Place function before fashion – Mons Royale

Via Hazel Philips at NBR I read about local company Mons Royale – who make merino underwear aimed at boarders. Rather tellingly the title of the article was Fashion before Function.

The clothing range is a good idea – practical merino underclothing with a bit of colour and splash, along with stying that appeals (hopefully) to their target market. I’m a huge fan of merino myself for skiing and motorcycling in the cold, and it’s good to see a number of Kiwi competitors to the fantastic Icebreaker emerge.

Hazels’ article made me think about checking out and perhaps even buying some of their products, but the website made me stop that process.

Indeed the Mons Royale website is appalling – placing function well south of fashion. Even then the website design fashion displayed is dubious at best.

In the above screenshot the only obvious thing to do is to click the yellow “2010 range” tag. So I did.

Then it got tricky:

I have no idea what this is, and what I am meant to do. Most importantly I cannot see the cool gear, just a guy holding a towel or something. I eventually worked out that this was some sort of flash based book, and that I was meant to click on the pages on the bottom.

I did:

It looks cool. But that “How do I buy” phrase in red was put there by me out of frustration. There is absolutely no way to buy a garment from this flash monstrosity.  There is also no indication of price, and not even a link back to the home page. Seriously – try to find a link to the home page.

So I altered the url and went back to the home page. Eventually I discovered this:

This being the second yellow tag – “where to find it” which only becomes visible on mouse-over. It’s as if the designers have decided that they don’t really want to sell the products. And the linked Where to Find It page backed that up.

After looking for a while at the bland page (why not put the store logos there?) I noticed that three stores had “Shop online here” tags, so I clicked through. The bottom one was false as it was not an online store. The middle one yielded a home page from where I eventually navigated to this page:

The Mons Royale gear looks rather bland and certainly does not capture the flavour of the intended brand and design. The range is forgettable in this site, and the site itself is not going to drive me to buy.

But the top online store, gnomes.co.nz, was worst for Mons Royale . Again I had to navigate to the products from the home page, and again the gear was buried inside the site. However this time there were no product photos at all:

The site gave me no reason to buy, so I left.

In summary Mons Royale appears to have some nice gear, but has not asserted control of their customer experience. This is difficult to do for a start-up placing products into retail stores, but it is imperative to do it right online. Getting it right online gives full margin sales, and also makes it easy to connect with early adopters throughout the country and world. It’s these customers that will be come the evangelists for the products, and so it’s important to make things easy for them.

So what should Mons Royale do? Well I feel they need to get the basics right, so here are three quick wins:

  1. Transform the flash-book site into HTML – use WordPress or similar. Keep the glossy photos and big design, but make it easy to use and make the links you want people to click obvious.
  2. Create a simple e-commerce site, and drive the visitors from browsing to buying. Put big buy-now tags on every page.  Control the process so that customers get the branding feel that you want. Use WordPress or similar, and ask one of the many excellent home-grown web companies to do it for you – someone with a track record in local ecommerce.
  3. Over-deliver and continue to improve: track what customers are doing on the site, and work to improve sales per visitor. When you do sell a product then wrap it distinctively, send it promptly and engage them post-sale. Over-deliver to your first customers as they are the ones that will spread the word.

It looks to be a good product range – I hope the founders can get this right.

About Lance Wiggs

@lancewiggs
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2 Responses to Place function before fashion – Mons Royale

  1. Matt says:

    Hey Lance,

    looking a little better now?

    http://www.basenz.com/brands/mons-royale-merino.html

    Cheers
    Matt

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  2. Summit Rider says:

    I totally agree with you on this. Although it is a start-up company based out of Wanaka, NZ, there are still several things they can do to quickly improve the findability of the website (www.monsroyale.nz).

    I say the same thing to a local company called, CandyGrind, here in Colorado, USA.

    One of the challenges for a start-up company is, evidently speaking, to persistently provide quality contents including blogs, comments, sponsors (winter-sports athletic/enthusiast/pro, etc.) which will take a while, given the limited marketing efforts ($) and the number of employees (including interns) who are dedicated to work on the online marketing but in the meantime, the website itself should serve as the main information center for everything there is to know about the brand and the company, in which it is not happening yet as it should be.

    For example,

    1. It’s never too late to start creating a new page on Wikipedia (www.Wikipedia.org/Mons_Royale_(Clothing), because it is the 2nd most searched source on the Internet for all online users.

    When I couldn’t find all the necessary information I was looking for, the very next thing I did was to type in “Mons Royale and Wikipedia” on Google although it didn’t help at the end.

    The reason people often do search for information on Wikipedia is often to find external links, in which in this case, they would like to find the links for related information (business affiliation or any credible source that speaks about the trust authority of the brand) or certified retailer (both online or offline) that sells and ships the product overseas.

    For a similar example, it is still faster to find the information about a famous celebrity (e.g. actors) on Wikipedia than any other website–such as http://www.IMDB.com Thus, a majority of inbound links are being generated from Wikipedia directly to IMDB website.

    If I would type in “Burton and Wikipedia” on Google search I would end up going to this page link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burton_Snowboards

    And at the bottom of the page, there are usually the lists of external links.

    Note: The Wikipedia page for Burton is being categorized under “Sporting Goods Manufacturers of the United States: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Sporting_goods_manufacturers_of_the_United_States)

    One of the links that says, “Burton Snowboard Gear,” is ironically being linked to a direct landing page of Burton product category (http://www.bwmsnow.co.nz/brand/burton ) out of potentially thousands of certified online retailers that sell Burton products.

    There are currently only two companies being listed under “Sporting Goods Manufacturers of New_Zealand” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Sporting_goods_manufacturers_of_New_Zealand). It would be nice to see Mons Royale on that list as well for the sake of SEO. In addition to that, it would be better to manage the user-generaed contents by none other than the company itself, otherwise falsely generated (he says, she says) information by other online users can create an negative impact on the trust authority of the brand.

    2. If you go to this link: http://www.monsroyale.com/stockists/ you will also find that it doesn’t provide a direct landing page to the product that the users should be searching for.

    For example, there is a certified retailer (based out of Wanaka, NZ) called, BASE, that also sells Mons Royale products via online (http://www.basenz.com/brands/mons-royale-merino.html) but the website doesn’t provide the direct landing page which looks utterly stupid with no sense of SEO for whatsoever.

    @ Matt, if you are an employee of Base you should contact Mons Royale ASAP and have them create a direct landing page to the product on your website. This is like SEO 101 at a kindergarden level but yet, it is just happening yet.

    3. Where is the size-chart on this website (www.monsroyale.com)? Snowboarding started in America and I don’t think it is asking too much to see the size-chart made for American customers. First of all, there isn’t any and second of all, if they would add that on the website they should also consider adding the size-chart for U.S customer as well.

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