If you haven’t heard about the “Beanie Babies” or the “Furbies” of Generation Z – where have you been? Rather than say you would be remiss to not know this information, it could be that you simply haven’t noticed the proliferation of the cute, adorable, snuggly, cuddly plush toy that is known the world over as Squishmallows. Squishmallows is the brainchild of KellyToy, a company based out of Los Angeles, California that’s been in the plush toy industry for nearly four decades. You can say that KellyToy has perfected the art of creating this type of toy.
Using Squishmallows as a quick case study, we will learn about one aspect of the customer experience that many companies overlook, and that’s the capacity, bandwidth, and capability of their web presence, particularly when their website is also an eCommerce website.
First, a quick background on Squishmallows to illustrate the source of the phenomenon. Squishmallow toys have many benefits that have been highlighted during the pandemic when most of us were stuck at home. Because of their softness, size, and texture, many people have expressed how soothing Squishmallows can be, helping them fight anxiety, stress, and even depression. And it doesn’t hurt that they are almost too cute for words:
From celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and Jessica Alba to Madonna and Lady Gaga, Squishmallows seems to be truly taking over the world. Lady Gaga recently posted an Instagram post with the caption:
“I love my friends. My real friends. That I come home to a pile of rainbows because they want me to smile and celebrate me. I love you friends, all your colors and your uniqueness—your kindness, your curiosity and endless love ❤️”
While the company did perfect the art of the toy, they could not have anticipated the crazy increase in demand. Such was the drive for purchase, their website crashed:
The fan reaction was brutal and cutthroat. They took to Instagram and the rest of Squishmallows’ social media websites to air their distress, anger, and sadness.
Squishmallows sell their plush toys via other retailers like Costco, Walgreens, and Target, however, their intention was to have all the “Squads” – as a particular collection of Squishmallows are called – available through their website. It was the worst possible time to have the website crash, just as demand reached its pinnacle. Apart from the significant amount of potential sales lost, customers and potential customers are losing faith in the company and in the brand. In many ways, the company found the holy grail of eCommerce product: an easily transportable, lightweight, non-perishable good that they could deliver worldwide, and a historic and absolutely unparalleled faithful following. These customers are practically begging to buy more Squishmallows. Popular TikTok dancer and influencer Charli D’Amelio even implored Squishmallows to sponsor her:
Building an eCommerce website that can handle all types of traffic is essential, and many companies take this for granted. They sometimes don’t invest time and money to ensure that their website has the bandwidth to handle increasing traffic. Given how consumer purchase behavior has changed due to the pandemic, companies must have a responsive, scalable, and robust website that can handle more orders. The technical aspect of website building is very often overlooked, in other words, and this can completely mar the customer experience. They are left with a bad taste in their mouths when they are unable to checkout and purchase a product that they are most eager to have.
Companies also need to manage customer expectations by communicating with them and offering solutions. Being transparent with them, letting them know when they can expect the website to be back up, and how they can purchase in the meantime, is essential.
You may have perfected the product and the distribution channel almost all the way through – but if you haven’t reinforced that last leg of the customer journey, the crowd will respond – as they have done with Squishmallows. More consumers are taking to the internet to purchase essential and non-essential items.
In other words: There is no excuse anymore for having a poorly designed website. Take note!