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Furniture retailer Heal's relaunched its website recently, working with 10CMS and Venda to increase the company's online sales.

Heal's e-commerce head Mike Traill told Retail Week that the site has helped to increase conversions by 20%, and that the company is on course to drive 16% of its total sales via the web. I've been looking round the site to see what changes have been made...

Heal's homepage

Homepage

First impressions from the Heal's homepage are positive, as it has a professional look and feel, as well as being well laid out in a way that makes it easy to scan and understand the page.

At the moment, the sale display dominates the homepage, showcasing a selection of reduced products. One nice touch is the use of hot spots, which customers can mouse over to get details of the product, with the option to click through to the homepage for further information. 

Navigation / site search

The placing of the search box is unusual; whereas most e-commerce sites place it centrally or over to the right (which is where users will habitually look for it), Heal's has placed it on the left just under the logo.

On top of this, it doesn't stand out especially well; the text is light grey against a white background, and is overshadowed by bold Heal's logo. Stats on the number of people that use a site search box varies; some put it at up to 30%, while this study of niche sites puts the figure nearer 5%.

Perhaps Heal's customers are less inclined to use the site search, but however few people use it, it does indicate greater intent to purchase.

On top of this, results were varied. In this case, I searched for 'leather sofa', and, sure enough, the first few results were leather sofas, but I got 200 results, only 26 of which were sofas:

Heal's site search results

Thankfully, Heal's has some good filtered navigation options to trim these 200 results down to a more manageable number, allowing users to refine search results by product type, material, colour, size and price range.

Product pages

The product pages do a decent job of conveying essential information to customers; delivery charges, details, dimensions etc, and there are user reviews on some pages to help further, while the related and matching products offer useful cross-selling options for users that venture below the fold.

Some of the delivery estimates are a little vague though. While it may be acceptable to wait weeks for a large piece of furniture, I'm not sure that customers will want to wait 2 weeks for this overnight bag:

The quality of product photos varies around the site. The page for the sofa below has a good range of views and you can zoom in and out but some products, like this Teak table priced at £525, have much more basic images which don't allow customers to see much detail.

Heal's product photos

Basket/checkout

Nothing too much wrong with the basket page; it gives a decent summary of products added and charges and allows for easy editing:

Heal's shopping basket page

Since it is the most important link on the page, to get customers into the purchase process, the checkout button could be made to stand out more than it does.

Heal's doesn't insist on registration before customers enter the checkout, just an email address. It asks for a password after customers have entered their address details, so this is a smooth and unobtrusive way to handle registration.

Heal's registration

While there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the checkout process, and data entry is easy enough, I don't think that Heal's has made it as smooth as it could possibly be.

Even though it has been split over five pages, there is still a lot of scrolling to be done, thanks to the fact that the page header, navigation bar, and order summary image take up much of the space above the fold.

On top of this, Heal's has not enclosed the process to focus customers' minds on the purchase by removing distractions and links which could take them elsewhere in the site:

Heal's checkout process

There are some good features within the checkout though; help and information is readily available, both in the form of links and a contact number which is displayed on every page in the site, as well as Verisign logos and other such reassurances about site and server security.

Conclusion

Heal's relaunched site is easy on the eye, and contains a lot of useful features. The hot spots are a great idea for instance, but could be used to better effect by using them more around the site, or displaying more photos with suggested room layouts where customers can click on individual products.

The site works well overall, navigation and sorting options are useful, which help and information such as contact details is readily provided to customers.

Though conversion rates have improved, I would suggest that Heal's takes a look at its checkout process and considers a few tweaks. I have seen much smoother processes in other sites I have reviewed recently, such as The Book Depository, which manages to achieve everything in one page.

Graham Charlton

Published 19 June, 2009 by Graham Charlton

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

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Comments (1)

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

The search is a little broken; if you accidentally get a " quote mark in the search box (by typo error or cut+ pasting) , you get the whole catalogue matching... but it's not clear from the results what went wrong:

__Your search for ""scented candle" returned 1000 results__

Deri

over 7 years ago

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