Last week clothing retailer H&M went live with its latest fashion spinoff, the woefully named ‘& Other Stories’.
The new sub-brand has seven stores across Europe as well as an ecommerce site that is available in 10 European countries.
The idea is to bring customers “diversified fashion collections with great attention to detail and quality at an affordable price.”
So how does the new & Other Stories ecommerce store compare? I took a look to find out...
H&M is trying to create an exclusive, high concept brand and this is reflected in the design of the online store. The homepage consists of 84 irregular tiles that each displays a different collection of products, most of which are worn by models.
It appears to be trying to imitate the eclectic mix of inspirational images that you often find on a Pinterest board, however it has obviously been painstakingly put together with minute attention to detail.
There are also several larger tiles that open out to give more detail on the fashion collections that make up the & Other Stories site.
When you click on one of the smaller tiles it opens out at the front of the screen, allowing you to view and buy all the items the model is wearing. It’s a refreshingly different way of shopping online and is obviously an attempt to deliver a unique user experience.
In fact, ASOS offers users a similar tool on its product pages with a ‘Buy the look’ call-to-action. This means that even if you were browsing for shoes, if you happen to also like the jeans and shirt that the model is wearing then you can buy all the items with a single click.
Overall, it takes a few moments at first to work out how to navigate the homepage, but personally I quite like the way it’s laid out.
However the speed of the page is quite a big issue, as it takes a few seconds for each of the tiles to open up which puts you off clicking on too many of them.
Also, one of the most noticeable features of the site is that a large proportion of the items are unavailable.
The product category pages are laid out in a more conventional tile design, with each product displayed separately.
However the designers have added a twist by showing some of the items on hangers while others are worn by models. It’s a nice touch and fits with the overall feel of the site.
There is also the option to change from the ‘Outfit’ layout to a ‘Product’ view, which is a more conventional ecommerce design with product descriptions, prices and available colours.
The product pages themselves are quite traditional, with several different images, a zoom function, the price and shipping information.
Product details are kept short and functional, simply listing the key features of the clothes and avoiding any descriptive or emotive language.
Though this is in keeping with the brand identity, it does mean that customers have fairly limited information about each product, particularly as the transient nature of each collection means that there aren’t any customer reviews for guidance.
Adding an item to the basket is fairly straightforward – the black call-to-action stands out against the grey background, and when you add an item to your shopping bag a popup appears to direct you to the checkout.
Shopping bag and checkout
The shopping bag presents a neat summary of your order, including an image of the item and the total cost.
It is slightly confusing however, as shipping is free for a limited time but the product pages still say that postage is £6. But that’s a fairly minor problem compared to the forced registration page with which you are subsequently hit.
Thankfully the form is reasonably short, but every new customer still has to provide an email address and password. It also fails to provide a postcode lookup tool.
The inconsistent messaging over postage also rears its ugly head again, as the order summary on the right of the page states that it is free, but the shipping details further down the page says that delivery takes three working days and costs £6.
Overall though the checkout is quick and easy, with only two pages to fill in and a status bar to keep you informed of the number of steps left to completion.
& Other Stories new store intentionally goes against the accepted norms for an ecommerce site, creating a unique shopping experience that fits well with the brand identity.
We’ve recently highlighted a number of cases where luxury brands have prioritised style over the customer experience, with the result being that the sites look good but are a pain to use.
The Pinterest-style layout and focus on collections rather than individual products meant that & Other Stories was also in danger of falling into this trap, but personally I think the site offers an attractive and enjoyable shopping experience.
H&M is trying to create a new brand that is high end and exclusive yet also affordable and everyday, and the online shopping experience is designed to match those values.
The homepage is striking and unique, but many fashion shoppers will be familiar with the Pinterest-style layout and there are conventional links to product categories in the header.
Furthermore, despite the stylish design the subcategories and product pages use the same layout and navigation that is familiar to online shoppers.
Overall then, though there are problems with the site speed, forced registration and product details, I am a fan of the & Other Stories site and feel that its unique approach fits with the brand values without undermining the user experience.