By Sam Noble, Digital Marketing Director, Koozai
Having a website that is well known is simply not enough in today’s tough online retail market. Online retailers are competing with other sites selling the same or similar brands. To stand out from your competition, it is important that visitors to your website are met with an excellent user experience. If the purchase process is not quick, easy and seamless, customers will get frustrated, causing them to leave your site and use a competitor instead.
This new trend is something that the established brands claim to have mastered, and the validity of these claims will be analysed in due course. It is also worth mentioning, however, that for the new, up and coming brands, there are a lot of lessons to be learnt from the likes of ASOS and Very. Miinto are one new kid on the UK block who are looking to emulate the success enjoyed in Denmark, Sweden and the US but, alongside London-based Heretics, they will need to ensure that they can compete with the big boys. “Individually, none of the independents can compete with the online giants, but if they all collaborate and work together as one, using Miinto as the platform, they can compete in a big way and we can create one huge collection of the latest fashion for the consumers,” proclaims Managing Director, Richard Packman.
The Heretics brand, launched by designer Tom Wells, has attracted interest from the likes of Lana Del Ray in its infancy, but again, will have to prove it can mix with the big guns, to keep this sort of high profile. Wells concurs that the way to the top, is through customer satisfaction: “Our strategy is a simple one; all of our attention is focused on our customers’ needs. We want to deliver the best possible product to those wearing Heretics. Every day we work on improving all elements of what we do, we strive for perfection and apply this to all aspects of the brand.”
For the purposes of this comparison, I have reviewed three of the leading retail fashion sites in the UK, highlighting some of the strengths and weaknesses of each when it comes to making purchases online. The case studies included are:
To ensure the ease of purchase for every single customer, there are a number of features on which all websites, in particular ecommerce sites, should concentrate. Against these features, I am going to review which online retailer offers the best experience, and vote my personal winner in each section.
Even though Brand Alley have similar menu functionalities to ASOS and Very, you cannot see any of their products unless you create an account and enter all your personal details including name, address, contact number, date of birth and email. This seems to work for Brand Alley, but it is possible they could be losing a lot of customers. Not everyone will want to create an account just to browse.
Contrarily, both ASOS and Very have a great navigation menu. It is easy to see where you want to go as soon as you land on either of their Home pages. The top of their Home pages contain categories for men, women and specific product pages.
Out of the two, Very has a much wider range of products and the categories are broken down with sub menus allowing even easier navigation.
Winner - Very
When shopping online, website visitors want to be able to specify their shopping options, helping them find the exact item they want. For example, if I am looking for a yellow evening dress in a size 10, I do not want to have to scroll through hundreds of items to find the right one. This is best accomplished by adding various filtering options to the site navigation.
ASOS allows you to refine your search by size, style, price, colour and brand, plus other filtering that is specific to the type of item for which you are looking.
When shopping with Very, you can refine your search in the exact same way as ASOS. However, they have added a few more options unique to their website. These include delivery options and customer ratings, making it easy to see what other people think of their products.
The filtering on Brand Alley is kept simple. It just allows you to refine your search by style, colour, size and brand.
Winner – Very
When shopping online, something that can be very frustrating for customers are hidden delivery costs. There have been times where we have all added items to a shopping basket and then reached the checkout only to find out that a huge delivery cost has been included. Ecommerce websites should highlight delivery costs early on in the purchase cycle to avoid any surprises.
Very do not have any delivery costs. This is highlighted clearly straight from their home page and the message follows you as you browse the site.
For Brand Alley, the only time you are made aware of what you will need to pay is at the end of the checkout process. This is something that the company will need to look into if they want to improve customer trust as well as their conversion rate.
ASOS have a banner across all pages on the site that takes you through to their delivery options page. They have various delivery costs, ranging from £7.95 for next day evening delivery down to free if you are prepared to wait six days for your purchase, and this diversity is what tips the scales in their favour.
Winner – ASOS
Navigation, Filtering and Delivery Costs are just a few features that are important for Ecommerce websites. The main thing that all sites should be looking at is the ease at which purchasing can be made. This can be tested with user surveys, website analytics and tracking software that records visits. Following all of these steps can help to improve conversion rate, with a direct positive impact on sales.
From the three brands covered, Very and ASOS cater to the pivotal aspects most effectively, while Brand Alley needs to refine their system slightly, but without losing the impressive uniqueness that the website still holds.
Of course though, as the likes of Heretics and Miinto will have discovered, the ability to maintain an independent identity is just as important as trying to compete directly with rival brands.