Poor Web Design is Still an Issue
Last night saw the e-tail elite gather once more for the annual Ecommerce Awards, hosted in conjunction with IMRG. Winners included Marks and Spencer, ASOS, Kiddicare and B&Q (for a full list of winners click here). While reading both the nominations and winners list I got a great sense of déjà vu; the same companies seem to appear on these lists year-in year-out with no competition from upcoming brands or online offerings from established bricks and mortar retailers.
I don’t know whether it’s because everyone’s focus has switched to mobile and iPad apps, or if in a rush to enter the ecommerce arena companies are failing to do their research, but I have been consistently disappointed this year when long-awaited websites from retailers such as Selfridges, Whistles, H&M and Zara have launched with problems such as broken links, poor usability and a complete lack of site search. Surely the time has come for retailers to learn from the mistakes of others and launch innovative, engaging websites first (or even second!) time around?
What are retailers (still) doing wrong?
Culprits: Selfridges, H&M
The heart of a website is its navigation. This is the one area that consumers come back to throughout the shopping process, for everything from initial search to tracking back through breadcrumbs and defining their thought process. Navigation no-no’s have come from Selfridges and H&M, the latter who use ‘Divided’ and ‘L.O.G.G’ in their navigation, both sub-brands which would mean nothing to the uninitiated consumer.
Poor / Non-existent Site Search
Culprits: Gap, BooHoo.com, Uniqlo, H&M
Onsite search is increasingly being used by consumers to find exactly what they want quickly and efficiently. Consumers who enter a site looking for something specific are already a step ahead in the purchase process so have a high potential for conversion if their needs are met well. The likes of Gap, Whistles and Uniqlo have all omitted a search box from their sites, immediately alienating many purchase ready consumers. Whistles is particularly frustrating as it offers no refine functionality either, meaning a search for a red top could last hours (or until you get bored) scrolling through pages of irrelevant products.
Lack of Consumer Engagement
Culprits: H&M, Zara
In a socially dominated web customer engagement is key. There are a multitude of ways to connect with consumers, through blogging, reviews, games, competitions and linking into social media. Consumers demand information at every step of the purchase process. Although Zara promotes its presence on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter the site lacks the final bit of integration that brings consumer opinions together through ratings and reviews of their products.
Poor Product Showcasing
Culprits: Jaeger, H&M, Zara
Not every garment or accessory needs to be displayed on a model with a catwalk video to boot. But consumers need to be able to see the whole product, including the back to make a proper judgement about it. Jaeger for example, shows consumers the product from a front view, with no ability to spin or rotate. This is particularly unhelpful when looking at a skirt or shirts without knowing whether there are darts or a slit in the back.
Culprits: H&M, Whistles
Flash-heavy, copy scant sites are destined to perform badly in natural search rankings. On launch day H&M’s transactional site didn’t even appear on the first page of Google’s rankings for the brand name. While flash may look enticing in theory, in practice it breaks nearly every search engine optimisation rule in the book; and that’s before I even mention the iPhone for mobile browsing…
What are the ‘website essentials’?
Before beginning to think about new and innovative features that will enhance the customer experience and differentiate a website from competitors it’s crucial that retailers get the basics right. By disregarding SEO and Usability best practice it’s unlikely that any website will attract large amounts of new customers; and by failing to engage consumers and showcase products it’s even less likely that customers will come back. It is important to remember that consumers shopping online want to combine all the positive aspects of an offline purchase with the ease and efficiency of shopping on the web. Best practice needs to be integrated into a websites design from the very start of the process; and the customer experience should always be at the forefront of an e-tailer’s mind.
Find and browse products easily
New customers won’t be aware of ‘brand language’ such as specific collections or unusual terms for product categories. They will expect to be able to find the product they are looking for through a clear navigation and refine feature. Conversely, current customers who know exactly what they’re looking for may want to search straight from the homepage by product name, type or even code. Both types of consumer need to feel valued and be able to find the products they need easily to facilitate an efficient purchase and encourage them to return to the site in the future.
A major disadvantage of shopping online is the lack of sensory cues available to consumers. This needs to be counter-balanced with as much information as possible about the product so consumers can virtually ‘try it on’. Product details pages should display the product from different angles, in relation to a body and in combination with other clothes and accessories. New technology now allows retailers to display video, rich media zoom and 360 degree views so there really is no excuse to not match, or improve the offline shopping experience.
Share the shopping experience
Shopping offline is predominantly a social activity. Consumers are influenced by the opinions of others, whether they are friends, family or other shoppers that have already bought the items in question. If consumers can find and share these opinions it’ll increase the likelihood of purchase, and decrease the risk of return.
Securely make a purchase
One of the top reasons cited by consumers for not purchasing online is a fear for data security. The checkout process is where consumers are most likely to terminate a purchase, so it needs to be clearly marked as safe and secure and should encourage users through each step with a minimum amount of problems.Tweet