Thursday, April 14, 2011

Blu Ray Media Stores: Provantage Review

Blu Ray blank media guide : Best Blu Ray media stores 
Best Blu Ray Media Online Stores Part 10: Provantage Review

We often found Provantage on shopping engines when doing comparison shopping on specific Blu Ray media products, sometimes with compelling prices. We wanted to investigate if it could become one of our regular online providers for Blu ray media. We were somewhat disappointed by our findings.

Site and usability
Blu Ray media can be found on the Provantage site under Storage -> Storage Media -> Blu Ray Media. Site speed is good, with 2.0 seconds per page average to display a right-clicked SKU. Of our wish list of 13 types of sorting and binning, Provantage provides only 5: it is not possible to select Single/ Dual layer, speed, quantity or printability, sorting cannot use best rating or most reviews, ratings are not displayed in the category listing pages, and it is not possible to view price per disk. On the other hand,  there is a Blu Ray media category,  it is possible to select type (BD-R/ BD-RE) and manufacturer, and  sorting can be done by price and best selling. We found a disturbing issue on several products, as price changed (up, unfortunately...) as we were adding an item to the cart. We also found circumstances when sorting was not enabled, depending upon browsing history. Finally, we encountered several broken product pages on the site.

Inventory and price
Provantage carries a small inventory of 46 Blue Ray media, 4th lowest in the category ahead of NewEgg, Rima and TapeOnline. It stocks 16% of our 89 Blu Ray test media,  3rd lowest in the category, ahead of B&H Photo and TapeOnline. Provantage prices are on average 32.70% higher than the best price across our surveyed stores for media stocked by multiple stores, highest in the category - bar none. Surprisingly, despite the very high average prices, Provantage still matches best price in the category for 4 SKUs present in more than one store, showing a wide variation in its prices across media. As Provantage is often present in shopping engines, we believe that some of these prices may be set as "call" prices to get traffic through shopping engines, while prices on other items remain somewhat high. Provantage carried 2 of the 6 media that we selected as best archival grade Blu Ray media, and matched the best price across the category for both - that was quite a positive surprise.

User reviews
Provantage allows its users to post reviews, but we could not find a single one across Blu Ray media SKUs.

Customer Service
Provantage gathers over 1,200 reviews on ResellerRatings, with an fair 86% rating. On Google Shopping it gathers a little over 2,000 reviews, with an good 94% rating - although Google Shopping ratings tend to be more forgiving. Provantage receives a fair to good 89% predictive CS rating, in the middle of the pack for the category.

Table: Provantage Blu Ray media review (see legend below)

Provantage carries a small inventory of Blu Ray media, with a mediocre site experience and a somewhat buggy site, no user reviews, decent customer service, and the highest prices in the category. Because Provantage occasionally shows excellent prices on specific items, we feel that it is worth checking the site for specific SKU prices before making a purchase, but, at this time, we do not consider Provantage a good regular supplier for ongoing Blu-Ray media purchases.

Next we review Rima for Blu Ray media... So come back soon!

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Table Legend:
Total inventory: total number of Blu ray media SKUs on the site
Inventory %: percentage of list of 89 Blu Ray media that can be found at the store
Inventory % for selected archival media: % of SKUs that we selected in our Blu Ray Media review for archival grade
Site sorting: how many types of sorts and bins are possible on the site (out of the 13 we listed in our wish list)
Average query speed: the average speed to display a right-clicked SKU  - measures browsing speed
Average overprice: How much % over best price, for all media present in more than one store

Average overprice for selected archival media: specifically how much % over best price for the media we selected for archival grade
# lowest priced SKUs: how many SKUs in the store equal best price (if more than one store carries them)
# user reviews: how many user reviews we found on the site for Blu Ray media
Predictive CS rating: our worst case analysis of the likely Customer Support rating for this store
, explained

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