Cards on the table, B-commerce (branded ecommerce) is a completely made up term and you have every right to scold me for coining it.

What I intend to point out with this clickbait headline (but thorough article) is just how distinctive the Lush website is, both when it comes to editorial and 'messaging', and the nuts and bolts of ecommerce.

Compare Lush to the Body Shop website (a decent site with lots of best practice features) and one gets a sense of the evolution of web design.

The Body Shop feels like an ecommerce site that happens to be branded as the Body Shop.

Lush feels like...Lush's website that happens to sell stuff, too. There's a big difference.

Let's look at it in more detail.

Gorgeous product display (including GIF headers!)

The most startling difference between Lush and Body Shop is the way products are displayed.

Head over to Body Shop and you can browse collections of bottles and tubs. All bottles and tubs look pretty much the same.

Lush, however, always takes the product out of its container, photographing dollops of it, and using GIFs to show the product in action.

Given these products are so personal (and mysterious) and Lush's shops are based on sensory experience, this approach to product display online is vital (and a brand differentiator).

Lush also champions 'naked packaging', giving the customer the option of taking the product home without packaging, so the website conveys this green message well.

Every Lush product page has a GIF hero image

lush product gif 

Lush lotion category page (dollops)

lush lotions 

Body Shop lotion category page (bottles)

body shop lotions 

Persuasive (and trustworthy) ingredients pages

If you were tasked with selling a particular Lush product to a customer in store, it's likely you'd focus on the benefits of its ingredients.

That's why it makes complete sense that Lush does this online, not only championing ingredients in product listings, but highlighting them in category page editorial.

Major ingredients have their own pages, which rank very well in search, and there's editorial around their provenance. You can also browse products that contain a particular ingredient.

You can't fail to get the impression that all this stuff is accounted for and you're buying sustainable and non-harmful products.

Exactly in line with the brand, and something which Body Shop used to have a monopoly over.

Lush flags ingredients on its category pages

lush category page

Lush's rose wax ingredient page ranking number one in Google

search results 

A Lush ingredients page

bergamot oil page

Editorial on the homepage (softly softly, catchy monkey)

The Lush homepage does feature eight individual products, but crucially it does not invite the user to 'shop' a range or simply to view a bunch of products.

Every call to action is framed as a feature and seems editorially driven. Indeed, many of these features do not include products at all.

This is what the homepage should be for. Too many retailers use it as a second bite at the header menu, with yet more links to category pages.

But this is a place for the brand to tell a story, not simply a product range.

Below I have screenshotted the entire Lush homepage and colour coded the features. 

  • Red: political features that do not feature products.
  • Purple: editorial features that do not feature products.
  • Blue: product collections with editorial-style lead-in.

lush homepage 

Compare a couple of Lush and Body Shop homepage features, below.

One retailer feels like it is trying to educate and entertain the user, the other feels like it just wants you to buy stuff as soon as possible.

Educating the customer shows how passionate a brand is about its products. Lush demonstrates that even taking the direct route, it's easy to soften the sales pitch - 'Prepare your cruelty-free winter pout...', 'Reasons to smile: sparkling new mouth products' and so on.

The Body Shop does have educational features (about trends and beauty regimes), but this lives in the header menu (where users go when they're looking for something specific) and isn't given more room to breathe and intrigue on the homepage proper.

Examples of Body Shop homepage features that feel rather brazen, focusing on the act of purchasing rather than the reasons for doing so (or even the product itself).

body shop cta 

body shop cta

Lush makes more of an effort with homepage features, either with dedicated editorial or refined copywriting.

lush homepage feature

lush homepage feature 

Educated cross-sell in the (uncluttered) basket

The Lush basket and checkout is beautifully bare but does include an element of cross-sell (and yet more ingredients features).

This cross-sell is smartly done, highlighting a product from the same range as the one I had added to basket, mirroring what would happen if I were buying this product in store.

It's unfair to keep comparing Lush to Body Shop, whose website is overdue investment, but comparing the baskets of the two sites shows just how much has moved on in ecommerce in the last three years with responsive design.

Lush basket page with cross-sell

lush basket

Body Shop basket page

body shop basket

Economy of words (no waffling)

Lush uses big chunky typography, a lovely trend in web design that makes a refreshing change from size 10-12 font.

What this means is that Lush doesn't throw text in willy nilly. The retailer is concise with its calls to action and its product previews.

This reduces clutter on home and category pages, implies complete faith in the product (the image of which can come to the fore), and exudes confidence. I've no doubt it also reduces friction throughout the whole customer journey.

Where many online retailers are rushing to include more text, erring on the side of clarity for Google, Lush is making sure the user has a clean experience (no pun intended).

Here are a few examples...

Homepage product previews include title, category and a catchphrase (of sorts) but no waffling description.

lush product preview

Product category pages again let the products do the talking, using only a well-considered tagline as introductory text.

lush category page

Where words are necessary, product descriptions for example, text is large and clear.

Here are a contrasting example from Body Shop, where text clutters up the experience.

The text on this little feature carousel is extraneous. It's copywriting for the sake of filling a space below the imagery.

It's also arguable the photographs are not distinct enough to interest the user (all generic Christmas reds and greens, rather than contrasting or showcasing products).

body shop feature carousel 

Conclusion

I think I enjoyed using the Lush website more than I enjoy going into store (certainly at Christmas).

That says all you need to know about how well Lush manages to inject its brand into the purchasing journey online.

Ben Davis

Published 9 November, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Deputy Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)

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Jessica Benjamin, Senior Account Manager at Monster Worldwide

There are three other differentiators on the Lush site:

1. It's easy to link to Lush in other countries where they sometimes have different products. Sometimes it's cheaper (even with shipping) and there are better products in the UK.

2. Lush NA has a customer chat Forum: http://forum.lush.com/forum/ This builds customer loyalty and keeps users on the site talking.

3. When a shopper asks a question about a product, an email goes out to some customers and people who buy the product can answer them in real time if they choose to.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Deputy Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Good knowledge, Jessica. Thanks for sharing.

over 1 year ago

Charlotte Farquharson

Charlotte Farquharson, Project Manager at EconsultancyStaff

I like the layout of the Lush website, but my one niggle would be that they don't always do a very good job of explaining how to use some of their more unusual products - the gifs are useful, but how long should I leave a product on for, how regularly should I use it? etc.

In-store, Lush employees are excellent in providing this kind of information, but you just can't seem to find it online, which might make people reluctant to buy products they haven't used before.

over 1 year ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Deputy Editor at EconsultancyStaff

Fair comment, Charlotte. The product descriptions do describe usage, but fairly loosely. Don't eat it, is the main thing.

over 1 year ago

Grant Kemp

Grant Kemp, Omnichannel and Mobile Practice Manager at Inviqa/ Session Digital

@Ben - the reason that Lush can do such a difference in image quality and size is down to them using a cloud based image workflow and processor. Lush is by far the more impressive site.
It means that the large images are delivered in a fraction of the size and time, and Google rewards speed with an Seo boost so it gets high ranking.

Body Shop images sizes can be knocked down by 100% by doing the same thing - not sure why they don't.

I am happy to do a blog post about this- but I think it might spoil the magic secret behind the lush website...

Simples.....

over 1 year ago

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