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Top Franchise Development Website: Number 7 — Cold Stone Creamery

A panel of nine franchise industry experts judged more than 200 franchises on their development websites. Cold Stone’s site came in at No. 7.

This month 1851 Franchise’s Franchise Development Website Awards have returned to announce the most effective and engaging development sites in franchising. A panel of nine expert judges evaluated each franchise development site according to three criteria: first impressions, quality of content and ease of use. Sites were scored on a five-point scale in accordance with these three criteria, with the overall website rankings based on a composite average of the judges’ scores. 

Ranked at No. 7 is Cold Stone Creamery’s franchise sales website, which received an overall average score of 3.90. When it comes to first impressions, the ice cream concept’s franchise development website secured an average score of 4.00, as well as an average score of 3.71 for content and 4.00 for ease of use. 

“The Cold Stone franchise sales website was very strong — when I looked at the site on a large screen I could practically taste the ice cream,” said Stan Friedman, president of FRM Solutions and one of this year’s judges. “I was the CDO of Maggie Moo’s, and I know that ice cream is an emotional offering because of its association with nostalgia and childhood memories. It is important to translate that to the business ownership opportunity, and the website did a good job at capturing that emotion.”

The first impressions metrics for each franchise development site are determined in consideration of five subfactors: usability, UI/UX design, site performance, SEO and mobile accessibility. Cold Stone’s high score indicates a sleek design, easy accessibility, as well as user-friendliness from a design and technical standpoint. 

While Friedman noted that Cold Stone’s website did a good job at appealing to entrepreneurs who are investing from an emotional standpoint, he also suggested that the mobile application was lacking. In order to translate that winning design onto the mobile screen, Friedman says Cold Stone will need to adapt.

The content metrics are determined by the presence and strength of three subfactors: motivating content, calls to action and reasons to buy now. Franchise sites that excelled according to this criteria told compelling stories that are specifically designed to drive action

“There is a very distinct difference between a successful consumer site and franchise development site,” said Vice President of Operations at Franchise Performance Group Dianna Bailer, who was also one of this year’s judges. “The key is knowing the difference — franchise development sites are selling to the ideal persona of a prospective franchisee. It is important to really tap into that demographic and create the website to appeal to the prospective franchise owner. Franchise buyers tend to do a ton of research, spending at least three hours on a site, which is why it is so important to include as much information as possible.”

The Cold Stone site features high-quality graphics, a central introductory video and multiple testimonials from franchisees. The site is also full of in-depth information and features a section specifically dedicated to awards. 

“Now more than ever, diversity is essential in order to show prospects a story that connects with them personally” said Michelle Rowan, COO of Franchise Business Review and one of this year’s judges. “One of the main ways to do that is through creative content, longer video testimonials and authentic storytelling.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of “Why now?” has also become increasingly significant and should be addressed clearly.

Because inquiry forms are the vehicle by which franchise brands receive relevant information from prospective franchisees, their presence and quality are critical. The ease-of-use metrics score was determined in relation to location, depth and ease of application.

The development website should provide a simple, navigable form so that prospects can quickly tell franchisors that they are interested. It should also provide high-level details of costs so that under-qualified candidates don’t waste the franchisor’s time and qualified candidates know the specifics of what they are getting into. The form to request more information should be easily accessible on every page and easy to view. 

On the Cold Stone franchise page, the form to request more information is available in two different locations, ensuring that prospective candidates are able to find it no matter where they are scrolling. Additionally, there is an entire section dedicated to franchise qualifications.

The three metrics of first impressions, content and ease of use offer a streamlined way to analyze the effectiveness of a franchise development website. As the rankings show, when these three factors come together, the website can become the starting point of the franchise development process and serve as the primary entry point into the brand.