In which we take a look at the experience of using John Lewis from a customer point of view.

Meaning this won’t be a robust test of the ecommerce site’s search functionality, or the quality of its mega-navs, or the persuasiveness of its homepage. 

Instead this will involve searching for an item on Google, clicking on the most attractive result, testing the relevancy and helpfulness of its landing page and seeing how quick and easy it is to make a purchase. The customer journey in a nutshell. 

This is especially relevant as we enter the last few weeks before Christmas and time becomes increasingly precious for the online shopper with a long list and a fickle sense of brand loyalty.

After all it’s that time of year when you’re going to buy an iPad Air 2 from whichever retailer has it in stock (and has the most visible search results), rather than the one you’ve been using for the rest of the year.  

Search

As you can see from the following search results, John Lewis is taking no chances with one of the most popular tech products this Christmas. It has successfully delivered paid search results for ‘iPad’, ‘iPad Air’ and ‘iPad Air 2”.

It’s a wise strategy, as organic listings for John Lewis are quite far down the results page. With these paid results, John Lewis is easily beating rivals Amazon, Curry’s and even Apple itself.

While we're here, let’s see how it’s doing for ‘Monty the Penguin’…

Well played WWF, well played. The Google Shopping listings are also dominated by eBay.

Although on first sight this may seem like a poor show from John Lewis, if you actually visit the site itself you’ll notice that Monty the Penguin is out of stock. It would be a waste of time and money serving ads here for a product that’s unavailable and would only frustrate the shopper who clicked through hoping to buy the popular penguin.

Ad

In terms of the ad quality, John Lewis’s effort is much more detailed than its rivals…

Offering free delivery, a three-year guarantee and a rating system that proves the retailer can be trusted on multiple counts. The ad certainly trumps Apple’s rather flat effort.

The only real competition here for a searcher’s attention is the Curry’s ad. It offers a discount within the blue link and explicitly states what code to use during checkout.

John Lewis relies on its customer service messaging and prominence at the top of the listings to sway attention away from the Curry's ad.

Landing Page

If you’re using paid search, it’s vital that your landing page is completely relevant to your ad. It’s no good serving visitors with a generic homepage, if you’re advertising an iPad, you’d better be presenting them with exactly that.

Here is John Lewis’s landing page served after searching ‘iPad Air’ and clicking through on its paid ad. 

The major thing you’ll notice here is that it’s a product listings page for the first iteration of the iPad Air, not iPad Air 2. That’s fine as the original search term was ‘iPad Air’, however the ad that I clicked through specifically stated ‘iPad Air 2’. Confused yet? Yeah, sorry about that.

If I want to buy an iPad Air 2, I may not bother adding the ‘2’ when searching. I would assume that I’ll be served the newest product anyway. Then when I click on a link that says ‘iPad Air 2’ I'll be confused as to why I can’t see that specific item on the landing page.

There is also no mention of the newest iPad on the landing page. Not in the header, not in the product listings, not in the left hand navigation bar.

This is especially annoying as John Lewis has a specific ‘iPad Air 2’ landing page for searchers of that specific term.

All John Lewis really needs is a clearer link to alternative versions of the iPad on each landing page, and then the problem’s solved.

As for the layout of the page itself, the images are large and I like the fact that you can click on a colour option and the main image changes accordingly.

The text itself is too small though, with the technical specifications being difficult to distinguish as they are written in one straight line.

John Lewis also goes out of its way to highlight the three-year guarantee offer, however there is no mention of delivery options.

Particularly on the run-up to Christmas it’s vital to be clear about the speed of delivery, the cost for each option, whether it has a free returns policy and whether it offers click & collect. We know from its homepage that John Lewis does indeed offer all these things, but someone arriving on this landing page from search wouldn’t necessarily realise this.

Product page

The product itself looks great, there’s an excellent hover-zoom function and the price is clear…

There’s also a real-time stock checker, which is helpful and uses scarcity to add a bit of urgency to the purchase. Social proof is also utilised in the rating system, and customer reviews are enabled at the bottom of the page. 

This is also where a customer can finally see the range of John Lewis’s delivery options. My only criticism here is that on first glance, it’s not obvious that John Lewis offers faster premium delivery options.

If you click on the ‘UK delivery’ link (which isn’t an obvious link at all), you’re taken to the bottom of the page for further options.

The pricing information about ‘next day, named and Saturday’ delivery could easily be included in the information box at the top of the page.

Basket

This is a good example of a clear and simple basket design.

Nothing fussy, nothing distracting, it drives a customer straight to checkout securely whilst providing information on payment options, delivery options and states that I qualify for free delivery with minimal fuss.

