Debenhams has recently reported a 16.7% growth in ecommerce sales in the last 15 weeks (ending 13 June) on the same period last year.

According to the retailer this has been attributed to lower delivery charges and “further improvements to [our] online presentation.”

Because I can’t resist a little investigation, made possible by the very handy Wayback Machine, I thought I’d check out exactly what improvements Debenhams has made to the way its goods are presented that apparently led to this growth.

Product results page

Let’s take a look at the product results page for dresses from this time last year.

There are a few immediately apparent areas for improvement: those images are very small, especially in the full length examples. The filters and sorting options are incredibly numerous. The text is quite small.

However the multichannel customer service options across the top are clear and attractive.

Let’s now take a look at the redesign.

As you can see, the differences are subtle but many. I’ll break it down point by point.

  1. Although the categories are just as numerous, the text has been improved with a larger font and clearer typeface.
  2. It’s now a lot clearer how many results are presented in total and per page, with this information and the sorting tool moved further up the page.
  3. There are fewer results across the page, which means that more detailed images can be used.
  4. And indeed the larger product images are a vast improvement.
  5. The current and previous price are now two shades of black, rather than one black and one red. In the previous version the previous price dominated the red text of the current price, so that wasn’t ideal. Debenhams has also included the percentage saved.

There are sacrifices on the page. The product reviews and star ratings are now gone, although I think this is for the best, as it provided a lot of clutter and seemed pointless if there were zero reviews. 

Also the delivery information is missing from the page, something I feel is more necessary to the experience.

Product pages

Here’s a product page from last year’s version of the Debenhams site.

It feels very rudimentary, almost stark and angular in its design. There’s no access to the customer reviews featured on the results page, product details are sparse, the price is a little lost, the text for the delivery options is very small.

That being said the hover-zoom tool for the images worked well and the Add-to-bag call to action is obvious.

Here is the glorious new version…

  1. The price is distinct, with attractive information on how much you’re saving.
  2. Customer reviews are accessed directly from the top of the page now, rather than the results page.
  3. The hover-zoom is still utilised well here.
  4. The size buttons are are a lot softer than on the previous version, the greyed out buttons making it clear what is unavailable.
  5. Add-to-bag is clear.
  6. Plenty of product information is available, in clearly written text.
  7. A plethora of delivery options, easily accessible, with the costs in different coloured font.
  8. Other recommended products are offered based on previous customers’ history.
  9. Reviews are included, even the negative ones, this helps to build trust in the brand.
  10. Clear instructions available for multichannel returns.

All in all, this is a fantastic example of a traditional retailer adopting multichannel disciplines and design in a way that is resulting in sales growth.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 1 July, 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 (5)

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Dave Harris, Job Title at SMD

What's a "cleaner typeface", Daniel? You're comparing two sans-serif stacks (last year's "Tahoma, Arial, Verdana, Helvetica" to this year's "'Lato','HelveticaNeue','Helvetica','Arial'" which, if you compare them in Typetester look very similar bar some defferences in character descenders - if you adjust the font size to be the same. For example, Verdana (2014 font) when compared to Lato (2015 font) at the same character size has bigger tracking which is usually considered better for legibility.

There's no such thing as a "cleaner" typeface, there are things like legibility and readability, however.

So what you really wanted to say is that readability was increased by increasing the comparable font stack size (from 11px to 16px).

over 2 years ago

Joe Tarragano

Joe Tarragano, Group Managing Director at Pentagon

The team at Debenhams is doing a great job and is continuously evolving the offering on many dimensions. Some elements that we helped with included fulfilment and the information architecture, and also the checkout redesign, which has added 6% to their conversion. They're not resting on their laurels and have ambitious plans that I'm sure will continue to deliver strong results.

over 2 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

@Dave - that's a typo, it's meant to say 'clearer'.

Appreciate the heads-up! Cheers. Daniel.

over 2 years ago

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Phillip Parr, Director at WizPip Limited

Shame accessibility is still poor. Only have to tab 7 times to search for shirts, but have to then tab a further 43 times to view all shirts. At which point, a voucher modal pops up which you can't get rid of with either the escape key or by tabbing to it (because you can't).

But then, who cares about legal obligations when it comes to the 2010 Equality Act, when almost everyone flouts them?

over 2 years ago

Kunle Campbell

Kunle Campbell, eCommerce Marketing Consultant at 2X Consulting

Brilliant article and analysis Christopher!
From your analysis above, I'll draw my anecdotal conclusions and attribute their sales growth to:

1. Click and Collect and the its sitewide emphasis above the fold
2. Incentive to drive more Click and Collect sales (their £5 voucher claim to use Click and Collect)
3. Improved and Updated UX: larger images, more prominent text - great UI housekeeping
4. Clearer value proposition on pricing on product pages (must have resulted in conversion uplifts)
5. Transparency - reviews are top of the fold on product pages

Interesting move, removing reviews on their category pages...

over 2 years ago

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