Next has just launched an iPhone app with a large range of stock to browse through, and full mobile commerce functionality.
I've been trying out the new Next app to see how user friendly it is...
Homepage / navigation
The homepage on the app is simple, and provides four options; shop, a store finder, style ideas, and a help section:
Users can then navigate to one of four main sections from the next screen by scrolling left or right:
There are a lot of sub-categories which, on a standard mobile commerce site, may be slow to scroll up and down, but work well enough on the app, and allows shoppers to be more specific with their browsing.
Crucially, since there are still a lot of products in the sub-categories to scroll through, there are some very useful filtering options, which allow users to narrow their product selections:
The filtering options are comprehensive too; there were 11 different product features to narrow the search by in the jackets category, everything from weight and style to price and size.
This is excellent, as it reduces the amount of effort required from customers, and makes it more likely that they will find a product that suits them in the end.
It could be improved by displaying the number of product matching each filter, as this would prevent shoppers selecting too many filters, finding no results at all, and having to start again.
I'm puzzled by the lack of a site search option though, something which tends to be a key feature in most mobile commerce sites or apps. A search option would allow customers with a particular product in mind to save time, though perhaps the decent navigation and filtering options may compensate for this.
The product pages do the basics, with picture, price and a prominent call to action, but could be made more appealing. There is a big black space on the pages, which could have been used to provide some product info or photos instead:
Some more information on delivery times and charges would be useful here too, as I found that, having reached the checkout with a couple of products, that I had to wait 2-3 weeks for delivery. Providing this information earlier would save wasted time and customer frustration.
The checkout has been optimised for mobile users and, if you have a Next account already, it's a painless process. All that's required is an email address and password.
If not, then you need to set up an account, which although it has been optimised for the iPhone, is still time-consuming.
The app also has a store finder, which can either use GPS to find the nearest Next stores to your current location, or else by postcode.
The results are displayed on a map, which is not as useful as it could be, since users have to zoom in on the map to find the link to further information. It's not made as clear as it could be. Displaying the five nearest stores in a list, though it has less visual appeal, may be more useful.
The Next app is one of the best mobile commerce apps so far released by UK retailers, and does provide an attractive interface and a good browsing experience for shoppers.
For regular customers of Next who already have an account, the ease of ordering makes it very likely that Next will attract enough sales through the app to make it worthwhile.
There are a few improvements which could be made, a site search options, improvements to the store finder, and more informative product pages, but the Next app is still impressive.