With the festive season rapidly approaching, Figure it Out takes a look at the world of online retail. We asked our mystery hardened shopper to assess the websites of 10 well-known retail brands.

  • Just how easy is it to purchase that dream party dress?
  • Which websites are the quickest to use?
  • How easy is it to navigate through those pages?
  • How helpful are those product images?

Our analysis aimed to uncover what we like most and least about buying online. How likely are we to give up through frustration with the site? How likely are we to follow through to a purchase? By necessity we have an extra degree of subjectivity than usual is usual for Figure it Out and our research is based on the views of one individual looking for one product.
So what did we find? Our first criterion was speed. We measured this in 3 ways.
1. The number of mouse clicks to reach our desired product
2. The speed of refresh between clicks
3. The speed of checkout
In our 1st speed category Debenhams, Asos, Matalan and Topshop came out top with an impressive 2 mouse clicks to get from Google to viewing a selection of party dresses. All other sites were just one step behind requiring 3 clicks. So overall our experiences were good, with those at the top of the pile allowing us to get straight into our required part of the store from Google.
In our 2nd speed category we found Next, BHS and Asos to be just a little too slow in updating between pages compared to the rest.
Finally when it came to check out we were consistently frustrated by the need to register before we could buy. Just one store, Debenhams, allowed us to buy without registering, a definite thumbs up! Unfortunately Next not only required us to register, but would not let us proceed to checkout because our mystery shopper had previously registered their email address with this site and could not remember their password. They could not find a way of going any further!
So overall for speed we rate Debenhams the best, with Monsoon, Next and BHS trailing a little behind the pack. Next edges last place due to our frustration with not being able to get to check out. Our full speed test results are shown below, with Debenhams a clear winner.
Our next criterion was usability. We measured this in 3 ways.

  1. Ability to find our desired product
  2. Quality of product images
  3. Readability of text, lack of clutter and general aesthetics

In our 1st usability category we found our desired product very easily on most sites, however slightly behind the rest were Next, BHS and Boden which our shopper found a little too complicated to navigate through the various options. Boden was particularly difficult as party dresses could only be found under partywear and not within the dress section!
In our 2nd usability category we looked at the quality of the image. Top marks went to John Lewis, Monsoon, Debenhams and Top Shop for being able to enlarge and zoom and to see in detail. M&S allowed zooming and enlargement however the detail was not always clear, but for some top of the range dresses we could see a video of the dress being worn which was regarded as a big plus factor!
In our final usability category Matalan, Asos, BHS and Next were regarded behind the rest due to small typeface, clutter on pages or less attractive layouts. Our full usability ratings are shown below.
So overall we give top marks to Debenhams and rate Next a little behind the rest. Of course this study is only a part of the story as it takes no account of quality of the product, value for money, stock availability or delivery time. Happy shopping…