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If the idea of fighting through the ambling crowds and earnestly sticking to the directional arrows on the floor of Ikea this Saturday afternoon fills you with abject terror, we may have the answer for you.

Qubit has recently revealed its latest benchmark looking at the onsite effectiveness of eight of the top global homeware companies and judging which one offers the best customer experience. You won't have to leave the house for a new cushion cover anymore.

Here I’ll take a look at the top scoring websites from the benchmark and see if I agree with the findings.

These are Qubit’s highlights from the benchmark:

  • Ikea is the most visited homeware retailer with more than 42m monthly visitors, five times more than the nearest competitor.
  • Bed, Bath & Beyond offers the best overall customer experience in terms of user journey.
  • Pottery Barn’s website is the easiest and most intuitive website to navigate.
  • Ikea’s website has the most usable catalogue of products.
  • Ikea is also the easiest retailer to purchase from.

Here’s an overview of the benchmark itself and the eight retailers' scores.

The scores highlighted in grey are the highest scores in that category. Let’s take a look at those winners in more detail.

Find

Pottery Barn achieved 95% in this category.

This is an easily navigable homepage, with four large tabs at the top that link to the other Pottery Barn sites, category links, cart and checkout buttons and most importantly a large search bar that predicts text as you type.

A user only needs a couple of seconds to assess exactly what is on offer and where they need to head next. All of the most important and useful information is presented in the top third, telling you everything you need to know quickly but without appearing cluttered or crammed. This is thanks to a good use of white space and a subtle change in font size.

Also, by keeping all of the useful information in the top third, there is plenty of room for an attractively large image highlighting its featured sale. 

The category tabs provide further detailed menus when the user hovers over the tabs in fly-out menus.

Most of the sites fared well in the benchmark, although Crate & Barrel and B&Q both lost marks for having a non-predictive search bar. Also few sites in the test provided breadcrumbs to aid navigation back through the sub-categories.

Choose

Here Ikea achieved 95% with its ‘superior’ search results and effective product pages.

The above image shows the search results page for ‘office chairs’. Can’t imagine why that was the first thing I thought of. 

Although this may be the best of the tested homeware websites, I would suggest that I’ve seen much better elsewhere.

These large products would greatly benefit from much bigger images. Five products per line is far too cluttered and renders the products indistinct. Three or four much larger images per line would make for a more attractive page and give the user a clearer idea of what they’re looking at.

The product page itself is far better.

A huge main image, with options to show similarly sized images of the product from other angles and the ability to zoom in further.

There are also colour options, further complementary products and a simple drop down menu that allows you to check availability in your local store for click and collect.

However, improvements could certainly be made below the fold.

The product information is hidden under a tab. Complementary products has been repeated twice, yet I have to click a tab below the fold to see the size of the chair and what it’s made out of.

The box on the right that suggests alternative swivel chairs to purchase is so tiny it may as well not even be there.

Buy

Ikea again walked off with this category achieving 86%. How does the final stage of a buyer’s journey play out on the Ikea website?

This is a well laid out shopping basket with clear call-to-action buttons.

The delivery cost checker is a simple feature that allows the user to input their postcode to reveal the total delivery cost and estimated delivery date. However, the user has to leave a space in the postcode in order for it to be recognised. I find it baffling that ecommerce sites still overlook this small but annoying feature.

Checkout provides the ability to register or to use as a guest. I personally love this feature and always breathe a sigh of relief when I see it. Although once you’re through to the next page to fill in your address, the website has disabled auto-fill and doesn’t feature a postcode finder, so this is more laborious than necessary. I might as well just register as a new user.

Checkout takes four separate pages to complete and although there is nothing to complain about, it’s still just a rudimentary process that neither dazzles nor infuriates.

Personalise

Bed, Bath & Beyond was the winner in this category with 87%.

How personalised is the Bed, Bath & Beyond experience? Well if you’ve been following my articles, in particular the post on retargeting, you may know some personal details about me. Bed, Bath & Beyond knows them too.

Here’s what I was greeted with on visiting its website for the first time:

Expert retargeting or mere coincidence? Probably the latter but still it put the site in immediate good favour.

The homepage reacts to your product search history in much the same way as Amazon. Providing your last viewed items and recommended products based on those items. 

I also like this feature, as found in preferences.

You can personally tailor your Bed, Bath & Beyond Experience to suit your needs based on your circumstances and personal information.

Mobile

In the mobile category, Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn both achieved 80% each. Although neither has a responsive desktop site, both have dedicated mobile sites that thankfully don’t direct you to a separate downloadable app.

Crate & Barrel has a great mobile site with clear menus and a large search bar on the home screen.

Product listing pages are large and detailed, with four products per screen.

The individual product pages themselves are clearly laid out with easily navigable images and details. The checkout is an efficient experience, with large input fields and minimal screens to complete before purchase.

Personally I think Pottery Barn’s site home screen is slightly better than Crate & Barrel’s. It has a search bar at the top of the page, with categories accessible by swiping a little further down.

The search bar also has a predictive text function, which is missing from Crate & Barrel.

The product listing pages however could stand to be a lot clearer.

The natural photography is fine for a desktop, however it’s completely lost on a mobile. The same can be said for the individual product pages, as the natural photography of products placed in the home just looks indistinct here.

The final let-down is an express checkout that actually takes four separate pages to get through. 

I dread to think what the non-express checkout is like.

Crate & Barrel clearly has the superior site here, so I’m not entirely sure why they both achieved the same high score. Perhaps it’s purely down to Pottery Barn’s excellent navigation.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 14 January, 2014 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (1)

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Olga Militsi, Marketing Manager at 2KM LTD

Hi Christopher! It’s interesting I came across your article for a rather strange reason, though. I have recently started receiving regular mail shots from Pottery Barn; which is cool cause it reminds me of the awesome 18 months I spent it the United States….10 years back!! It seems they activated their e-mail Marketing with a contact list which is who knows how old...ts ts ts.

over 2 years ago

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