Battle of the brands: Harrods versus Selfridges
marketingmagazine.co.uk, Wednesday, 16 December 2009 04:53PM
Sponsored feature - Which retailer offers the best online user experience? User experience consultancy Webcredible put Harrods and Selfridges to the test.
The run up to Christmas is traditionally the busiest period of year for retailers across Britain. Although the country is still officially in recession, research shows consumer confidence has improved along with a seemingly stable property market. Recent data from the Office of National Statistics and the British Retail Consortium confirms this with a trend of improved performance in the retail sector.
Criteria under the spotlight includes homepage, navigation and search, content, presentation, interaction and brand and persuasion. Overall, Harrods had a better showing with Selfridges losing out in the navigation, search and content categories.
Navigation & search (25)
Brand & persuasion (10)
Total score (100)
The Harrods homepage performs well in most areas. A cause for concern is the amount of real estate taken up by the featured product imagery, which pushes the carousel display and other promotions down the page and below the scroll-line, where they're easily missed.
Navigation and search 19/25
Navigation and search on the Harrods site are acceptable but there are opportunities for improvement. The highlight in the navigation to show where you are on the site could be stronger. Also, there's no clear link from the homepage directly to the ‘visiting the store' page, which has useful information such as a map and opening hours.
Harrods scores well in content. One of the few issues is mixing brand names and product types in the left hand navigation resulting in site visitors having to choose one or the other rather than refining their selection through both of these together.
The presentation of the Harrods site is tasteful and represents its audiences very well indeed. One area for improvement is the landing page, which while containing powerful, compelling imagery caused mild confusion. For example, ‘View Sloane' (within ‘Hampers') led to a category page rather than the specific product page, which was unexpected.
Harrods puts in a respectable performance in terms of interaction. It's great to see that Harrods offers a way of purchasing without registering although the registration/log-in page could be better consolidated. Also, some error messages don't provide particularly helpful feedback.
Brand and persuasion 9/10
The Harrods site does an excellent job of embodying the reputable brand built-up by the London store. Attention has clearly been paid to details including the instantly recognisable Harrods shopping bag. However, the site begins to fall at the final hurdle of the check-out process, where the page layouts aren't optimal.
The Harrods site performs well across almost all criteria considered in this review, resulting in its impressive final score. It excels in presentation and brand and persuasion, as may be expected of a high-end luxury brand, but also delivers in e-commerce capabilities.
Selfridges also has a high quality homepage, however it's unclear whether site visitors are able to shop online. There's no clear message one way or the other about this crucial question, which casts doubt on the site proposition.
Navigation and search 14/25
This is by far the poorest area for Selfridges. ‘Selfridges Hampers' leads to a subsite that's branded identically to the main site, so site visitors aren't aware of the change. This poses serious problems in terms of the site navigation disappearing altogether on the Hampers subsite. Getting back to the main site from here is difficult. Even the logo, which is identical to before, leads to the Hampers subsite homepage rather than the Selfridges main homepage.
Selfridges appears to be quite a light, shallow site without much information. Site visitors are unable to delve much deeper before hitting the brand directory for one part or another. An exception to this is the Hampers subsite, which allows purchases to be made online. However, within the Hampers subsite, there's inconsistency in the presentation of prices on the landing pages. For example prices of Anya Hindmarch wicker baskets are only viewable on the individual product pages.
Selfridges also presents its site in an appealing and appropriate manner for its clientele. A minor area for improvement is on the Hampers subsite - the images hover-over effect (zooming) on the product page overlaps onto the contents list, which looks poor.
Some elements of interaction on the Selfridges site don't meet expectations. For example, the ‘Email Signup' looks straightforward asking just for an email address at first glance. However, it then leads to a full-on registration page, which is quite sneaky. On the Hampers subsite, the main call to action ‘Buy' could be better designed for greater impact.
Brand and persuasion 8/10
The Selfridges site also represents the well-known and much-loved brand well. However the unclear message around e-commerce capability adversely affects persuasion. On the Hampers subsite where online purchases are possible, security symbols aren't displayed until credit card details are requested, missing out on reassurance opportunities earlier on.
Selfridges sets the standard in presentation but disappoints with its navigation and search and depth of content. The very limited e-commerce capability is particularly surprising.
Harrods offers a superior user experience when compared to Selfridges. It could be said that Harrods' online presence is representative of its status as one of the largest department stores in the world. Selfridges however, is losing out on the opportunity of online sales for all but a few of its product lines.
Webcredible is a user experience consultancy, offering a range of usability, accessibility and design services for websites, intranets, mobile devices and applications. Founded in 2003, the UK-based consultancy researches, designs and builds interfaces to support user requirements and business goals.
Webcredible adopts a knowledge sharing approach to its work, and its expert team regularly reviews, tests and designs websites in both the public and private sector, ensuring that companies are providing the most usable and accessible websites possible.
With a long list of global clients in the private and public sector, including AIRMILES, uSwitch.com, eBay, the BBC and the World Health Organization, Webcredible is widely regarded as one of the most respected consultancies in the user experience industry.
Over the course of this series of special reports, in conjunction with Revolution, Webcredible will be evaluating the websites of some of the top brands on the web, and pitting competing websites against each other to find out which is the most usable.
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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