By Karine Hains aka Pheebs888

Nowadays there are fewer and fewer local card shops and more and more Internet sellers. From eBay to local stores that also have a Web site to stores that are exclusively online, the consumer has many options. Presented with all those alternatives, who should you buy from? This article will take a closer look and review one of the big players in the hobby – Blowout Cards (www.blowoutcards.com). To give you as complete a picture as possible of their Web site, we will examine it using eight criteria:

- First Impressions
- Navigation
- Content
- Attractors
- Findability
- Making Contact
- Price Competitiveness
- Knowledge of Users

First Impressions

Upon loading the homepage, it is quite clear what the Web site is all about. The front page is not too busy and the color scheme is sober and suitable. Straight from the start, the site advertises its free shipping on all orders of more than $99 (only to the continental United States), its Blow Out sales or its wholesale prices. Most consumers will also be pleased to see the link “Request a price quote or a price match.” In the tough economic times we are currently experiencing, every little bit helps even when it comes to saving money on our hobby purchases. Below this, there also is an announcements section in which the consumer can find articles about new products or announcements by the Web site itself. Further down the page, there also is an area featuring the new releases and finally a calendar of the current pre-selling products. On the left-hand side, you can find all the product categories as well as all the useful information the customer may need to fully enjoy their shopping experience.

Score: 9/10

Navigation

The Navigation is facilitated by the fact the Blowout logo is always in the top left area and you can always click on it to return to the homepage. Furthermore, on the homepage, it is very easy to get to the product you want in a minimum number of clicks. The products are divided in two sections: cases and boxes. Each of those sections is divided by sport and then each sport is further divided by year. So in two clicks, you can be browsing the list of product of your choice for any given year. It is, of course, also possible to do a search for a particular product. If you do a general search, you will find all products across all sports so if you know which sport you are looking for, you are much better off using the advanced search option and limiting your search to that particular category.

Furthermore, not content with being an online store, Blowoutcards.com also offers a forum which everyone can access. There is no need to be a customer to be able to do so. On there, you will find plenty of discussions and group break chances. It’s definitely worth taking a look!

Score: 9/10

Content

Blowoutcards.com has a wide variety of products available on its site and for each of them, there is a precise description that includes the particulars of each product, the odds of pulling certain cards. And when a product is on special offer, it also says how many units are left at the reduced price. Furthermore, at the bottom of each product page, you will see what customers who bought the product you are looking at also bought. This can be a useful feature if you are not sure on which product to purchase. It could be useful for the site to have a feature reminding users which items they recently browsed. This is standard on numerous other sites.

It would also improve the shopping experience if there could be some examples of pulls obtained from the different products. They have a forum section in which there are plenty of people showcasing their pulls, and it would be easy to match some of the scans to the product pages. This would greatly enhance the visual experience.

Score: 7.5/10

Attractors

We have previously mentioned two important factors in this category: the free shipping for orders more than $99 in continental United States and the product quote/match option. Blowoutcards.com prides itself in being able to offer some of the cheapest prices online and this could be a deciding factor for many as we are all shopping for cheaper deals these days.

Also, on a weekly basis, Blowoutcards.com offers a Sports Card Forum VIP exclusive deal, in which a featured product is offered for an even cheaper price. For instance, this week the product offered was the newly released Upper Deck Series 1 Hockey. A highly sought after product every year, this is the release for hockey rookie collectors.

Score: 9/10

Findability

Blowoutcards.com makes every effort to get its name out there. From their partnership with sportscardforum.com to their presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, they are a constant online presence. However, if someone does a search on Google for “sports cards boxes,” the site is not one of the first ones to appear. You have to go to the second page of results to find their link. The site also gained visibility last summer by setting up at the National Sports Collectors Convention in Cleveland and offering some of the cheapest prices at the show. On this occasion they also pleased numerous mixed martial arts fans by having Rich Franklin on-site to sign autographs. If you would like to know more about the event, be sure to check out this link: http://www.blowoutcards.com/index.ph…article_id=242

Overall, one can say that they are doing a great job of getting their name out there and are gaining more and more recognition from hobbyists.

Score: 9.5/10

Making Contact

It is very easy for a customer to make contact with Blowout Cards through its site. There is a “Contact Us” link in the top toolbar of the site and by clicking on it, it is possible to either email a question or view one of two numbers to call between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm EST Monday through Friday. The fact that the numbers provided also come with a contact name also helps make it feel like there is a dedicated personal customer service.

Score: 9/10

Price Competitiveness

If compared with the price points of other sellers with comparable reputations, Blowoutcards.com normally comes out on top. And if they don’t, you can always use their price-match option. One way or another, you should get your purchase at the best possible price. There is, therefore, no reason not to give the site full marks on this aspect.

Score: 10/10

Knowledge of Users

As mentioned earlier, the Web site does not keep track of your last viewed items, which is quite a useful shopping tool. Further, as a big player in the card industry, Blowoutcards.com should definitely realize that the hobby is not strictly North American anymore. Yes, it was concentrated there initially. But today, there are plenty of collectors, and therefore potential customers, based overseas. Unfortunately, Blowout Cards still does not ship overseas, which is rather disappointing for international customers who would like to have the option to take advantage of the cheapest prices on the Internet. Overseas buyers already have to pay more expensive shipping and Customs duties, so they could definitely use the lower prices.

Score: 7/10

Overall Score and Closing Comments

Overall, Blowoutcards.com scores 70 out of 80 possible points, for a final score of 87.50%. This is no doubt a great Web site to do your hobby purchasing and I strongly recommend that you visit it if you haven’t already done so. Unless, of course, you are based outside of North America – then it would be torture more than anything else. I truly hope to see Blowout Cards open itself and its business up to the rest of the world in the near future.