Cycling has become a hugely popular sport across Britain in recent years, thanks largely to the nation’s success in the Olympics and Tour De France.

Bike retailers have obviously been among the main beneficiaries, as any new bike purchase also requires the customer to invest in a load of expensive accessories.

In a previous interview Adam Tranter, editor of Cyclosport.org, told me that Wiggle and Chain Reaction are two of the most prominent ecommerce sites in the cycling world, so I thought I’d conduct a site test to see what they’re getting right.

I’ve also included Evans Cycles as that’s where I bought my current bike from.

As a trendy London hipster (the only true part of that description is that I work in London) I’m well into fixie bikes, so for this user test I thought I’d try to find myself a new single-speed model.

Read on to find out how these three retailers stack up, and if cycling is your thing then get involved with Econsultancy’s Marketing Cycle.

Stage one is from London to Brighton on Thursday 9 October, an 85-mile route that’s so leisurely even I’ll be joining the peloton.

Or if you’re up for a bigger challenge, join Econsultancy CEO Ashley Friedlein on the three-day London to Paris ride.

Chain Reaction Cycles

Homepage and product discovery

Chain Reaction has a fairly standard homepage and isn’t alone in using the dreaded ecommerce carousel.

It currently offers free UK delivery and free returns with Collect+, and these offers are prominently positioned at the top of the page.

Chain Reaction homepage

Focusing on the task in-hand, I couldn’t find a fixie category within the top nav so resorted to using the search tool.

Sadly this only yielded two results, so there wasn’t much chance to test the filter options.

However it’s good to note that Chain Reaction’s search tool does offer alternative spelling suggestions. In this case, it thought I might be looking for ‘Fox’, which is a bike brand.

Product page

First let’s look on the bright side. Chain Reaction’s product pages include stock information, reviews (though this bike didn’t have any), detailed product information, shipping and payment details, and other recommended products.

On the downside, there is only one product image, so it’s difficult to get a decent view of the bike. This is a major problem for an ecommerce site, particularly when you’re selling expensive items.

Another issue is that the ‘add to basket’ CTA is a bit small, and the light blue colour doesn’t really stand out.

Shopping basket and checkout

After a customer adds an item to their basket, Chain Reaction attempts to cross-sell related items before the user can head to their shopping basket.

This is a good way of increasing basket value, as people buying a bike are likely to need additional products.

The shopping basket gives a useful summary and reiterates the 365-day return policy and free delivery.

To further increase the chance of a conversion shoppers can checkout with PayPal if they so desire.

One criticism would be that the page is a bit cluttered, so customers may not notice some of the graphics that are intended to improve conversions.

chain reaction product page

Chain Reaction offers a guest checkout option, which is a great relief for those of us that hate forms, though it loses points for failing to use a postcode lookup tool or real-time form validation.

The guest checkout is only two pages long (one for your address, the other for payment details), so it greatly improves the likelihood that shoppers won’t lose interest and drop out.

Overall the purchase journey was pretty painless, though there are a number of fairly basic UX issues that Chain Reaction should seek to address.

Wiggle

Homepage and product discovery

Wiggle’s brand team clearly love orange. So much so that they’ve stuck to their guns at the expense of making anything stand out on the homepage.

Personally I feel there should be some variety among the different CTAs.

wiggle homepage

Wiggle doesn’t have a product category for fixies, and neither does its search tool return any relevant product options.

Instead I delved into the single-speed product category, which includes a selection of fixed gear models, though weirdly none of these come up if you search for ‘fixed gear’.

Wiggle category page

Wiggle’s category page includes an image of each bike, the price, star reviews, and a rather optimistic ‘buy now’ button. 

It also gives a great range of filter options including brand, frame or fork material, colour and wheel size.

Product page

Wiggle’s product page is an improvement on Chain Reaction’s.

Alongside the reviews, delivery and returns information, and an incredibly detailed product description, it offers several images, a 360-view, zoom functions and product videos.

There is also a Q&A section where users can ask questions that are then answered by Wiggle’s customer service team.

All of these features are proven to have a positive impact on conversions as they enable customers to make a more informed purchase decision.

When a customer has chosen a bike size Wiggle displays stock information and the time until the item will be dispatched, which again helps to increase the chance of a conversion.

Shopping basket and checkout

At the shopping basket Wiggle offers a good order summary, delivery information and several different security logos to help reassure customers.

I still feel that the CTAs should be a different colour, but overall the page design is very good.

The checkout asks for an email address upfront, which may put some users off as it feels a lot like you’re being forced to register.

However Wiggle does tick a lot of boxes for best practice. The checkout is enclosed, there is a progress bar, a persistent order summary, and three different payment options (credit card, PayPal and finance).

Overall the checkout process is very quick and only requires the customer to get through three or four screens until the purchase is complete.

Evans Cycles

Homepage and product discovery

Evans’ homepage is quite similar to Chain Reaction’s, with free delivery options and a price match guarantee given prominence above a carousel.

Fixie bikes are housed within the single-speed category, though Evans’ search tool brings back 12 results if a customer searches for ‘fixie’.

The results page only has three filter options, though I think this is just because there aren’t many products as the other category pages have up to eight different filters.

Each product includes an image, price, star rating, and stock information, which is all relevant, useful information.

Product page

This product page is probably the least cluttered of all the brands on this list and it includes several important features, such as reviews, Q&A tool, delivery and returns information, and detailed product information.

