

See, the guest of honor had visited multiple smaller retail sites and chose multiple products, many with price points in the $5 - $15 range and her master list reflected all of her great choices.  The problem becomes when you make a selection.  In my friend's case, if you want to choose multiple items, you're directed to multiple sites with multiple tabs open on your browser.  You have to actively select what you want to purchase and go through checkout multiple times (your billing address, the shipping address, credit card info, message, etc).  After you go through that, you're to go back to to update the master list.

In other words, there's no link between the master list and the site from which you're purchasing at any step of the purchase process.  And, there's no roadmap to explain why multiple windows open when you select an item, that you need to go through multiple checkouts and that you need to return to the master list to update it.  Figuring it all out takes a lot of time, a bit of confusion and a smidge of aggravation.  Completing the purchases takes a whole other chunk of time, a bit of confusion and a smidge of aggravation, too.

In the grand scheme of things, this might not be "important" at all.  It's not on the scale of the oil spill nor does it solve high unemployment.  But, it still matters because of how we perceive others' appreciation of our business.  As consumers, we have choices.  And, as I mentioned in my last post, this unstable economic environment has made us savvier and warier consumers.  Our antennae are now trained to pick up "value for money" as we purchase.

As we've said so many times before, the minute by minute customer experience matters.  Sure, the "Add to My Registry" button is functionally a great idea but one wonders how much research went into actual user experience?  Did they consider scenarios like the one my friend went through?  And if they had, why didn't they build an explanatory roadmap so people don't spend time spinning their wheels trying to figure it all out?  In other words, why didn't the customer experience matter?

It comes down to strategy, lack of strategy and/or the failure of strategy.  You might recall my posts about stress testing from last week (here and here) with this anecdote being a good practical example of why we need to test and retest strategic and tactical premises.  On paper, the linkages to multiple sites makes sense but its failure in practice showed a lack of care and precision in execution.  The end result: aggravation instead of joy in buying a gift as well as resolution to never use if one can help it.

What's your take?  I love those comments!


Parissa Behnia
Idea Chef


  1. I have purchased off for various occasions since everyone seems to create an account there and did not have the problems you experienced. You have to acknowledge though that you are not purchasing from one specific store but from a universal wish list. You can make a similar claim about specific department store registries - they don't always offer the best price and when you buy something elsewhere for a friend they refuse to mark it without receipt (has happened to me twice with crate & barrel). We get on people for registering at a master gift list and for adding obscure small retailers but we get on people's case for signing up at more than 2 stores should they not use a universal wish lists. Registry holders cannot win it seems. :( I'm guessing it's a more modern approach and a registry holder has to be open to the idea of digitalizing a gift list. I am not sure about your comfort with technology but I am pretty well versed and everything seemed simple enough to me.

    One thing though which I have to disagree on you with: I used a tutorial video they offer for figuring out how to purchase multiple items from my sister's gift list (I did it in one checkout) so I'm not sure how come you didn't refer to this? The only thing was that she too, like your friend added from really small shops, so I just had to check those gifts to make sure I was adding items to one cart. Then again why are people adding a $1.50 Binky to their registries? Seriously. I would never buy that for someone. I would buy them a cute night light or offer a cash contribution towards a bigger item they need. Five binkies at $1.50 a pop from a random store? Err...

    We had different user experiences but I definitely appreciate your viewpoint though. Overall, everything stems back to the mantra "you can't please everyone". I personally like the site and think it's innovative. I am thinking about using it for my own side business since they have a widget (I can use to connect to my products). Still, I guess it depends on the registry holder too - it's great to be able to add from anywhere but I still don't understand why people add the smallest, most insignificant knick knacks from just any old store (like ones that actually operate through blogs which is a pet peeve of mine). It isn't the fault of the gift lists themselves it's the people who create them and go crazy lol.

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  3. Mandy, thanks for these really great comments. Much appreciated. The video was readily apparent though I can see why it would have been a help. I don't think the guest of honor realizes the level of complexity and they are probably assured that checkout is a breeze.

    To be clear: I'm sure it is a breeze once it's clearly explained. But as a customer with a busy schedule, you want an in and out quick type of experience.

    You don't want to get bogged down in anything which is why I think my basic premise is correct: they need to take a little bit more time in testing and retesting strategy as well as execution accounting for all permutations and combinations of experiences.

  4. Hi Parissa,

    I understand. I actually have a registry with them (not for a baby site though...too premature lol) and I use it mostly as a gift registry for whenever my parents and grandparents ask what I want for my birthday, holidays, etc. They don't have trouble using the site but I actually do believe that adding little items from many varying stores is an extreme situation and one that is rare. (It seems so to me at least) Purchasing seems simple enough - click the buy gift thingy on the gift list and then you're redirected to the store's product detail page. And a window to mark the item appears too. I think it's easy but it's funny how your experience and mine differ so much - it's the same way with any business or consumerist notion though. Everyone has something unique to contribute for sure.

    I read through your blog. Found it today and saw that you loved comments and this was something I could relate to. P.s. you're a spitfire, girl! :)

  5. Yes - probably rare. And the stores were very small retail outfits that cater towards people with specific tastes. If you're buying from a larger site that syncs with, you may not have the same issues.

    that said, it speaks to the need for understanding that it may happen.

  6. Interesting. I was just introduced to for the first time while purchasing a gift from my friend's wish list for her baby shower. My favorite thing about her wish list was that she also had chosen items from a couple of really small retailers (local boutiques). I actually wound up purchasing my gift from one of the smaller stores, and I thought the purchasing process was pretty simple. No bumps in the road over here. Honestly, after my experience with, I hope that more of my friends use this site to create their registries. So much easier this way.

  7. ugh let me tell you Parissa, I have used this site before and I had the same miserable experience you did. So not user friendly at all!

  8. Thanks for replying, Parissa! I love that you interact in your comment sections with your readers. I guess to each her own. I personally had a wishlist at wishpot before experimenting with myregistry and I totally hated my experience there (and amusingly enough did a blog post ranting lol). It lacks sophistication and I couldn't properly add items. I would recommend doing a blog post comparing registry styles except I know that's not what your blog is about (well, from what I gather in the "about me" section). Thanks again for the good conversation!

  9. @Mandy and @Hope thanks for your comments. It's funny - I didn't widely publish this post and yet you found it just the same. I guess you both have as a Google Alert or other social media monitoring device.

    Let's be clear: easy does not mean intuitive. It may be easy to complete a transaction but the experience is not intuitive.

  10. I had the same experience as you, Parissa. I was trying to buy two different items at mid-price points and was REALLY annoyed that I had not only to reenter all my billing information but I had to do a favor and report what I had bought so that there registry would be accurate. Why should I do their work?

  11. I was just searching info about it because I want to use their feature for small stores and was looking up info. Thought I'd get in some good discussion when I found yours. Thanks again! :)

  12. I wonder how August, Hope and Roya found your post too. I blog too and would love to know how to make my posts appear in search engine results and other social media sites without posting all over the place!