The UK’s top fashion etailers face off against each other in Drapers’ first ever online Hit or Miss survey
Pure-play etailers have been the success story of the last few years, but how do they match up against each other? For this special ecommerce Hit or Miss survey, Drapers visited seven sites to find out.
Customers are looking for a number of things online to determine how likely they are to shop and whether they might become a regular customer.
The most obvious is the product offer. Strong etailers know their audience and offer an appealing yet relevant mix. Whether it’s trend-led product or particular brands that reflect the target audience, the right selection can help retain customers and limit their need to go elsewhere.
Navigation is another key element, with clear categorisation allowing customers to find what they want simply and easily. Retailers can also use certain tools to keep customers shopping, such as related products and editorial trend stories, which introduce them to items they may otherwise have missed.
The display of goods online is just as important as it is in store. Whether using product or model shots, customers should be able to clearly see what they are buying and zoom in on areas of interest. Customers can’t pick up and feel a product while shopping online, but etailers should do everything they can to replicate a high street experience.
The effectiveness of service, including delivery options and customer support, is also vital. Customers are looking for a straightforward and uncomplicated way to shop and that includes easy delivery and returns processes. Lastly, Drapers investigated whether the etailer offered good value for money.
With competition increasing online, ensuring websites offer a satisfying customer experience has never been more important for etailers.
Following trends from the latest catwalk collections, Net-a-Porter serves up a directional offering. The premium product is a mix of the latest looks and classic pieces such as a Paul & Joe tuxedo-derived sleeveless silk-blend gown. Other labels on the site include 3.1 Phillip Lim and Oscar de la Renta, and there are direct links from the latest catwalk show reports to the collections on sale.
Site navigation is clear and detailed. Each product category is split down into further sub categories - for example, dresses are broken down into 14 sub categories including Sundresses, Black Tie and Mini Dresses. Photography is simple yet effective, and when rolling over an image, product is either displayed at another angle or on a model to show an alternative view.
Net-a-Porter offers a ‘Try at home’ service, where customers can order an item, try it on at home and then return it free of charge. Standard delivery is £10 and the item Drapers ordered was received the next day. Packing is free and the item was received beautifully presented in a branded Net-a-Porter box. Returns are processed by signing into the site where free collection can then be arranged.
Net-a-Porter’s price points are high but that’s only to be expected from a site of this calibre. Women’s tops range from a Balmain cotton military-style shirt priced at £2,411 to a Calvin Klein support jersey tank top at £23. The premium range of exclusive designer product justifies the prices and the cheaper basics still retain the designer element. Jeans are priced from £78 to £879.
As always, Asos delivers a strong trend-led collection and the spring 10 offer includes sharp tailoring and bold tribal prints for women and brightly coloured jeans for men. The home page displays trends relating to current events such as the Oscars. A variety of low to high-end brands including Steve Madden, Bench and Paul Smith make the selection both accessible and aspirational.
Navigation is easy to use for a site of this size, with clear product categories as well as an A to Z of brands for filtering. The high number of filter options, from product type to style and size can be daunting at first but it is quick to learn. Catwalk video enhances product pages and ‘Complete the look’ add-on options encourage further sales.
Delivery varies from a UK super saver at £1.95 for delivery within six working days, to a UK same day option priced at £9.95. The Asos Premier scheme entitles members to free next-day delivery and free returns for £24.95 per year. Delivery arrived on time with a simple returns information leaflet.
Prices vary depending on brand but remain consistent with audience expectations. For example, Asos stocks accessible products like sunglasses from more premium brands such as D&G to avoid out-pricing its target shopper. Drapers bought a pair of skinny jeans for £28; good value compared with high street rivals such as River Island or Oasis, where denim sits at about £40 to £50.
M and M Direct’s offering is consistent across the site, aiming at the young fashion or sportswear customer looking for an off-price bargain. Brands are complementary to each other, with Bench and Firetrap highly visible at the time of Drapers’ visit. The selection fits the target audience and the site is definitely brand-led rather than trend-led.
Clear and easy to use, the home page promotes a number of offers on the site, leading the customer to individual brand or product-led pages. Searches can be filtered and the number of available products is also shown. The clearance channel is prominent and offers further discounted product.
Drapers’ order was initially queried (possibly due to the delivery address given being inconsistent with the registration and card address) but this was quickly picked up on and we were notified of the issue by email, text and post. Once further details were given, the order was swiftly processed and dispatched. Standard delivery is £3.99 for three to five working days but spend over £100 and it is free.