Checkout

John Lewis asks for an email address straight away on a page that doubles as a sign-in and as a guest check-out.

Having a guest check-out is excellent for customer service, as it means speed and efficiency is the focus, rather than data capture. Then offering the option to create an account after the purchase is essentially offering the best of both worlds.

The next page is where you choose your delivery option. 

Allowing a customer to choose a delivery option before they are asked to enter their address means they won’t have to waste time entering address details if they’ve chosen a service that doesn’t require them (click and collect for example). For delivery to a home address, autofill has been enabled to speed up the process.

There are four more pages in the checkout process to navigate: a further ‘delivery options’ page, an ‘order summary’ where you can write a gift message, this is followed by a ‘payment page’ then eventually a ‘receipt’.

This whole process could be much more efficient, for a start there’s no need for the ‘order summary’ page in between delivery and payment. The order summary details remain throughout the process, it’s pointless reconfirming them. If John Lewis want to offer gift messaging, this could easily be integrated into the payment page.

Better still, provide a single-page checkout that changes and adapts the experience based on the options ticked by the customer. Making the checkout process six pages long is needlessly tedious and can hamper conversion.

According to David Moths post on single page checkouts, ProImpact found that a one-page checkouts improved conversion by 13.39% and Xanthos improved a client’s conversion rate by 67% after implementing the same.

In conclusion...

One of the massive keys to success in ecommerce is not to assume that the homepage is the place where every customer journey starts. Visitors can come in from a huge number of different side-doors and search results, so it’s important to highlight the most important customer service information on every possible landing page and make the process of purchasing an item as quick and easy as possible.

Positive customer experiences focused entirely on ease and speed will definitely encourage that same visitor to come back. 

For more ecommerce best practice guidance, check out Halfords: the customer journey from search to checkout.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 24 November, 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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Matt D, Marketing Executive at Personal

Great article thank you Chris.

"The only real competition here for a searcher’s attention is the Curry’s ad. It offers a discount within the blue link and explicitly states what code to use during checkout."

This is interesting - I feel it would be a better customer experience if Curry's automatically applied the discount rather than replying on the customer having to enter a discount code.

almost 3 years ago

Mike Smee

Mike Smee, Business Development Country Manager (UK) at Devatics

Off topic perhaps slightly, but it’s interesting to see this today after my own JL experience, especially as the journey detailed stops at checkout!

John Lewis (as per so many other multi-channel retailers) really need to work on their post checkout cross-channel experience too! Let me share my example -

My daughter received a John Lewis gift ordered by a family member which was damaged in transit this week. When returned to the store (who told us it was only available online), the best they could do was offer a refund and ask us to re-order the item ourselves online!! This was then done and because the order value was relatively low we were asked to pay to have the item delivered or collect from the store….more money? or more travelling? ...The choice is yours Mr customer! Either way the emphasis was put back on me to sort out the problem, not a great experience!

I suspect this lack of cross channel integration is a legacy of organisational silos and / or competing P&Ls per channel where directors are incentivised in ways that are channel specific , not cross-channel and not customer centric….Another example of the organisational structure affecting the customer experience!

almost 3 years ago

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Matt D, Marketing Executive at Personal

@Mike

Quite a unique circumstance - surely if you called the online customer customer services they could sort this out for you at no expense on your part.

almost 3 years ago

Mike Smee

Mike Smee, Business Development Country Manager (UK) at Devatics

Assuming they are equipped to deal with returns from a non purchasing entity (ie it was a gift shipped by JL, but ordered by a relative) they probably could! However, these days consumers (myself included) expect to be able to interact with a brand through whatever channel they choose and expect the experience to be truly cross-channel and seamless!...It was more convenient for me to return it to the store that day as I was in the area! Surely the store could have ordered the item for me and taken care of the back-end cross charge, regardless of their structure???...A similar scenario with Apple last year was very different, offering truly seamless cross channel experience.

almost 3 years ago

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Oddny Edwards, Marketing Manager at CuCo Creative

Such a great example of creating a perfect customer experience, John Lewis know how to get things done properly.

almost 3 years ago

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Samantha Hepworth-Bourne, marketing startegy manager at ikano finanical services

A great example of how the online and offline customer service experience need to be fully aligned - failing to deliver great service in after sales diminishes the well polished journey so far

almost 3 years ago

Alexander Levashov

Alexander Levashov, Director at Magenable

@Matt D,
It's interesting, should they apply the coupon code automatically.

From psychology point of view people tend to value more stuff that requires some efforts from them. Of cause there should be a fine balance - too much efforts will be a blocker.

I would be very interested to see a/b testing result of ID with automatically applied coupon and one that requires manual efforts.

almost 3 years ago

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