Shop Direct has branched out into the luxury ecommerce market with the launch of VeryExclusive.co.uk.
It came about due to the high number of searches for premium brands on the successful Very.co.uk pureplay brand.
The site stocks 150 ‘accessible and high street luxury brands’ including Marc Jacobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Reiss, Karen Millen and Vivienne Westwood Anglomania.
Read on to find out, and for more on this topic read our posts on how luxury online retailers are handling fulfilment and multichannel experiences.
Luxury brands often opt for quirky, unique site design to highlight the fact that they are different from your average retailer.
UX is side-lined on the assumption that if people are going to splash out £2,000 on a handbag then they’ll be willing to do battle with difficult navigation.
It’s refreshing that VeryExclusive hasn’t gone down this route and has instead used a fairly standard homepage design.
Unfortunately, it has opted for two carousels, which have the potential to cause a big headache if you look at them more than a few seconds.
The primary options in the top nav are ‘New In’ and ‘Designers’, which underlines the fact that VeryExclusive wants to be about new trends and premium brands.
The rest of the options are quite self-explanatory, with the ‘Inspiration’ tab housing the limited amount of content that the site has so far produced.
Looking at the ‘Clothing’ category page, the layout is again what one would expect from an ecommerce store, which is by no means a criticism.
The simple design means customers will easily be able to browse the different items and use the filters to drill down to find what they’re looking for.
Filter options include type of clothing, designer, colour, size and price range. Interestingly that latter filter offers a selection of predetermined price ranges rather than the sliding scale commonly used on ecommerce sites.
One criticism would be that the colour scheme is a bit drab, though this is really a branding issue rather than anything to do with the UX.
While the use of white and grey design features works to showcase the clothes it also means that none of the filters or other navigation options really stand out.
A quick word on the search tool, which is an ecommerce feature we’ve analysed in some depth in other posts.
The search box itself is quite small but it’s prominently positioned at the top of the page.
It returns results extremely quickly, has a decent range of filter options and autocorrects misspellings (e.g. ‘pink dres’ returns results for ‘pink dress’).
Predictive search kicks in after three characters, which is useful when shoppers might be attempting to spell the name of a designer.
One odd thing that turned up during my random searches was the quality of the brands included on the VeryExclusive site.
Personally I wouldn’t consider Converse, Puma or Superga to be at the luxury end of the market.
As is common with most new fashion sites, VeryExclusive has a section of the site dedicated to articles and advice on the latest trends.
It’s quite thin at the moment, but then it is a new site after all.
The articles are image-heavy pages that include loads of product suggestions.
Click to enlarge
Weirdly, some of the tabs within the content section (e.g. ‘World of Karl Lagerfeld’, ‘Diesel Black Gold’) just link directly to product category pages.
The product pages have a minimalist design and tick off most of the basics, but there are a few important features missing.
If we take this space age jacket as an example, there’s a good range of images, a hover-to-zoom function, detailed product description, a big ‘Add to basket’ CTA and the ability to leave reviews.
However there’s no mention of delivery or returns information, which is hugely important for avoiding nasty surprises that can lead to basket abandonment.
Nor do the product pages show stock availability, but that’s presumably because it’s a new site so everything is in stock.
Even so, if items are scarce then listing the exact stock levels can increase buyer urgency.
Another issue is the lack of cross-selling or product recommendations, which is such a glaring omission that I can only assume it will be added soon.
When users add an item to their basket this popup appears:
This is a useful feature as it means shoppers know the CTA has worked and also nudges them towards the checkout.
Once in the checkout process shoppers are forced to either login or register an account.
This is another barrier to purchase that might cause basket abandonment, though allowing people to use their existing Very.co.uk login makes it slightly less painful.
On the first page of the checkout shoppers are also subtly notified of the whopping £5.95 delivery charge, though there’s still no indication of when it might arrive.
However much of what it does would be considered best practice:
- The checkout is enclosed to reduce distractions.
- It uses a progress bar.
- There’s a persistent basket summary.
- Use of a postcode lookup tool.
- When you click on a new field instructions appear to make sure users know what is expected.
At the next stage shoppers are given two options – either pay for their item with a bankcard or sign up for a VeryExclusive account.
The latter option has been key to the company’s success with Very.co.uk as shoppers are able to spread out the cost for items over several months and pay via an invoice.
Shoppers basically have to sign up for a loan, meaning they have to share their household income.
If you choose the debit card option things are much simpler. The £5.95 charge is for next day or allocated delivery, which makes it slightly easier to stomach.
Shoppers can also choose a free Collect+ option.
Without wishing to come across as a snob, VeryExclusive does feel like a high street brand’s interpretation of luxury retail.
The site design is quite basic and straightforward, which is no bad thing in terms of the UX, but does mean it lacks the wow factor that one would expect when buying premium clothing.
If pureplay ecommerce stores are going to compete in the luxury market they have to ensure the customer experience exceeds expectations, including the site design and also fulfilment.
Net-A-Porter understands this more than most and ensures people are wowed by its packaging.
In comparison, VeryExclusive offers a free delivery service via Collect+. When ordering a £1,000 jacket do people really want to collect it from their local newsagent?
Though we might assume the answer to this question is ‘no’, this type of service is probably perfect for Very’s target audience.
The company launched this site to cater to existing Very.co.uk customers who want to shop high-end brands, so they expect a click-and-collect delivery option and the ability to pay for goods in instalments.
So although VeryExclusive may not fit the luxury ecommerce template, that’s no bad thing considering its target audience.