In this regular feature, Strategy Direct+Interactive asks an interactive marketing expert to give us his or her candid assessment of a Web site selected by us. This month, Web usability & user experience specialist Jennifer Warrillow tells us what she thinks of online sporting goods retailer www.sportchek.ca .


Launched in June 2001, Sportchek.ca – the online shop for The Forzani Group’s biggest banner sporting goods store – boasts a catalogue offering of more that 4,000 items. The site, built by Vancouver-based Blast Radius for Forzani, features four major verticals and more than 16 different activities and shops featuring everything from basketball to walking.

‘How to Buy’ guides and ‘Checklists’ are designed to create personalized online relationships with visitors, as is the ‘What’s in Store’ section that provides the latest events and store promotions. Consumers can also access SportChek.ca from in-store kiosks and can pick up, return and/or exchange items purchased online at all store locations free of charge. A customer service centre has been set up to support the SportChek’s multiple communications channels with customers and allow orders and purchases to be tracked using databases.

Forzani recently inked a $3-million deal with TSN to support the launch of the site. In addition to national TV ads on TSN, the site will be promoted by links to and from the TSN.ca and SportChek.ca sites. In SportChek’s 80 stores, TSNads will appear on monitors and purchase bags will highlight both site banners. SportChek.ca is also the exclusive sports merchandiser for Canoe’s Slam! Sports section.

According to written statements, Forzani’s e-commerce division is hoping the site will reach profitability within three years, but it maintains the site’s main role will likely be as an initial research tool, ultimately driving consumers to walk into bricks-and-mortar stores to make purchases.

Jennifer Warrilow

Web Usability &

User Experience Specialist

I want to begin by saying how thrilled I was with my experience with Sportchek.ca. The site combines intuitive navigation with a seamlessly integrated in-store options for consumers, making my Sportchek.ca experience truly outstanding.

My first shopping spree at Sportchek.ca involved searching for a pair of women’s cross-trainers. I easily navigated my way to the women’s footwear selection using the left-hand navigation bar. The footwear offerings were subdivided into fifteen categories allowing shoppers to quickly refine their search. Once I chose to view all the available cross-trainers for women, a series of eight crisp product images were quickly loaded. (The shopper can also choose to turn the images off in order to speed up page display, which is a big help for those who might be accessing the site via a slower dial-up connection.) As I continued to browse, Sportchek.ca clearly indicated whether or not products displayed were available online or in stores only – providing this information up front is another great timing saving feature.

The next phase of the purchase process impressed me most. Once I chose the product I was interested in purchasing, Sportchek.ca intuitively served up the answers to my remaining questions in a logical presentation of information. They addressed all of my questions about shoe features, benefits and specifications – they even gave me an option to see an enlarged image of my new sneakers. They also gave me links to information about shipping, returns and product availability. And if I still had questions, a highly visible, toll-free customer support number and store locator link, were also provided.

Another option offered to consumers is the ability to have your purchase delivered to a bricks-and-mortar location – at no extra charge. Sportchek.ca shoppers can return their purchases by mail or to any Sportchek location across Canada. Many old-economy retailers have yet to capitalize on this strategic advantage over their pure-play rivals.

I was impressed by the amount of information Sportchek.ca made available – all the more so because it was well organized and easy to locate at just the right points throughout my journey. The integration of the Forzani ‘s retail stores with the e-commerce site would definitely entice me to shop there again.