In a social customer service response test in September, Halfords was one of the few retailers that ignored my query on Twitter.
Later that same month I was impressed at how Halfords offered a guest checkout however I also found the experience cluttered and distracting.
Last month David Moth found Halfords’ click and collect service difficult to navigate, with a confusing array of CTAs.
However, Halfords is obviously doing something right. Let’s take a look at the wider picture and see what the whole journey is like from a customer’s point of view.
For the purpose of this test I’m going to use the search term ‘car DAB’.
As you can see Halfords appears as the first organic result on Google, and also appears as the first Google Shopping result too.
It also ranks first in the organic results for ‘sat nav’, ‘roof rack’, ‘bicycle shop’, ‘buy bicycle’, ‘cycle helmet’, ‘window wipers’, ‘car air freshener’… pretty much anything I can think of that you can buy from Halfords.
However this is the really interesting strategic element, for terms that Halfords doesn’t rank highly for, it uses a paid search campaign to place itself at the top of the results.
Here are the results for ‘car seats’…
As you can see Mothercare rules the SERP here, with Argos and Kiddicare close behind. Halfords is the fourth organic result, but obviously it feels this isn’t good enough (and it may be right) so it successfully bids for its place in the sponsored area at the top.
It’s a clear and fairly simple search marketing strategy. Using SEO to make sure your site ranks for your most desired keywords, then if competition is too strong, outbid your rivals for those keywords in the paid search listings.
This may might well account for Halfords’ online retail success, however just because you’re nailing search it doesn’t necessarily mean your conversions are going to match.
If you’re using paid search, it’s vital that your landing page is completely relevant to your ad. It’s not good advertising cheap car seats if you’re just going to take searchers to a generic home page and make them hunt around for what they want.
In fact Google AdWords uses relevancy to the searcher and the quality of the landing page to decide if it will serve an ad, not just whether it’s the highest bidder on a search term.
Halfords provides just such a relevant landing page if you click-through on its ‘car seats’ ad.
The products here are sorted by ‘Halfords recommends’, the images are large and clear, CTAs are bold and noticeable thanks to being some of the only green elements on the page, the text is also easy to read.
There is clear and constant messaging that Halfords offers click and collect, fast delivery and multichannel returns. These are all vital components of multichannel effectiveness but also good customer service.
The product options at the left of the screen work quickly to change the products on display. I particularly like the slider tool, which removes items from beyond a certain price range.
I also find the drop down guides offering advice on booster seat laws and fitting incredibly helpful.
However the white on orange text can be easy to miss.
I’ll start with the positives…
Good use of social proof with the star ratings and customer reviews, in fact Halfords managed to gather 458 customer reviews, which is an incredible number.
Clear pricing with £99.99 being the only red element on the page. Although I’m not convinced of the need to advertise the massive saving of one whole penny.
The images blow up to a massive full-screen size and can be viewed from any angle.
There are also options to add to a wishlist, and discount incentives are clearly highlighted.
Now for the negatives:
The ‘Qty’ and ‘Reserve or Buy’ buttons just aren’t large enough to stand out from a very busy page. I don’t feel like I’m being easily led towards purchase, especially as they are situated to the extreme top right of the page.
The text in the description box is far too tiny. Help and live chat options are marooned and easy to miss on the far right of the page. It also looks as if the 360 degree tool to view the product is broken….
Perhaps the most disappointing area on the page is the box that tells you how you can receive your items.
Faded grey text and icons on white, with an ill-considered layout means this very important information is somewhat lost on the page.
Each of these options offer excellent customer service so it’s a shame that they’re so muted. In particular the ability to quickly check availability in your local store works really quickly and offers accurate helpful information.
Overall I feel that this page isn’t nearly as persuasive as it could be. The main priority of any ecommerce webpage should be distilled to one goal or action and that should be the largest, clearest thing on the page.
As it happens I find the product information difficult to see here and the buy button barely registers.
When added to basket you’re presented with this neat little pop-up that also tells me discount information I wasn’t informed of on the product page.
I’ve talked about Halfords’ basket page in an earlier post, so apologies for repeating myself here. Nothing much has changed.
It’s great that Halfords offers click & collect as well as delivery, but there is so much clutter I find the page difficult to negotiate and there’s a real problem with the clarity of the buttons…
Using both grey and orange for four different options is confusing, especially when the numbered arrows next to them are the opposite colour. Grey also has a tendency to make buttons look defunct or unclickable.
The ‘reserve’ and ‘buy’ buttons are practically the same colour as the logo and various other large parts of the page. I’m not sure what is clickable and what isn’t.
The recommended products at the bottom also dwarf the actual basket on the page. If a customer has reached this point, there’s a good chance they’ve finished shopping. Let’s make their journey to the payment page as swift and distraction-free as possible.
The checkout itself is a lot easier to use and contains some great features.
First of all I’m glad to see guest checkout offered as well as a non-pushy incentive to register your details at a later stage. Delivery options are clearly labeled with pricing as is the ability to go back and pick click and collect if you change your mind.
Top marks also for the easy to use calendar that appears when you choose to pick a delivery day.
All payment options are clearly labeled including PayPal and checkout is all done on a single screen.
Address details are easy to input, autofill is enabled, you’re also told immediately if you’ve made a mistake or missed something out.
The copy for opting in to marketing emails is also written with a positive human voice.
Through an excellent search strategy and a wealth of multichannel options that offer convenience for customers Halfords is obviously succeeding when it comes to online retail, but its design still needs to be improved.
If the product pages and the basket matched the streamlined experience of the checkout then Halfords would be a true example of excellent ecommerce UX.