Once you’ve selected the colour and size Evans also gives stock information and an estimated dispatch time, and displays an eye-catching CTA.

However there is only a single product image and no 360-degree view or product videos.

Basket and checkout

Evans’ makes a big effort to upsell accessories at the shopping basket, which makes the design a bit cluttered.

However it displays a decent order summary, and in order to reassure customers there are several security logos and the CTA says ‘Checkout securely’.

The checkout then gives three different options, one of which is the all-important express checkout.

Throughout the checkout Evans includes several features that improve the user experience, such as real-time form validation and a postcode lookup tool. It also accepts payment by credit card or PayPal.

But looking at delivery options, Evans offers a free click-and-collect service but standard delivery is a whopping £9.99.

In conclusion...

I was disappointed to find that none of these retailers included a fixie product category, but instead relied on the single-speed label.

This is probably a more accurate description, but it may confuse some people who aren't aware of the similarities.

That aside, I was generally impressed with the UX of these sites, though each one could stand to make a few improvements.

The biggest flaw is the lack of product images offered by both Chain Reaction and Evans.

Wiggle includes a selection of images alongside a 360-degree view and product videos, so offering customers just a single image won't cut it.

But Wiggle's site isn't perfect - the orange colour scheme means nothing really stands out and the homepage is unimpressive.

In contrast, Evans Cycles' has a cleaner layout and a superior user experience, but it is let down by the aforementioned lack of images and high delivery costs.

Overall there is no clear winner, but if you combined the best features from each of these retailers you'd have a near-perfect site.

If you're up for a cycling challenge that also involves a healthy dose of networking and socialising, join Econsultancy's Marketing Cycle on Thursday 9 October.

David Moth

Published 22 September, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Matthew

Great article. I spend quite a lot of money on both of these websites. The worst thing about Chain Reaction (and I hope they read this) is when you change your address or add an address you have to give your new address a 'Nickname', why? It's such a silly thing to ask for, plus on an ipad or iphone the javascript box that asks for that information fails and does not save your information.
I discovered this issue about 4 days ago trying to buy a set of pedals. The form wouldn't except my 'Nickname' for my own house, so I went to Wiggle and bought the same set of pedal from them instead.

Unnecessary information at the checkout is a conversion killer. Hopefully Chain Reaction sort it out soon.

over 3 years ago

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Beth

A very interesting read to see how someone would look at cycling sites from a customers point of view in direct comparison to one another.

Running www.leisurelakesbikes.com I feel the pain of not having more image views of bikes etc. as I know being a customer this is what I want to see, but some brands just don't supply them to us. There are some brands that give us loads and these sell online far more than ones that do not.

This would mean having to build every single bike and then take photos which just isn't feasible with the amount of bikes that are released every year. Brands are getting better and better at supplying more detailed bike shots though so hopefully soon this won't be an issue for much longer!

We are working hard to make big improvements to the customer experience on our website so if you're ever looking for a different site to try then please keep us in mind!

over 3 years ago

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Alig

Interesting article. As a user of many cycling websites I'd say wiggle is a vastly superior site and while you've highlighted a few things (eg the homepage being a bit bland) I've never had a problem trying to find what I'm looking for.
Granted, I've never looked to buy a bike but their categorisation, mega menu, ease of purchase and detailed reviews make the shopping experience comparable with amazon. It's my default 'go to' site

over 3 years ago

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee, Web Analytics Manager at Evans Cycles

Great post David. Thanks for taking the time to review Evans Cycles, alongside Wiggle and Chain Reaction. I thought I could add some value by giving you my opinion (- not necessarily that of Evans Cycles!)

The points you raise regarding imagery are spot on. I find our product pages are fairly well laid out, but not interactive enough. Users really want to get close to a product in the research phase and offering 360 degrees image view and video would go a long way in optimising that.

In regard with delivery charge, we have recently conducted research to ensure that we are competitive vs our competitors. Being the only true multichannel business out of the three (with many stores across UK and an online presence) we have put in a lot of focus into setting up more stores across the UK to make Click & Collect more convenient.

Lastly, I think it's worth mentioning that vast improvements are being made in the online space over here. I've been employed to understand and optimise the online journey and Evans Cycles are also working on bringing a completely new optimised site for 2015.

Exciting times ahead - watch this space!

about 3 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Daniel, thanks for your comment, it’s really interesting to get a view from the brands involved. I visit your site quite regularly so I’ll keep an eye out for the new version.

about 3 years ago

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee, Web Analytics Manager at Evans Cycles

I am very much looking forward to revealing the new site. We're currently doing lots of work understanding as much UX pains on our current site, along with understanding what visitors like about it too (I find a lot of companies forget to do the latter!) and carrying that insight over.

about 3 years ago

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Martin Sansom, Head of Design at Sparkstone Creative

Great article David!

I completely agree with your comments about the colour palette on the Wiggle site (or lack of). One of the most important things to consider when designing any ecommerce site is the page hierarchy - i.e. using colour, layout and scale to subliminally guide customers to content you want them to see first and the actions you want them to take. By using only orange the Wiggle site lacks one of the most important parts of this hierarchy.

Your comments about having more than one product image are also vitally important when dealing with bikes that could cost upwards of £2,000. Customers want to inspect every detail of a bike before making the decision to purchase as for many people the way a bike looks is just as important as how their car looks.

over 2 years ago

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