Mail Newspapers has recently relaunched its ecommerce site, expanding its product offering for greater relevancy and choice for consumers.

If this is news to you, don’t worry, I wasn’t aware the publisher had ventured into the world of online shopping either.

MailShop describes itself as a "sophisticated online shop", selling home, garden and lifestyle items from select number of retail partners.

It is clearly targeted towards readers of The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday.

As a person who definitely doesn't fall into this bracket, I was simultaneously reluctant and intrigued to check it out.

Here's what I thought.

First impressions & features

My first impression of the site was that it looks quite basic, but with all the hallmarks of a modern ecommerce store, it is appealing enough.

The offer of 20% off immediately grabs the attention and there is a wide range of categories to browse.

Apart from the distinct logo at the very top of the page, there is nothing that particularly screams 'Daily Mail'.

Further down the page, editorial-style imagery nicely points the user towards the various category pages.

One thing that did catch my eye was the 'As Seen in Paper' logo.

This is the first and only real indication of the newspaper tie-in, which is obviously designed to provide extra value and incentive for loyal readers.

Categories & products

So, what exactly does MailShop sell?

Now expanding its offering from 3,000 to 80,000 product lines, it has removed clothing and books, choosing to focus on just home and garden instead.

In terms of the navigation, the drop-down menu is easy to use, and gives the user a good indication of the various products on offer.

The imagery on the category pages is simple but appealing.

With its muted colour schemed and sleek design, it is obviously geared towards the Mail demographic - those who prefer John Lewis to George at Asda.

The copy throughout is descriptive, if a little unoriginal.

I mean, no one has ever said "brighten up your home" in relation to lighting before...

As well as the standard categories, there is also the option to 'shop by room' - and here is where most of the existing editorial content can be found.

The Mail has indicated that there will be more to come in future, and it is this which will ramp up the incentive for readers.

So far, the content mainly revolves around buyer's guides.

While the content is informative, the typography and mismatched structure of the page isn't very appealing to look at in my opinion.

Moving on, I was quite impressed by the product filter. 

It is very easy to narrow down searches, with options to filter by price, colour or designer, as well as sort by best selling or price.

(You can read more on best practice for product filters here.)

Having said that, despite being able to sort by 'rating', there was no futher information about this, nor any sign of customer reviews elsewhere.

Also, there's no such word as 'artifical'.

Product pages

The option to 'quick view' the products is a nice feature, especially considering that delivery prices and estimations vary from seller to seller.

This means that instead of clicking through to products and abandoning them, users are more likely to carry on browsing on the category page.

That said, how many people are going to pay £4.99 for delivery of a product that cost £1.95?

In terms of the product pages, they come off as a little uninspiring.

For example, take this page for a 'muffin mug' compared to the same one on Lakeland's own website.

MailShop has clearly just used the description from the original retailer, and overall the whole thing feels quite basic.

A study we published last year showed how duplicated product descriptions can have negative SEO implications, so this is something MailShop really needs to address.

On the other hand, Lakeland includes more description, eye-catching reviews and ratings, a prominent 'add to basket' button as well as a large pop-out image.

While the two might not look all that different at a first glance - these features are incredibly important for encouraging the user to buy.

(For more on product pages, see: 31 things I need to see on your ecommerce product page.)

Retailer profiles

Despite no sign of customer reviews or rating on the product pages, there is a rating system for brands.

So far, it doesn't appear to be have been used, and I couldn't find an option or prompt, so presumably it's only open to customers post-purchase.

With customer reviews an important feature for any ecommerce site, it is better than nothing, but it needs improvement and integration into the main site.

Location-based checkout

Lastly, I found one of the best features on MailShop to be the checkout process.

It involves a one-page summary, detailing total cost up front, as well as an option to checkout as a guest.

Later in the process, it also uses progress indicators - an essential feature for reassuring users.

The most impressive part is that there's no need to painstakingly enter in your address.

All I had to do was enter in the beginnning before it was automatically detected.

Offering impressive UX right at the very end - it is just a shame that the rest of the experience is a bit hit and miss.

In conclusion...

It slightly pains me to say it, but I was pleasantly surprised by MailShop.

With a decent checkout and a wide range of brands on offer, there's a lot to satisfy consumers.

On the other hand, with a lacklustre review system and lack of editorial content, there's still a lot to improve. 

My overall feeling is that it's difficult to see it as a standalone ecommerce site. Despite no real correlation to the Daily Mail apart from featured products, the main logo and design is still reminicent of the newspaper's website.

This means that customers are likely to be loyal readers, and anyone else will be put off buying anything that might benefit the Daily Mail.

But with the publisher aiming to gain valuable data about its audience, this also appears to be the whole point.

Consequently, the site's success might depend on if the Mail can effectively target and engage with them.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 18 October, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Greg Randall

Greg Randall, Director at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Nikki,

A very good summary. Though there is always room for improvement I agree with you, they have done many things right.

One thing I really like is how they have structured their Sign In page for "New Customers". Within the container they prioritise the "Create Account" option with benefits. If I was the Mail, I would communicate more benefits (there must be more carrots they can dangle!!). The current benefits are standard ones. At the bottom of this page there is a statement "One account for everything Mail". Why is this not brought into the "New Customer" container as a benefit?

This site should introduce the Checkout "progress bar" sooner. It should appear on the "Your Basket" page. It is at this stage the expectation of consumers should be set on the number of steps required to complete the purchase process.

The translation of the desktop version of this site to the smartphone screens has been done well.

Great article!

11 months ago

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Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

> It slightly pains me to say it, but I was pleasantly surprised by MailShop.

is that a slight sneer between the lines there Nikki? I'm also not a mail reader, but I do have a soft-spot for the Hitchens brother; and one writes from them. And it's a tough financial market out there for newspapers. And tough to keep your readers happy too: just this week the Guardian alienated a huge number of readers when they wrote that Bob Dylan did not deserve the Poetry Nobel Prize: because ..... his lyrics/poetry is not good enough? - no because of his race and gender. Some very witty comments BTL.

Anyway, best to leave politics/class out, eh?

Looking around at what the mail is doing online: looks like the mailgardenshop website is outsourced (J. Parker Dutch Bulbs (Wholesale) Ltd - the mailwineshop is co-branded with Virgin Wines, whereas the mailbookshop as well as this Mailshop they run themselves.

They also have a 'Fashion Store' on the main site - but this doesn't take any orders, just provides links to retailers: I wonder if they have longer term plans to add fashion to their lwn store?

11 months ago

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