Stationery retailer Paperchase relaunched its website this month, and finally added an online store of it own, having sold via Amazon for some time.
I've been looking at the new site, which uses the Venda platform, from a user experience perspective...
The homepage looks good, and I like the notebook/diary theme and use of tabs for the main navigation options. The stripes are on brand and look good on a 17" monitor, but may be a bit too much when viewed on larger screens.
The majority of the space on the page is taken up with a display showcasing the latest categories and collections, as well as the new online store, though perhaps it could have been put to better use promoting some products more directly.
Considering the fact that Paperchase is a multichannel retailer, I also think the retail outlets could be promoted more effectively with a more prominent store finder tool. At the moment, its just below the fold (on my laptop screen anyway), and isn't the clearest link.
The site search could be more precise. For example, a search for 'blue notebook' does bring up one or two blue notebooks, but it also brings up red, green and black ones, as well as luggage and birthday cards.
At least there are plenty of decent product filtering and sorting options to narrow the search, while the most relevant results seem to be displayed first.
The product category pages also uses this filtered navigation, and it has been well executed, with a decent range of filters, and the number of matching products in brackets to show customers how much they are narrowing the selection, and to avoid returning no results at all.
The Paperchase site has a lot of low cost items, and is probably more likely to have customers adding multiple items to their baskets than some other retailers. It would hardly seem worth paying the delivery charge for a packet of envelopes for £2.50, so shoppers are likely to grab a few stationery items on the same shop.
To make this possible for customers, it should be nice and easy to add items to the basket and continue shopping. Since many products don't require too much information, showing a product picture and price as well as an add to basket button on the product category page means users can select items without heading for product page.
The product pages provide extra photos when necessary, and there is a zoom tool available. Delivery charges couldn't be clearer, while there are links to returns policies and other information at the foot of the page.
The returns policy is one area where Paperchase could do better here. It is keen to stress that online purchases cannot be returned to store, and vice versa.
As a multichannel retailer with a network of outlets around the country, Paperchase actually has an advantage here over online only rivals. Customers see only one brand, whichever channel they use, and not allowing multichannel returns can be irritating for customers, as they simply will not understand why this is not possible.
The lack of contact details is another minus for Paperchase. While a clear contact number would offer reassurance for customers, as well as a fast route to some assistance with their order, the retailer only offers an email contact form with no timescale for a response:
If you are not going to offer a clear contact number for customers, then the email option should be a proper alternative with a promised response time.
This is something that ASOS does well, as it promises a reply within one hour, so customers can ask a question confident that their email will not be sitting in an inbox for days waiting for a response.
Checkout process / shopping basket
Though the product pages make delivery charges clear, the shopping basket page fails to reiterate this, and show the full cost of the basket.
As well as the option of login for existing users or creating an account for new customers, Paperchase has an express checkout option for customers who would rather skip registration altogether, a sensible option.
However, Paperchase has missed a trick by not enclosing the checkout process. There are a number of reasons for doing this; it removes unnecessary distractions from shoppers and focuses their attention on the purchase process.
With the colourful background, as well as the head and footer navigation options in place, added to very long checkout pages, there are more distractions than there could be within this checkout process. (Having spoken to Venda about this, it seems the navigation within checkout is the client's preference).
In general, the new Paperchase website offers a good user experience, and gets most of the basics right.
However, there are a few areas where it could do more for shoppers, mainly in the area of checkout optimisation. The checkout pages require too much scrolling, and there are plenty of visual distractions for shoppers. I would recommend that Paperchase tries out a more stripped down and enclosed checkout to see what this does for conversion rates.