Womenswear retailer Bonmarché has launched a new website as it attempts to reinvent itself as a multichannel retailer.

After buying the business out of administration earlier this year, the new owners are hoping that an e-commerce platform will help the brand achieve sustainable growth.

Several high street retailers, including Game and Comet, have gone to the wall recently, partly due to a failure to come up with a successful e-commerce strategy.

With this in mind I decided to see whether Bonmarché’s new site, built in partnership with Venda, is actually any good…

The criteria

These are the main points that sites need to follow to ensure a great user experience during the checkout process:

  • Clear calls-to-action. The user shouldn’t have to search around for what to do next.
  • Standard delivery costs are made clear. Unclear delivery costs continue to be one of the key reasons why visitors abandon their checkout process.
  • Clear product details. Alongside a thumbnail, customers want to know the size, colour and quantity.
  • Total price is made clear. As well as knowing the delivery cost, customers need to know the total amount they are paying with no hidden costs.
  • Delivery options within the basket. Customers should be allowed to choose the delivery option before the checkout process, thus ensuring they know what they are paying and the delivery period.
  • Secure shopping is made clear. Though e-commerce is no longer a new concept people still need reassurance that the transaction is secure.
  • Clear payment options. Not all visitors have a Visa card – are there options for lesser know cards or PayPal?
  • Don’t force users to register before checkout. This is a great way to cause people to abandon their transaction. ASOS managed to halve its abandonment rate at the registration page simply by removing any mention of creating an account.

Product page

Bonmarché’s product pages are simple and well laid out, with a huge amount of white space and big, purple calls-to-action. It also includes full delivery and returns information upfront.

However the product information is quite limited and it only displays one product image.

Also, Bonmarché doesn’t explicitly mention stock availability but instead only shows the dress sizes that it has available.

On the plus side this means that shoppers won’t be disappointed if they click on a size only to find that it isn’t available, but more could be done to create a sense of urgency by including the exact number of dresses left or by saying ‘Limited stock available’.

When you add an image to the cart a dropdown appears which gives you the option of checking out or viewing your cart. This is useful as it catches your eye so you don’t have to search the page for your next option.

Checkout

Though Bonmarché does offer a guest checkout option, it’s hidden away as a text link and is easy to miss next to the huge ‘Register’ CTA.

As mentioned, forcing customers to create an account (or in this case, making it the most obvious option) is a bad idea as it makes them more likely to abandon the purchase.

The registration process is also a bit muddled. For example, after clicking on the new customer CTA the next screen showed me password information for returning customers.

But there weren’t any instructions on filling in the form I was currently looking at.

In contrast, the contact details form has several good touches that add to the user experience.

It shortens the amount of form filling by using a postcode lookup tool and assuming billing and shipping addresses are the same.

It also predefines the number of characters needed for a valid password and though it asks for your date of birth, it’s not a compulsory field and includes the message:

The final page gives an order summary including shipping information, total cost and product thumbnails. 

Bonmarché also accepts PayPal, which is a good way of reducing cart abandonment among its target demographic of over-50s, who tend to be more security conscious.

The final flourish in the checkout process, which is only three pages long, is a CTA that confirms to the user: “This is the final step in your order”.

In conclusion…

Though Bonmarché’s checkout is by no means perfect, it is simple enough to navigate and includes some really nice touches.

In order to encourage conversions among its target demographic of over-50s the checkout process includes reassuring messages at almost every step of the journey. This adds a touch of personality to the process and pre-empts existing security concerns among some online shoppers.

However there are also several issues that Bonmarché should look to address.

For example, the product information is extremely limited and does little to encourage the shopper to make a purchase.

Also, trying to hide the guest checkout option is a bad idea and is likely to cause some shoppers to abandon their purchase.

But overall, Bonmarché has done a decent job and clearly understands the needs of its target audience.