Tesco.com receives more than 300,000 orders a week and its online sales for the first half of 2007 reached £748m, so it is hard to pick any flaws with it’s business. But could it be doing even better? We think so.

Tesco is in a similar situation to Amazon (which we looked at last week) and may not want to mess around with a site that is clearly working in terms of revenue.

Nevertheless, we’ve identified 10 areas that could be tweaked to generate even more of the green stuff for the retailer…

Improve the homepage – lose the drop down menus

From the Tesco.com homepage, there are a lot of options for visitors, so I can see why the web designers have chosen to save space by using dropdown menus. However, this is not the best idea for the user experience.

Tesco homepage

Using dropdowns prevents users from seeing all of the navigation options at a glance, and it can be very frustrating when the cursor moves away from the menu, forcing customers to start all over again.

Provide more filtering/sorting options

When websites have large product ranges, some means of sorting and narrowing down choices is essential to prevent customers from having to trawl through pages and pages of results.

Tesco does this well to a point, allowing you to sort by price and brand, but a few more options would be useful.

For example, if I search for washing machines I still have four pages to go through after choosing a price range:

Tesco washing machine search

In the case of this product, I’d like to be able to search according to spin speed, load size, and other relevant features, all of which would help me find the one I want more quickly. At the very least, Tesco should look allow users to narrow the search results by keyword (something it doesn’t currently cater for).

Non-descriptive URLs

Tesco, like other online retailers with large product ranges, uses dynamic databases, which can produce some ugly, lengthy URLs that have no connection to the product page.

Adding related keywords to product page URLs will help not only help in terms of SEO, but they will be more understandable to users. We’re big on ‘guessable URLs’ here at E-consultancy, and websites normally benefit in search engines if URLs are meaningful (for example, by using an article’s headline, rather than the a Reuters-style 25-digit number string punctuated by ampersands and the like).

Better product images

For some products a basic image is all that’s needed, but others need to be seen from a range of angles to enable customers to decide on a purchase.

This is especially true with products like this sofa. If you are going to spend £800 on an item like this,  then you really need to be able to see it from a variety of angles and contexts. From the pages we looked at, Tesco seems to be limiting its range of product images, as can be seen below:

Tesco product images

Show delivery charges on product pages

Customers hate finding out about delivery charges at the last minute, especially as this is a crucial part of the purchase decision for many web shoppers.

This is the extent of the delivery information on the product pages:

Tesco delivery options

This is not good enough, and would be the first thing we’d change. Customers want to know delivery charges at the very least. They will also like to know when an item will be delivered. This vague message doesn’t provide either.

The rule of thumb for e-commerce companies is to never hide delivery information and pricing within the checkout process. Don’t force these people to visit the checkout unless they’re ready to buy. If you do, then your checkout abandonment rate will be disproportionately high.

Don’t make customers register before shopping

This is not the case for the rest of the site, but if you want to look through the groceries section of the site you need to register and enter your email, home address, phone number, and so on.

This is placing unnecessary obstacles in front of the customer, and may cause many to abandon the idea. Why not let customers browse, fill up their baskets, and register just before checkout?

Tesco must have some reason for doing this but we don’t know what it is. It is possibly a persuasion thing, to make prospective shoppers mentally commit to the process. Otherwise it may just be some legacy issue, and is ‘just the way we’ve always done it’. Traditions are not always there to be upheld.

Offer free shipping
– it’s what works best

Delivery charges are a major factor in a customer’s purchase decision, so why not make it easier by offering free shipping for purchases over a certain amount. This will not only encourage sales, but can also have the effect of increasing order values. We know that free shipping is about as powerful an incentive as you can offer online. It works wonders.

Never change the price after the
order has been placed

I’ve ordered some groceries and set a delivery date, only to be told that the prices may change between now and when the items are delivered! Why can’t they guarantee the price? The current messaging is confusing and needs updating so it is more transparent:

Tesco order page

Provide a contact email address

Tesco.com provides contact phone numbers for each department, as well as a range of postal addresses for customers to write to, but no email contact details.

Why not give customers the option of contacting Tesco by email? Many people would prefer not to hang around on the phone, while writing and waiting for a reply can be a slow process.

Emails can allow a quick response, and can also take pressure of call centres, as long as queries are answered in a timely fashion.

Tesco won’t want to encourage email, but there are a range of online customer services tools out there that can help massively, in terms of email management.

Add user reviews

With such a wide range of products, customers could sometimes use some help in deciding which is best for them. Moreover, web users have begun to expect websites to have this feature.

User reviews can have a positive effect on credibility, as well as improving conversion rates. According to Bazaarvoice’s Brett Hurt, reviews can increase conversions by up to 20%. Tesco may well take the leap into user generated content before the year is up.

And that’s it. So what did we miss?

Related research:

Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special

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