The Betabrand Homepage — When Ugly Can Be Beautiful

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On January 9th, Betabrand unveiled the world’s most horrible homepage. Why? What happened? Aaron Magness, Betabrand’s VP of Marketing explains.

Like any e-commerce site, or really any site for that matter, Betabrand invests a lot of thought, time, and engineering power into our homepage. That’s just part of the reason why we’ve received so many questions regarding our decision to transform Betabrand.com into a glorious mess dedicated to finding a new UX/UI Design candidate.

Questions like:

How did you all decide to do this?
How bad were sales that day?
How much traffic did you get?
How were the candidates?

First off, if you’re not familiar with Betabrand (yes, the site you’re on), we’re a crowdfunded e-commerce fashion site based in San Francisco’s Mission District. We’re all about bringing new ideas to life; non-stop.

Of course, the Betabrand homepage is our face. It helps define us. How could we wreck our own homepage when it’s what everyone sees, right? Well, not exactly. While the homepage is our face, it’s really not what people see first. Think of a person walking down the street. You probably don’t notice their face first. Odds are, you notice their shirt, pants, shoes, hair, etc.

For us, only about 20% of our traffic enters through the homepage, because of ads, search, links from posts, etc, the majority of visitors actually don’t see the Betabrand homepage at all.

Second, recruiting in The Bay Area is expensive, especially for engineers. How could a little start-up like Betabrand compete in this marketplace when people are still talking about Twitter writing a $10 million dollar check to an engineer? We had to be smarter. We have to think like hackers and fight through the noise. I mean, CES was in full swing, so we had to make a real statement. If we were willing to destroy the Betabrand homepage, we thought we had a chance at getting into the news cycle.

Another contributing element is that the decision making at Betabrand is very flat and fast. I assume, most start-ups will be able to say the same thing. However, it shouldn’t just be a start-up thing. It should really be the focus of how all business runs. Here is the actual interaction where our homepage-wrecking decision was made:

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And my response:

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It didn’t need to go through 10 approvals. It didn’t need a committee to decide. It was an idea that came to fruition in 2 minutes (sorry for being so slow on my response).

The standard second question tends to be about how many sales we walked away from — and we were lucky to have a 30% lift in expected sales that day.

That can be explained by the traffic surge we received thanks to coverage from Fast Company, Business Insider, Daily Mail, and many others. Due to the incredible coverage, we saw an increase in site traffic of over 100%. But, if you just look at the Betabrand homepage alone, we saw an almost 700% increase in traffic!

Surprisingly, people checking out our hideous homepage were pretty engaged, as our bounce rate was down 11%. Again, if you didn’t see it, the Betabrand homepage was seriously hideous (you can still check it out here).

Social media caught fire also and with all the coverage, our Twitter chatter increased by over 400%, just about all of it positive (sorry to the few of you that just didn’t get the bigger picture). That’s a lot of coverage talking about the Betabrand homepage!

The goal of all this was to be able to bypass paid job listings and recruiters. We received about 30 qualified resumes, 10 great resumes, tons of agencies trying to pitch us (sorry guys, not what we’re looking for) and some designers that were really confused how we could have let this happen without noticing (some people just miss the sarcasm gene).

Lastly, making the Betabrand homepage look like GeoCities, AngelFire, and MySpace had a love child really bought us eyeballs we couldn’t afford. My back-of-the-envelope math suggests we were able to garner about $1M in coverage, if we were to buy the same media impressions as an advertiser.

I think the actual term for getting a free $1,000,000 in media value is something like BOOYAKASHA!!!! I’m not even giving the 3X PR lift in value that many agencies talk about. That’s a lot of coin to save. And, with all that traffic going to Betabrand’s homepage, were were able to retarget everyone that stopped by to give our site some love, but weren’t quite ready to purchase.

All in all, I really think this speaks to the creativity of Betabrand. Why do something normal when you can do something story worthy? We talk about things being fashion forward-able. This extends beyond our apparel and into the everyday nuances of the business. Again, if you’re looking to reminisce, or you missed it, you can check out the hideous version of Betabrand’s homepage!

Aaron Magness
VP – Marketing
@macknuttie

Aaron Magness - Headshot

Aaron Magness

Aaron Magness

VP Marketing at Betabrand
Aaron has worked in retail for over 10 years with customer focused brands such as Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Zappos, Coastal.com and Betabrand. He is a proven leader with oversight of eCommerce, Marketing, PR, Social Media and Business Development. He received his BBA from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a double major of Marketing and Management & Human Resources. He ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain only five weeks before his wedding day, and luckily, he made it out alive. He is an endurance athlete, though he’s not sure why he puts himself through the pain. Aaron is a proud .0000001% owner of the World Champion Green Bay Packers.
Aaron Magness

Aaron has worked in retail for over 10 years with customer focused brands such as Williams-Sonoma, Inc. and Zappos, Coastal.com and Betabrand. He is a proven leader with oversight of eCommerce, Marketing, PR, Social Media and Business Development. He received his BBA from University of Wisconsin – Madison with a double major of Marketing and Management & Human Resources. He ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain only five weeks before his wedding day, and luckily, he made it out alive. He is an endurance athlete, though he’s not sure why he puts himself through the pain. Aaron is a proud .0000001% owner of the World Champion Green Bay Packers.