I like Hamleys. Unlike supermarket-style toy stores, it offers a special experience for kids and adults alike, and reminds me of the days before brands like Toys R Us dominated the market. 

In fact, as I’ve discussed often with Chris Lake, such a well-loved brand, known for quality and great in-store experience, should be able to thrive online, especially at this time of year. 

Indeed, It appears that it is doing well offline. It’s expanding, but I don’t think it’s making the most of digital.

This post takes a close look at the site, and the general impression is that it hasn’t kept with with the growth of ecommerce over the past few years. 

Interest declining? 

Here’s a Google Trends chart showing search volume for ‘Hamleys’ over the last six years.

In this period the use of the internet, and ecommerce have grown rapidly in the UK, but interest in Hamleys has just about halved. 

Sales are good offline, so does this chart tell us something about its digital presence? 

Homepage

Hamleys’ homepage looks a little dated now. It’s not awful but it isn’t exactly inspirational either. It doesn’t scream ‘greatest toy shop in the world’ at you. 

This is the site from 2005 (thanks to the Wayback Machine, which also explains the blanks): 

This was probably a fairly decent ecommerce site for 2005. The sad thing is, Hamleys doesn’t seem to have moved on in the eight years since then. 

In fact, the latest toys / best seller recommendations are better than the merchandising on the current page. 

Navigation

This is pretty basic. It kind of works, but it could be so much better. The design looks cheap, like the fonts used here on the product filters: 

There are lots of dead ends too. Here, I’ve clicked on Lego from the homepage. It shows me eight products with no options to view them all, expand my search, or add filters: 

Product pages

Let’s compare this fantastic Tower Bridge Lego set on Hamleys’ site…

…with the same product on Lego.com: 

Let’s set aside the fact that you’ll save £40 on Lego.com, but the product pages are like chalk and cheese, and the differences between the two tell you a lot about how much Hamleys could improve its website.

Here are a few: 

  • Product images. Hamleys has one image, which is the pattern across all the product pages I viewed on the site. Meanwhile, Lego has eight different photos, a video explaining the product, and the option of a 360 degree view. If people are going to spend £250 on a toy, they’ll want to get a clear idea of it. Just offering one basic shot is no longer good enough. 
  • Reviews. Consumer reviews are a great sales driver. This has been known for some time, and now it’s unusual for ecommerce sites not to use them. Hamleys has none at all, while Lego uses them very effectively. 
  • Product description / sales copy. These are just about identical, meaning that Hamleys has just used the standard manufacturer’s copy. In this case, Lego’s copy isn’t so bad, but others are less than inspiring. Sales copy matters. Not only does it help to convert, but unique copy has SEO advantages. 
  • Cross-selling. Lego provides other product ideas, and most recently viewed items further down the page, Hamleys has none. 
  • Delivery and returns. Hamleys mentions a 30 day ‘piece of mind’ policy with links to more details, while Lego’s is in the footer. Both aren’t ideal. However, Hamleys makes the very annoying mistake of withholding delivery costs until the checkout

On-site SEO

I won’t go into everything, but here are some useful observations from Ruth Attwood, SEO Manager at 4Ps Marketing:

The Hamleys store has a lot of its product content hidden behind ‘want to know more’ style links that aren’t doing the site any SEO favours, and many of the landing and product pages are lacking fundamental markup components like H1s, content in

tags (a common mistake many retailers make. Remember to put your product descriptions in

s, not just

s!) and in many cases decent meta data.

Checkout process

You have to register before checking out on Hamleys. Clearly, the latest ecommerce best practice has passed it by. 

This post explains why making customers register is a bad idea, but basically it’s prime cause of checkout abandonment

There’s also the problem that, sometime in the past, I’ve registered before. No, I can’t remember my password, so I have to go through the dreaded reset process. 

I enter email, then click forgot password, and it asks me for the email again. Hamleys isn’t the only site that does this, but it’s bloody annoying. By the time it says it’s sending me a new password, I’ve entered my address three times. 

The key here is that, while customers are in the purchase process, any delay can cause them to abandon.

I’ve already been delayed by having to register, so this email should be instant. It does arrive within a minute or two, but ends up in my spam folder, something Hamleys’ team should look into. If that happens to other customers, it may explain a number of abandonments. 

Armed with a new password, I then head back to the site and click this continue button. It should put me back to the login page but, no, it dumps me back on the homepage. 

Only at this point do I find out the delivery charges. They aren’t especially generous, and many online shoppers would now expect delivery to be free for an order of this price (£250). 

https://assets.econsultancy.com/public/imgur/kxJrjjQ.png

I should also point out that the checkout hasn’t been enclosed, with the top navigation and offers for magic pens and more providing distractions for shoppers when they should be concentrating on the purchase. 

Worse still, if I decide I want some magic pens, it takes me out of checkout, and then I have to go through three more pages to get back where I was. 

In short, this is a very poor checkout process, with lots of barriers and friction, and I’ll wager the abandonment rates are relatively high. 

In summary: what could Hamleys do instead? 

This is a very poor ecommerce site. Not a total disaster, since it is possible to find products and buy them, but there is lots of room for improvement (I haven’t even mentioned half of the issues). 

We’re talking about one of the most famous toy retail brands in the world, one which is known for its fantastic in-store experience. The problem is, it totally fails to even begin to match this online. 

It should learn some lessons from the Lego.com site. It’s flipping brilliant. It’s fun, it’s colourful, has fantastic high quality images of toys, reviews, a community, lots of games, as well as lots of ways to navigate, (theme, age, category and so on). 

In short, it’s fun and inspirational (It’s also convinced me to buy some Lego for my daughter this Christmas). 

This is what Hamleys should be doing. Like Lego, it has a great brand and great products. It just needs to make them sing online. 

Get a modern website design, use reviews, add games and fun things for kids to do on the site (it’s as much about marketing to children as adults), make those product pages exciting, as toys are supposed to be. 

At the moment, the site doesn’t do al lot to represent the brand, it fact it may even detract from it. It could do much better than this.