It is widely accepted that department stores sell online well. With prime real estate all over the country and billion-pound software development budgets, department stores often win out on service.
I was curious to test multi-channel capabilities to see whether or not a retailer’s Retail Matrix score reflected the customer experience for the full purchase cycle.
In this Insight, we’ll take an in-depth look at the checkout of two department stores, House of Fraser (RM 83/100) and John Lewis (RM 76/100) and compare it to one brand Mint Velvet (RM 52/100) through the purchases of one dress.
On the product detail page, it’s pretty simple to do a side by side comparison. In spite of recent musings from UX experts about ecommerce best practice dying, these retailers have stuck to an accepted product detail page ‘formula’. However, Mint Velvet is the only retailer that doesn’t display real-time stock messaging or delivery lead time information on a product-level.
Side note: House of Fraser’s True Fit. It asks for customer sizing around a range of categories such as tops, dress size and body shape. It even asks for information about favourite clothes already owned to try and ‘guess’ what your size would be on a product-by-product basis. This is then added to a customer account and used for personalisation. Cool!
After adding the dress to basket, all three retailers utilise mini-basket functionality. However, clicking into the basket page reveals three different strategies. House of Fraser is the only retailer of these three that includes the basket step within its enclosed checkout header and footer. Both Mint Velvet and John Lewis have opted for a double ‘Checkout’ button revealing that the ‘fold’ still matters to these retailers. This respect of the ‘fold’ is also apparent on both of their product detail pages, whereas House of Fraser clearly trusts its customers to scroll.
Mint Velvet requires a customer to make a delivery choice in basket but doesn’t make it clear whether or not selections in basket are final and fails to provide further information about store collection which may create a blocker later on.
John Lewis is the only retailer that doesn’t allow a customer to choose a delivery option in Basket, however, it is clear that there are several available and at what cost.
Across the board, checkout begins with a login page. Mint Velvet is the only retailer of the three that forces registration. With this forced registration, there is also a rather confusing form layout which uses one and two stars to denote requirements.
Mint Velvet is also the only retailer that keeps the order summary with the product image throughout checkout. A persistent product photo may be another one of those ‘best practices’ that just isn’t necessary anymore. Out of these three, House of Fraser has the simplest calls to action and the simplest login form. John Lewis is the only one that does not use card logos to display which payment methods are accepted.
The next step is where it gets interesting. Back in the day (when I was a teenager) and website stock was reserved for website orders, all stock was sent from the same place. Then, the common order for checkout steps was Billing address, Delivery address, Delivery method, Payment, Summary.
Over the past five years, retailers have had to adapt logistics and on-site UX to keep up with the rising consumer demand for click and collect. With click and collect leading in delivery now in the UK, all three of these retailers have put Delivery method first in checkout steps because it drastically affects the rest of the information needed from the customer to complete an order.
Now, let’s talk about Mint Velvet. The selection process for stores in this step was so poor that if a customer isn’t familiar with the UK, they would need to Google whether or not there was a store near them. Nielsen’s recent study into mobile user experience stresses that design should be ‘self-sufficient’, meaning that a user should not have to leave a website to get information that the website requires. This is also relevant to desktop and tablet. Furthermore, the link on the Mint Velvet page to switch from collection to home delivery is so small that customers may think they have to go back to the basket to edit their delivery choice.
Payment on all three retailers was simple. Although all three could improve elements. Mint Velvet’s payment form is too long. It’s no longer necessary to force a customer to choose a payment type. It’s also quite old hat to ask a customer to tick a ‘Terms and Conditions’ box during checkout — Especially when clicking the link produces a 404…
House of Fraser’s payment step is much simpler than it looks. It’s curious that the retailer would stretch out the form to be so long, when only four fields need to be completed. John Lewis has the simplest payment step, by far.
Order summary pages within my test were not fully comparable because it turned out that I could not buy via click and collect on Mint Velvet. John Lewis and House of Fraser both have similar information on their order summary pages, but the ordering and design is much different. House of Fraser pushes its credit card and account creation over the order and collection information, while John Lewis displays the information in a good flow, it’s easily legible.
Overall all of these retailers have a workable checkout. Besides a few minor glitches, I was able to purchase the dress from all three. It’s not suprising that House of Fraser and John Lewis display a checkout journey that looks unique to their brands, whereas Mint Velvet seems to use more of a canned approach.
A few suggestions:
- Mint Velvet could do a 5 day design sprint to build and test minor enhancements to checkout.
- John Lewis could explore and test how deviating from ecommerce ‘best practice’ just a little bit might give its customers an even better experience online.
- House of Fraser could improve the usability of its address lookup.
At the beginning of this article, I referenced a scoring system. To see the full Multi-channel Retail Report: 2015 UK edition and download the Retail Matrix to see how your ecommerce services, including checkout, compare to other retailers in the UK, please click here.