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Marks & Spencer revamped its website last year, and enjoyed a successful Christmas online, increasing its web sales by 78% in the 13 weeks to the end of December.

The M&S website scored badly in a usability study last year though, so there may still be room for improvement to the user experience.
 

We've identified 10 areas of the site that M&S may want to take a look at...

M&S homepage

1. Use of drop down menus

While drop down menus do have the benefit of freeing up more space on the webpage, they can be cumbersome to use:

M&S drop down menu

2. Enclose the checkout

The M&S checkout process is pretty smooth, and features many best practice recommendations: there are few steps to get from A to B and there's a useful bar that indicates progress through the checkout. All good.

However, M&S has failed to enclose the checkout, so customers can easily - or accidentally - click the logo to go back to the homepage and leave the process.

Enclosing the checkout means removing all links to any parts of the site other than the other stages of the process, to focus the customer's mind. Once in the checkout there should be only one place customers can go - purchase confirmation.

M&S checkout

3. Add a link to the checkout

The link to the basket is prominent enough, and consistently in the same place across the site, which is what users would expect. However, there is no clear link to the checkout.

Most customers will realise that clicking on the basket link will take them to the checkout, but others may not be so sure, sowhy risk losing out on sales for the sake of adding a checkout link?

M&S checkout link

4. Add user reviews

User reviews are something that web shoppers are increasingly coming to expect, as they offer valuable help in making a purchase decision and can increase conversion rates for etailers.

M&S, like some other major retailers such as Tesco, has yet to take advantage of user reviews, but they would be wise to add this feature. Surely it's only a matter of time? It is in a great position to harvest customer evangelists.

5. Add some descriptive URLs

M&S has a large product range, and this can mean some lengthy URLs that have no connection to the product displayed on the webpage.

Adding related keywords to product page URLs can help SEO, as well as making them more understandable (and guessable) to the site's users. 

6. Provide clear details of delivery times and charges

These are among the most important factors in a consumer’s purchase decision, so customers shouldn't have to search around for this information.

The information is available on Marks & Spencer's product pages, but the link is right at the bottom of the page, which is hardly a prominent position:

M&S product search

7. Reinforce customer trust

M&S does not currently display any kitemarks or third party verification logos, to convey trust and respectability. These logos can ease the mind of the prospective buyer.

These should ideally be displayed during the checkout process, but M&S does not do this. It is a very well-known brand, so this may not deter many people from buying, but less well known e-commerce sites should seek to reinforce customer trust.

8. Provide visible contact details

If a customer wants to get in touch about something, why make them hunt around for a contact number? They may be on the verge of making a purchase, but need to ask a question, so don't frustrate them.

M&S does have a range of contact options on the site, but they are at the bottom of each page. Why not provide a visible contact number on the product pages?

9. Don't make customers register before purchase

Before you can make a purchase on the site, M&S requires you to register by adding your address details, email address as well as choosing a password.

This is placing unnecessary obstacles in front of prospective customers, who will have to enter their address details for delivery anyway. It makes no sense to do it this way around.

M&S registration

Far better to give them the option of heading straight for the purchase without registering first.

10. Make the free delivery offer simple

M&S is currently running a promotion offering free delivery for any orders over £30. This is an excellent idea, as free delivery can help drive sales, but M&S has made this offer too complicated.

Customers wishing to take advantage of this offer need to enter the code 'FREEDELV' at the checkout, while items like furniture, appliances and wine are excluded from the offer. This, in a nut, is RIDICULOUS.

Why would you make a relatively simple offer - which customers can easily understand - into a complicated process. Why not just offer free delivery on ALL orders over a specified amount?

What did we miss? What do you love and hate about the M&S site? Leave your comments below...

Related research:
Online Retail 2007: Checkout Special
Web Design Best Practice Guide

Related stories:
M&S launches new Amazon-powered website
Ten things Amazon can do better online

Graham Charlton

Published 4 April, 2008 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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crowdstorm

Wow! Some interesting points here. It always amazes me when large company e-commerce sites fail to follow 'best practice' guidance on how to increase conversion - especially simple stuff like enclosing the checkout process.

over 8 years ago

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Mitch

historically isn't it always the biggest brands that undeliver in terms of user experience. M&S is still a good site and fantastic brand but could do some more. It's so frustrating how large retailers are still years behind of making what should be very simple process quite annoying poor. i think retailers could learn alot from the travel sector whose largest players have done a very good job in ecommerce in terms of user experience, content, navigation. Still easy to criticise from here i suppose - armchair fan and all that :-)

over 8 years ago

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Janine

It really is amazing how little investment is made by large retailers in getting their online presence spot on. Especially after it's been proven over & over what a lucrative source of revenue this channel has become year after year. How can you overlook this channel when the potential is so vast???

over 8 years ago

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Jenni Lloyd

@ Janine: I'm sure that M&S are not overlooking this channel in any way. Their site is good - it could be improved further, but that's true of most sites.

I agree with the purchase related comments - enclosing the checkout, adding a prominent number, making obvious the delivery details are all small changes that could improve on the conversion rate. My query is with the comment regarding the main menu. I think this is a very elegant solution to 'department store' shopping. Everything's very clearly laid out, mirroring the kind of wayfinding you'd find in an actual shop. It allows the customer to gain an easy overview of all that's on offer and access category pages in a single click from the home page. John Lewis are doing something very similar, offering easy navigation without compromising the sales space available on the home and inner pages.

Your other comments are all within the e-consultancy best practice checkout guide, which presumably is based on research. What informs your view on the navigation system? Interested to know as I'm considering this kind of solution on sites I'm designing now...

over 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Jenni,

It may be a matter of personal preference, but drop-down menus can be confusing for some users as it can make selecting options tricky, as well as being frustrating if you accidentally move the mouse away and lose the whole menu.

The M&S dropdown is easier to use than some others I have seen, but I'd prefer to see the various categories displayed across the top of the page.

I think John Lewis does this slightly better than M&S, as users at least have the option of clicking on the categories and navigating this way, or by using the drop-down menus.

Amazon is a good example of navigation - it also has a large range of stock but has managed to retain the sales/promotional space while still providing navigation options at the top of the screen.

over 8 years ago

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N SHAH

I agree with many of these suggestions. I personally don't mind the drop down menus but prefer the way Debenhams have done them. I really hate it when they make you register before buying and have refused to buy on certain site that do this, it really wind me up.

It is amazing how large companies, with the resources they have, miss some of the more basic things.

over 8 years ago

Paul Rouke

Paul Rouke, Founder & CEO at PRWDSmall Business Multi-user

In addition to these suggestions, which I agree with in the main, in particular regarding the checkout process, even more could be done by the large corporations such as M&S in providing more intelligent methods of navigating through huge ranges of products.

Findability methods such as suggestive search and the ability to tag products and subsequently allow consumers to navigate across categories and sub-categories by using the tags are just a couple of more intelligent methods that could be explored.

For our recent e-commerce platform launch the variety of navigation and findability methods made available to customers of our client were some of the key findings coming from the User Centered Design process we undertook, and as people have been commenting on this article it does really surprise me that with the scale of operations of some of the biggest players in online retail, more of these more intelligent methods aren't explored.

over 8 years ago

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Weeraratnam Thomas Thambipillai, nil

You are an e-consultancu say that m & s ravemped its website. My query is where is the website address of m & s. It is the important fact for your information certainty.

almost 8 years ago

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