Discount retailer Matalan has recently launched its online-only home brand, Matalan Direct.
I thought I’d play around with the site to see what works and what doesn’t, and if there’s anything I could learn from it.
The initial user experience on the site is pretty decent. There’s a carousel but it doesn’t spin automatically. And there’s not a block of boring text in sight. So far, so good.
I love the use of coloured blocks with simple, striking product images. It reminds me of the Firebox site in some ways and it’s just a much more visually pleasing way of presenting a home page than reams of text and stock photos.
There are a couple of cool things to note about the Matalan Direct site as a first time visitor:
Firstly, this info box pops up the first time you visit the site:
I like it because it introduces the new site in a concise and largely image-led way, and there’s no hard sell.
It’s important to have something like this for a new brand because it puts things into context, particularly as some people might be wondering why there are now two Matalan sites.
The second thing is the £10 discount offer displayed very clearly at the top of the home page.
It may seem like an obvious idea, but offering some kind of perk to new customers is really important.
It’s also important to make the offer clearly visible, which Matalan Direct has certainly managed to do here.
You can either click through the slider halfway down the homepage or head up to the top navigation menu.
The top navigation menu is split into the kind of product categories you’d expect: furniture, showers, baths, etc.
If you click on one of those categories a large box appears with further subcategories and some basic information about deliveries and returns.
On a side note: at £499 the free delivery threshold seems to be eye-wateringly high for a supposedly discount brand.
That said, in general I much prefer this type of menu to the traditional drop-down list. Not only does it look much better, it’s also much easier to navigate for the user.
When you click on one of the subcategories you get another page similar to the homepage, with nice blocks of colour and clear product images.
The only slight improvement I’d add here would be a very short description when you hover over each product.
An effective search tool is crucial to any ecommerce site, and it can make or break the user experience. Let’s see how the search function on Matalan Direct holds up.
The first thing to note is the predictive search functionality. When I was reviewing the top supermarkets’ sites a few weeks back this was one of the key themes in the research I cited.
The results pages themselves are accurate and displayed in a tidy grid format, and you can drill down further by price, type, etc. No complaints there.
The site has a blog page called ‘Inspired living’ that mostly features tips-based articles relating to interior design, such as ‘Bathroom cleaning hacks that might surprise you’.
One improvement within the actual posts could be a better use of imagery, especially considering the subject matter. The post I just mentioned, for instance, would have benefited from a pictured example under each subheading rather than just text.
No comments are allowed either, which is something Matalan Direct should consider changing if they want to encourage people to engage with the content.
It would also be a good idea to add a link in the author’s name to all their posts. If people particularly enjoyed an article they might want to see other work by that writer.
The product pages have a simple design with all the information you would expect: basic product information, price, stock levels, delivery details, and a nice clear ‘add to basket’ button as a call to action.
In terms of what’s missing, there are no customer reviews or ratings. Personally I feel much more comfortable buying a product online if I can read what others have said about it.
There’s also very little cross-selling of relevant products going on, with only a link in the description which isn’t particularly obvious or inviting.
When you click ‘more information’ you do see some recommended content on the right with one product recommendation, but it seems strange not to include this on the main product page.
It’s nice to see additional product images and delivery/warranty details under the ‘more information’ section, along with some illustrated product specifications. The more information people have, the easier it will be to make a buying decision.
After my comments about a lack of cross-selling under the previous heading, Matalan Direct has redeemed itself here. When you click ‘add to basket’ a pop-up appears with some recommended products.
The checkout page itself is fairly simple. Two positives to note are the fact that delivery cost is included early on in the checkout process and the inclusion of a large ‘checkout now’ call to action at the top of the page.
The next step is fairly straightforward. You have to set up an account, but only using basic info that you would expect to provide anyway, and you can save your details for faster checkout next time or just checkout with PayPal to avoid having to provide all your details.
On the payment page Matalan Direct has kept up the call to action with a big red ‘complete order’ button at the bottom of the page. This is an important feature because even this close to a purchase there is a danger of basket abandonment.
Conclusion: a visually pleasing site with just a couple of tweaks needed
Overall I think Matalan Direct has done a good job with this sister site. With any brand new launch there are always going to be a few tweaks to be made, but generally the site looks good and is really easy to navigate.
One point to mention is that while there’s a link to the main Matalan site on the top navigation menu, there doesn’t seem to be much promotion of Matalan Direct on the main site. Again, a missed opportunity.
There is a pop-up asking customers for feedback the first time they go on the site, so it will be interesting to see how the site develops as the comments comes rolling in.