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“Next is planning to save £8m by not sending out glossy catalogues to shoppers who don’t want them” said The Telegraph on Good Friday. The money freed up would be directed into digital, it stated.
Why am I comparing two well-known fashion retailers and their ecommerce sites?
Well, though many conventions of web design are well-established, it still surprises me how different ecommerce sites can be, even in the nuts and bolts of basket and checkout.
So, I thought I'd look at two quite different fashion retailers, and see how they match up.
Which ecommerce sites are setting an example that others can learn from?
As part of our series of 2014 round ups, I've asked some ecommerce professionals for their suggestions...
Way, way back in 2011 we published an article looking at how 26 commerce sites presented their mega menus.
This refers to the drop-down menus that are generally situated within the horizontal navigation at the top of a webpage.
Web trends and UX design have changed in the intervening years, in large part due to increasing consumer adoption of mobile and new technologies such as responsive design, so I thought it would be interesting to revisit those same sites to see how they've evolved.
Here they are...
Continuing my quest to investigate how various industries use email marketing, here’s a look at how some of our favourite fashion retailers use this most effective yet often neglected marketing channel.
Much like my round-up on the travel industry a couple of weeks ago, I’ll be looking at the frequency of emails, the use of subject lines, the email content itself, special offers, editorial voice, personalisation, relevance… All of the many tools that a company can utilise to coerce the recipient to open up an email or even engage with it.
As well as the above criteria, I also filled up a shopping basket and abandoned it without purchase to see if I would receive any reminder emails. I also entered my birthday as a date in between sign-up and writing this article to see if I was offered any discounts or at some birthday wishes. It’s not fraud, it’s science!
These are the 16 sites I chose to register my details with: Urban Outfitters, ASOS, Threadless, H&M, Topshop, Topman, American Apparel, UNIQLO, Gap, River Island, Next, Pull and Bear, Anthropologie, Forever 21, Miss Selfridge and The Kooples.
Now let’s take a look at the ravaged state of my inbox. Thank you Gmail promotions tab…
Marks & Spencer has reported a 22.7% increase in online sales in the three months to the end of December, though it wasn’t enough to prevent an overall decline in sales.
Like-for-like sales fell by 2.1%, though there was a small improvement over the last eight weeks of the year during which M&S launched a sale, with general merchandise sales up 0.5%.
M&S’s disappointing results come after Next achieved impressive sales figures over the festive season, with the latter reporting that in-store and online sales increased by 12% in the period November 1 to December 24.
John Lewis also had a record breaking end to 2013, reporting that online sales for the five weeks to 28 December were 22.6% up on last year with johnlewis.com accounting for 31.8% of the total John Lewis business during this period.
Having previously examined the reasons behind John Lewis’ continued success in ecommerce, I thought I’d compare Next and M&S’s approaches to online retail.
Jeans are apparently the most difficult item of clothing to buy online, according to a new consumer survey.
Almost a third of shoppers (29.5%) identified jeans as the trickiest product to buy, followed by shoes/footwear with 18.2%.
There were also a number of bizarre responses to the open-ended question, including Appalachian dance outfits and Elizabethan ruff, however it's safe to assume that the customer experience of buying jeans is a more pressing concern for most online fashion retailers.
Fashion retailer Next today announced some very positive results for the half year to July 2013, with 2.2% sales growth to £1.7bn.
As you might expect, online played a big part, with Next Directory sales growing by 8.3% to £597.6m, while profits were 13.4% higher at £156.1m.
I've been looking at the Next website to pick out some of the reasons for its success online, and some areas where it could still improve.
This time last year I looked at the mobile sites for the UK’s top 20 retailers to see which offered the best checkout process.
I found that there were a number of common flaws, such as forced registration, but in general the standard was quite high.
However I was also surprised to see that eight of the retailers were still relying on desktop sites.
As 12 months has now passed I thought it would be interesting to see whether the situation had changed at all and find out which retailers have made an effort to upgrade their sites.
Video sharing app Vine turned 100 days old last week and according to new research it has proved to be quite the success.
Data from Unruly shows that five Vine clips are shared every second on Twitter and branded Vines are four times more likely to be shared than branded online videos.
It’s also interesting to note that weekends are the most popular time to share Vines and in most cases they are more popular than all the previous weekdays combined.
Twitter's Vine launched to much fanfare at the beginning of the year and brands have been quick to experiment with the video sharing tool to both promote their products and generally have a bit of fun.
Unfortunately too many brands seem to think that just because it’s a throwaway six-second clip they don’t have to put much effort into it, so the clips often end up looking quite messy and of poor quality.
Similarly the temptation is often to try and cram as much as you can into the short time frame, which can make it difficult to work out what's going on in the clip.
In my opinion, the best examples use a single continuous clip or motion capture so the viewer doesn't have to try and take in several different camera angles in just six seconds. I would suggest that unless there's a particuarly pressing need, Vines should be limited to around three of four different shots otherwise it can dilute the impact.
Furthermore, it's a good idea to mount the phone on something so that the video doesn't look too shaky.
According to a recent report three quarters of the worlds top brands have Google+ pages, with a combined following of more than 20 million fans.
This is a massive 9,400% increase since December 2011 when only 222,000 people followed them collectively.
But while writing a recent series of posts looking at how some of the world’s top brands use social I noticed that the amount of effort put into their G+ pages massively varies, while user interaction with content and posts is almost non-existent.
So to find out whether this is a common theme, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how the UK’s top 20 online retailers use G+ and the levels of engagement that they achieve.
Just to clarify, this post isn’t about the SEO benefits of G+ or the potential for +1s to become more important in future, it’s an evaluation of how brands use G+ and how their fans respond...