With discounts galore, this site is the place to go for a good deal. Prices are dependent on the brand but remain competitive throughout. A Fullcircle men’s leather black jacket is priced at £105.01 (with a stated saving of £244.98 compared with the RRP). Hoodies range from £6.99 to £34.99. In the boyswear section, a pair of Bench shorts is priced at £16.99.
A trend-led site, My-Wardrobe concentrates on premium and designer products. A number of trend pages link from the home page including a focus on jackets and floral dresses. An ‘Inspire me’ section also ticks off a number of trends such as the latest denim looks. Brands available include the premium Twenty8Twelve brand and London Fashion Week designer Nathan Jenden.
Navigation is simple and has the added option to filter dresses by day and night as well as the standard by size, by colour and by designer. Items can be viewed as straight product shots or on a live model and these options are easily accessible. Unfortunately, at the time of Drapers’ order, the zoom tool wasn’t working but product was otherwise simple to filter and view, with a clean and effective site design.
Delivery options include next day (£10), Saturday deliveries (£10) and nominated day delivery (£6.50). All packaging is free of charge and Drapers’ purchase arrived in a box with a branded My-Wardrobe bag inside. A courier is sent to collect returns free of charge.
A variety of designer and premium ranges means prices cover a wide spectrum but are in keeping with the market. A men’s Stone Island jacket is priced at £335 and a women’s Armand Basi evening dress is £332. Top-priced product was a men’s Belstaff leather jacket for £955.
Oli provides a good trend-led offer with a brand mix that perfectly fits its target audience.
The young fashion site has a comprehensive selection of dresses and tops, with a number of glam options from brands including Lipsy, Almost Famous and Forever Unique. On the home page, spring 10 editorial features highlight trends such as tribal prints, which click through to related products.
A clear and easy-to-use navigation with simple filter options, Oli also has added category options such as Holiday Shop and Denim Shop for quick linking. Choosing to search by size on product pages immediately displays whether an item is out of stock, or prompts customers to “Hurry” if the item is low on stock.
Standard delivery from Oli is next day if the order is placed before 5pm (£4.95) and delivery is free if the customer spends more than £100. The returns time period is 14 days and the product can be returned either free via courier or via Royal Mail, which incurs a charge.
Oli’s collections are priced at the higher end of the young fashion market but this is mainly due to the brands on site, and cheaper options such as a scoop-back three-quarter sleeve top for £14 can be found in the Oli Basics own-label range. A Lipsy one-shoulder dress is £60, which is reasonable compared with young fashion chains such as Warehouse, where dresses are at about the £70 to £80 mark.
A more size-led than trend-led offer is reinforced by statements such as “work with your curves” appearing on all category pages at Simply Be. Maxi dresses dominate, in contrast to high street plus-size retailer Evans, which has a more varied selection. A stylish, sophisticated tie-up with What Not To Wear presenter Mica Paris stands out.
The site sells everything from garden to electrical products, which may alienate potential customers looking for a fashion-focused site. Filter options are provided for searching, but once one is chosen, users then have to remove this option to continue searching for other product.
Delivery information on product pages shows a standard delivery time of five days but for further details customers are advised to go to the delivery policy page, which is difficult to find. Delivery costs are also unclear as the £2.99 extra Drapers paid was described as postage and packaging rather than as delivery costs, making it inconsistent with terminology used by other sites.
Prices are in line with Simply Be’s competitors, with a gingham shirt at £20 and a full-length denim skirt for £32. Prices for dresses range from about £15 on Sale product to £90 for brand offerings. Some good bargains are available in the Sale section on basics such as a pack of two long-sleeved T-shirts for £9, but this section is difficult to find as there is no dedicated channel for Sale product.
Very’s product selection is uninspired and confused as to who its target audience is. The womenswear section’s landing page displays product including a rubber top, a wedding dress and a hoodie. The brands online are disconcertingly diverse, including Adidas, Clarks and Superdry, which do not complement each other at all and in fact are all aimed at a different type of customer.
Again, this site seems to be trying to do too much, with top-level navigation including channels for furniture, electricals and toys. However, product categories are clear and easy to navigate and show the number of products available. However, promotional boxes on landing pages, for example for women’s footwear, don’t link through to the women’s footwear that is pictured.
Drapers’ initial order was rejected without explanation. Drapers then tried to make the order by phone instead. Customer services confirmed the order and said it would be delivered the next day. No order arrived, no payment was taken and no notification given.
Price points cover quite a range, with dresses from £13 to £69. A men’s Lacoste polo shirt is priced at £55 (with a Sale saving of £24) and a women’s Fearne Cotton all-over sequin jumpsuit is £79. The prices on the site seem to reflect the mix of product and Very appears confused as to its target audience.