Clothing brand Lyle and Scott is the latest retailer to begin selling on Facebook, with the launch of a store on the site yesterday.
The Lyle and Scott Facebook store is basically a version of the mobile website, which was released last year. It's an interesting solution to the problem, and any retailers that already have a mobile site could follow this example.
Homepage & navigation
One problem with any retailer's f-commerce store is the fact that, thanks to the various ads on the right of the page, the shop is squeezed into the centre of the screen:
This limits the design of the page, and also means that your shoppers have to view these ads while they're shopping, though perhaps the (low) quality of these ads means that shoppers won't be tempted away.
As on the mobile site, (and because it is the mobile site) the design and navigation is simple. However, it does have its limitations. The lack of filtering and sorting options means that, having searched for a 'blue shirt', I have a lot of scrolling to do, since it returns 141 results with no way of narrowing the selection.
When I reviewed the mobile site last year, the filtered navigation options were there for search results and category pages, so I'm not sure what's happened to them here.
The product pages are simple, with product details, a clear call to action, and links to information on delivery and returns. However, they do lack multiple views of products and the ability to zoom in for a closer look, which could be an issue for some potential customers.
The back button problem
Another issue is use of the back button on the Chrome browser, which is not a problem with this site in particular, but F-commerce shops in general. For example, the ASOS Facebook store has the same issue.
It does work normally on other browsers (I tried it on Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari), but considering that Chrome has almost 12% of the browser market in the UK, it is a potential issue.
For example, if I'm on the product page and have selected the size and colour of the shirt I'm about to buy, but want to check the delivery charges first, I'm sent to another page. If i press the back button on the browser, I'm not sent back to the product page, but back to the store's homepage.
The same issue could occur at any point in the site, including the checkout process. If a customer has entered all of their address details, but wants to skip back to change the delivery option, then all the info they have entered will be lost.
Lyle and Scott has clearly seen that this is a potential problem, and it has a clear 'back' link on each page, but it could be a real conversion killer.
The checkout process is well designed and very simple. Form fields are simple, error messaging is clear, and a postcode lookup tool makes address entry easier:
It's early days for f-commerce, and what works and what doesn't remains to be seen. From a user experience perspective though, this Facebook store would be improved with the addition of filtered navigation options to make product searches and browsing easier for customers, while the product pages would benefit from a greater range of images and a zoom function.
In addition, the back button issue on Chrome is one that Facebook should look at. Web users are accustomed to using the back button for navigation, so this one problem could mean a lot of lost sales for retailers on the site.
This Facebook store is partly experimental. By repurposing the mobile site, Lyle and Scott can test the waters to see if the store is viable without investing too much at this stage.