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Mothercare's online sales have risen dramatically over the past financial year. They reached a total of £85.5m, an increase of 78% on the previous year.
With this kind of performance, the company must be doing something right online, so we have decided to take a look at its website...
The homepage has a good, clean look with plenty of white space in the background. Navigation and other key links are easy to spot, and the site does a good job of promoting its sales and featured products without making the page look too cluttered.
Users can find their way through the site by using the site search tool, choosing from the featured products on the homepage, or via a top navigation bar:
The site search worked very well for the terms I entered. All the results returned were relevant, and also pointed me towards the correct section of the site, as well as related articles and information.
The top navigation bar uses drop down menus for sub categories, which can be annoying for users, but you can simply click on the main category and find sub categories on the next page.
Filtering options have been provided, which allow users to narrow down their choice of products. For example, on this search for car seats, I have 119 results, too many to search through, but I can filter by weight, brand and price range.
Other useful tools have been provided to help shoppers choose products. The toy and gift finder is handy for people looking for gifts for children, as they can choose the child's age, the amount they want to spend, and have a selection of gifts suggested to them.
The product pages on this site are very effective, containing a lot of information to help shopper decide on a purchase.
Most of the information that customers would need to know about a product is shown here; there is a clear link to delivery options and prices in a prominent position while a link to the returns policy is provided further down the page.
Plenty of product information is provided underneath the photos and price details:
The product photos are excellent, users can see items from a range of angles, as well as zooming in and out. Videos have also been provided for many of the items on sale, which is a great way of showing products like prams and car seats in action.
User reviews have also been provided which, on top of the other features of the product pages, gives shoppers plenty of information to help make a decision on a purchase.
Shopping basket / checkout
The shopping basket provides a useful summary of chosen products, detailing price and delivery charges, and a nice clear checkout link:
The checkout process works as well as the rest of the site. As soon as you proceed to the checkout, the navigation bar is removed, as are most other links to other areas of the site.
Customers can still leave the process, but only by a 'continue shopping' link, which at least reduces the risk of customers accidentally leaving the checkout and losing the information they have already entered.
I often mention enclosing the checkout process as a way to remove distractions and funnel customers towards payment, and this is a near to a fully enclosed checkout as I have seen.
An indicator bar shows clearly the amount of steps in the process, while there is a link to 'safe shopping guarantee and return policy' to reassure customers with concerns about security.
This is a good idea, but clicking the link opens a new window and leads you to the FAQs section of the site, where it would have been better to lead shoppers directly to information about the security and returns policy.
There were one or two problems with the site; the 'contact us' section was poor for example:
A site like Mothercare should be providing a range of contact options a postal address, email address, and a contact telephone number.
It does provide a postal address, but customers looking for a quicker response have to make do with a contact form, as there is no contact number on the site.
To make matters worse, after asking a question through the contact form I received an automated email asking me to wait five working days for a reply to my question.
This is not good enough; questions should be answered within 24 hours, and it makes you wonder how many sales may be lost for the want of adding a contact number or answering email queries more promptly.
Customer service issues apart, this is an attractive and very usable website, and it is easy to see why Mothercare has managed to increase its online sales.
Online Customer Service Briefing - June 2008
Usability and User Experience Report 2007
Interview: Tim Curtis, head of Mothercare Direct
Mothercare launches social network