French Connection announced this week that almost a quarter of its sales took place online in 2014.

Ecommerce represents 23% of its total retail revenue, which is 20% up from the previous year and as also reported in InternetRetailing 24% of all orders were fulfilled using its click and collect service. This follows its recent investment in multichannel services, from the website platform to the warehouse.

Lets take a look at French Connection and examine how the retailer can improve its multichannel standing, paying particular attention to delivery, returns, mobile and social customer service.

Delivery and returns

French Connection places the information about its free click and collect and free delivery services at the top of the homepage and this info remains throughout the journey.

Although only offering free returns if the items are more than £50 is a little steep, at least it’s clear about this from the start. You will receive a returns label in the package you were sent.

Returns and delivery information is also contained within the product pages, which is great as returns info is often hidden at the bottom of the screen.

Although hiding it behind a separate link is only a little better.

Where there could be an improvement is in making it clear whether goods can be returned in-store or not.

This info is available in the returns info page, available from the product page…

However this one-third of the way down, and you may miss the fact you can’t take items back to its concessions in larger department stores.

This information isn’t available in the page you click-through to if you navigate via the links at the top of the page.

You would assume these three messages at the top would link to three different relevant pages, but they don’t, they link to the same. Even though information pages do exist for each service.

To its benefit French Connection clearly states the price of all of its delivery options throughout the journey.

French Connection also does an excellent job in making it clear users can collect ordered goods for free from its stores. But this does exclude homeware items. 

These same items are also unavailable for free returns and deliver, so obviously there are costs to French Connection that it’s just not willing to swallow.

This is a shame as free delivery can work well as a sales driver. There are many stats covered in our post on how far will customers go to qualify for free shipping which back up the importance of free delivery.

Four out of five consumers see free shipping as an important factor when shopping online, and while you would expect people to choose slower standard delivery options to save money, it's surprising how many are prepared to spend more to reach the free delivery threshold. 

Highlighting this threshold when people add items to a basket is therefore a good way to drive more sales, and French Connection does include this message in the basket.

Although perhaps it could be highlighted in a different colour whilst also telling the customer the actual amount they need to spend to qualify.

Mobile

French Connection operates a very good responsive site. It doesn’t lose the delivery and returns information from the top of the page. Search is positioned clearly and consistently, and even more importantly for users out and about who just wish to know where the nearest store is, the store-finder button is featured prominently at the centre of the top navigation.

For added convenience, clicking the ‘stores’ button should immediately serve you with your nearest location using geolocation with further options for search, instead of presenting you with another page to navigate.

When you’ve received a list of stores, each one is integrated with Google Maps to make it easy to find them…

Unfortunately the clickable links where the name of the branch is written merely move a pin around a map that you can’t see until you scroll to the bottom of the page.

These would be better if they clicked through to individual store landing pages, or presented you with an option to click and call, both features unfortunately missing from this experience.

Social customer service

French Connection runs a specific customer service channel on Twitter which is great as this is increasingly where users will contact brands for all sorts of enquiries.

French Connection links to the help channel via its main account’s description.

The help channel itself seems to reply to most enquiries that come its way, but there is normally more than one hour’s delay in responses. If the tweet arrives after 5pm, the reply arrives the next day.

There is also a lack of personality to the tweets, along with a lack of personalization and very often customers are asked to send an email rather than being offered end-to-end service on the same channel.

French Connection would also be wise to write it operating hours in its description to save on customer frustration.

There are lots of social customer service best practice tips from around the blog, so please read the following for further guidance: 

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 19 March, 2015 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 (2)

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Hi Christopher

Its always good to think Continuous Improvement: and you raise some things that will hopefully be useful for FC in their next planning meeting!

I wonder if you were a little harsh on
> 'making it clear whether goods can be returned in-store or not'.

Yes they could bring that message up the Returns page: but then it pushes something else down - and there's a lot on that page.

If FC felt that message is important for conversion: then it needs to be prominent elsewhere than just the Returns page?

The Returns page is quite wordy and detailed: I wonder if a more helpful tweak would be to try 'less is more' on that page: to answer the obvious questions more quicly.

Quickly scanning a couple of sites where we have projects running I notice
* Currys.co.uk do a very nice top-level page, with a very re-assuring line:
> "Regardless of how you purchased your product from us, it can be returned to your local Currys store. You can find your nearest store here ."

* Mothercare: it's also long like FC

And checking the respected John Lewis: their Returns page is perhaps below their normal standards: the sections are prominently identified by the logos of the courier firm you can choose from: but less clear at first glass is how to choose a courier: it might be nice if the sections led with the your situation: not the courier brands, eg
* My item is too heavy to return to store:
* if over 15 Kg - use courier X
* if over 10Kg ...

over 2 years ago

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harriet freestone, Web Performance Consultant at Scivisum

I personally like the ASOS returns page, thought admittedly tricky to find from the home page the actual returns page is clear and easy to follow with lots of links to reprint mislaid return forms and clear navigation to FAQ's.....perhaps french connection and ASOS should swap some tips?

over 2 years ago

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