Cleaning Up Online: A Review of Soap.com
Online shopping isn't anything new. Market leaders, including Amazon, offer a soup-to-nuts array of merchandise. A new player in the online marketplace hopes to establish itself as something of a specialty destination. Soap.com is precisely what its name suggests, an online retailer that specializes in soap, personal care products, household cleaners, and related merchandise.
You may be asking yourself why AccessWorld is reviewing a site that sells laundry detergent. For at least some readers of AccessWorld, transporting jugs of Tide detergent and other heavy, bulky items on the bus may be inconvenient. Paying for a cab or hiring a driver makes a trip to Target or Costco a more expensive proposition. What if those heavy items were available at good prices and with no delivery charge? Perhaps an online site is a practical alternative.
What Is It?
Soap.com is the sibling to Diapers.com, which has been a very successful seller of baby care items. The backers of the new venture use the same shipping technology to package and ship laundry products that they have used to track and send diapers and baby products. According to information displayed prominently on Soap.com, you can use your Diapers.com account at Soap.com and vice versa.
The Soap.com homepage is well labeled and presents a comprehensive overview of the merchandise available on the site. In addition, log-in, shopping cart, and account information can be accessed by using the dedicated links at the top of the page. A toll-free number (1-800-762-7123) is also displayed.
Headings and lists are used liberally on the homepage and subsequent pages throughout the site. The upside is that once the gist of header labeling is understood, navigating to and among product types is consistent. I did observe that many headings are used, and for the most part, quite well. On the home page, major categories such as "Household Products" and "Personal Care" are marked as heading level 1. Within a category, heading level 3 identifies subcategories such as "Paper Products," "Laundry," and "Cleaning Products." The only confusion may arise from the use of heading level 4 near the top of the homepage. A featured section combines this heading level with lists. I did find that I was able to locate quite a few categories in this feature section once I understood how the site is organized.
Finding Laundry Detergent
To check out how it all works, I decided to find Tide 2x liquid laundry detergent, a Consumer Reports top pick. After following the "Laundry" link under "Household Products," a new page appeared. Navigating, again by headers, revealed several choices. Tide was located near the top of the page, again in a section of popular and highlighted products. It is also found with other brands farther down the page in a comprehensive list of brands. A helpful feature is the listing of the number of products in the category, immediately under the Tide link. In this case, I learned that there are 44 Tide products available on the site.
The "Tide" page displayed each of the products as a link associated with heading level 1. Prices followed, in plain text, immediately after the Tide link, when reading line by line. Navigating by heading level 1 made locating and selecting Tide 2x concentrated liquid detergent-original a simple matter.
The resulting page repeated the usual labels for shopping cart and similar information at the top. A well-formatted table displayed the product options and prices--in this case, a 64-load container for $14.39 and a 32-load container for $8.39.
On Soap.com, tables contain edit fields beside each product. Entering the number of containers I wanted to purchase was a required step. The page also offered check boxes for $1 off any Tide product.
After entering the quantity and checking the discount checkbox, I looked for the submit button. The submit button appears immediately below the product table, but it is not labeled. However, it is the only button on the page and it is easy to find.
After adding the Tide, a review of my shopping cart revealed all pertinent information in a clear and easy-to-understand layout. By returning to the homepage, I was able to navigate to a new product, either by using the edit field to search by name or key word, or by navigating to a product category.
Before checking out, you must create an account. By following the "My Account" link near the top of the homepage, I located the "New to Us" option to create my account. I don't know when I have used an easier site to create an account. I simply entered my e-mail, password, and zip code into well-labeled edit fields. I had the option of clicking on several check boxes to control e-mail offers and a single unlabeled button that actually created the account and automatically signed me in.
I observed that editing specifics, such as my shipping address, was less elegant, but this is a good time to mention the other interesting and rather remarkable feature of Soap.com. I called the toll-free number, which is prominently posted at the top of the page, unsure of what to expect. A simple prompt asked me if I was calling to place an order or to check on an existing order. After choosing the new order option, the phone was immediately answered by a very friendly and helpful woman. She said she was more than happy to help me to finalize my address details or to assist with changes on my account. She also noted that Soap.com accepts phone orders for any of the products on the website. Operators are available 24 hours a day, every day. The same prices and shipping terms, including free shipping with a $25 order, apply to phone orders.
I found Soap.com easy and pleasant to use. I am an experienced screenreader user, in this case using Window-Eyes version 7.2 and Internet Explorer version 8. Although I did not conduct a direct price comparison locally in Huntington, WV, the prices that I found while browsing a number of product categories appeared to be quite reasonable. I found the ease of using the $1 off coupon much more convenient than managing comparable print discount offers.
I concluded my search for Tide detergent satisfied that Soap.com may be more than an alternative to taking an expensive cab or struggling with household items on the bus--it may well be the most convenient way to shop for these items I have found.
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