Two's a Queue

Retail, eCommerce, usability, customer experience, service, technology...

Monday, 2 December 2013

Online Copywriting

Honestly who needs ideas on what to blog about when you can just read other people's writing and get so annoyed that only some furious finger banging on the keyboard will help?

I may be being an incredibly lazy blogger of late but in my defence this started as a comment on the eConsultancy website and got too long and ended up here. I'm not starting an anti-eConsultancy blog I promise. For a start I don't have the copy writing skills ;-)

Here's the original blog post:

Yes once again I disagree with many of the points in this article - and while I'm on the subject the first comment made. I feel like I've just gone back 5 years in the evolution of online customer experience when we all read articles from people who pretended to know what they were talking about about where the search box should be and how customers only like CTA's in green and you must offer a guest checkout. Anyone out there who actually works in eCommerce knows all this is a total pile of rubbish and that check listing your website like some kind of identikit copy of Amazon gets you precisely no where.

Copy in your product descriptions is something which can only be judged by proper testing and analysis. We know that some customers find information difficult to find online and miss that experience of touching and investigating in store, but we also know that customers tell us they don't actually like to read text and that large amounts of copy can put them off buying rather than encourage them. It is a very individual and ultimately strategic decision depending on your brand, the type of product you sell, how you attract traffic and how your customers choose to interact with your site.

Customers in different sectors need different information, online fashion  - especially of the high street variety -  is often one where they don't need that much - our customers are visual, impulsive, competitive, trend driven - if they like it and it's at the right price, they'll often just buy it. Whereas a customer purchasing say a washing machine, might need just a little more technical, dimensional and functional information. Emotionally driven purchases like gifts, or organic food can often find the story and provenance of the item can add to it's value and the customer's ultimate decision in purchasing. This is a few examples but it might be that you work in one of those sectors and have found the complete opposite. Similarly customers in different countries can have different needs around copy. My point is everyone is different.

A lack of copy - or functional bullet points -  doesn't necessarily mean copy writing is of a poor quality or that a retailer hasn't put the effort in. It may simply mean that they have worked out that their particular set of customers, shopping on their site don't need that type of information to convert. Also copy writing each and every product in a fashion retailers catalog can in fact be a huge job, and often even if conversion improves - the ROI of having a skilled professional (or two!) writing that much text each week just doesn't stack up. It also costs a damn site more to localise than your average 3 bullet points - again the benefit has to outweigh the costs. Process wise you don't always have the product in front of you to be able to write that information either - this is a challenge many multichannel retailers are finding as the web becomes key to their operations.

OK OK I give you a bit of a break - so some times it might be laziness, or lack of knowledge in the above examples, but let's not assume there is a one-size fits all answer because there isn't. Criticism is always welcome, as product owners we should welcome feedback and change, however this article comes out far too one dimensional as to be practically pointless. Calling retailers out for not putting enough effort in? Pot kettle black Mr Moth, pot kettle black.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Why I disagree with econsultancy this week: Attributing New Look's 79% Online Increase

Browsing for my usual catch up of what's going on in the ecom world this morning I came across this blog post on econsultancy about the impressive results released by New Look last week in relation to the growth of their online business. This article attempts to attribute this increase in sales to certain functionalities on the website and mobile channels.

This is fantastic news for the ecommerce industry and great to have some good positive stories about retail growth in the UK.

I'll be honest (do you expect much else?) - I disagree with an awful lot of it, and I'm feeling more and more lately that econsultancy are clinging to a world where best practice UX actually exists - in my view this is a vastly old fashioned opinion. What exists in the eCommerce world is an unprecedented ability to see what is happening on your own website, with your own customers, buying your own product.

I don't disagree with some of the comments on buggy and not optimised mobile and app functionality - it's clear there's some work to do here (haven't we all?) but the general premise of the article bothers me and I expected better from someone who is as close to the industry as the usually quite smart econsultancy team.

Here's a few reasons I disagree with David Moth this morning:

1.  SEO - So let's start with one I do agree with, you can't argue with the decent Google rankings that New Look has for it's core products. This has to be a contributor to sales increases though I'd be surprised if there wasn't cannibalisation of in store sales lurking around in that 79% increase. That's not to say it's not impressive but it's certainly not clear whether the 79% is above and beyond like for like bricks and mortar increases. I'd suggest in this climate many customers are simply moving to online from store.
2. Stock info - this has been there since the current New Look website launched, admittedly originally there was a mildly confusing key of different shades of green to indicate stock depth which might actually have been the barrier to customers shopping which has since been removed. Clear and concise if uninspired dropdown replaces the former 'boxes'
3. Product filtering - yet again, this has always been there since the current website launched. What it is doing it allowing a more detailed guided navigation selection - it looks as if some effort has been put into offering customers options they really want outside of just process and colour - the jeans lengths for example, sleeve types etc are all more granular types of filter that have appeared as the site has matured.
4. Click and Collect - yes it's got to have contributed to the growth, we're all seeing customers dissatisfied with carrier time-slots and reliability and opting instead ot pick up items at their convenience. How many of these customers just didn't fancy taking a chance on going to a store if their chosen item wasn't there/wasn't out on the floor? This is likely to be some swallowing up of store sales.
5. Consistent Navigation - Oh my word are we in the dark ages? You're making this into a thing? Fairly sure this has been there since the non transactional site and exists on pretty much every brainer David, no brainer.
6. Free returns - again there's nothing new here, this has been in place well before the past 3 months
7. Free delivery over £45 - delivery promotions are always winners for customers so I'll give you this one, but I'd also have hoped that New Look have spent some time optimising this value and working out which level of promotion most gets customers thinking they should spend that extra £5 or so just to not have to spend £3.95 without them spending a lot of revenue on funding delivery. It's not just having the promo, it';s having the RIGHT promo for your customer
8. Security message - Again this has been there since the year dot and possibly before, customers are said to react well to security messages in checkout but in this day and age with an established high street brand? Nah
9. Upselling at the Shopping Bag -I'll give you this one too, this is a good piece of functionality - essentially Amazon stylee, I'd hope they've tested it though
10. Use of Live Chat - Really? REALLY? This is a prime example of a big fat bell and whistle. Someone show me a case study outside of telecomms or insurance where this actually helps conversion without costing you more in customer services.
11.Guest checkout - I'm fairly sure everyone knows my views by now on Guest Checkout. It can cause quite a lot more problems than it solves-  with us not really providing an infrasture for guest custoemrs to communicate, track their order or in fact convert their guest purchases into an account as they might want to continue shopping on a site. This is a prime example of the quite old fashioned view that UX is a check list of items you must provide, rather than an optimisation of YOUR customer journey on YOUR website.
12. Alternative payments -What alternative payments? The site doesn't cater for any specific international customer payment methods like Ideal, Sofort, Giropay, China Union Pay...I could go on.

OK I'm bored now, you get the picture. I feel like this article is lazy, unresearched writing. There's no disputing New Look's impressive results but without being within the business you can't really attribute them to a load of factors like this, frankly you could debate it forever, which is a slightly pointless exercise. And if you've woken up to this today and thought 'I must do all these things on my site RIGHT NOW' just stop, take a breath and look at your own customer feedback, your own site, your own data and stop considering the magical silver bulleted tick list of user experience will solve all your problems. It won't.

Though come on - I had to put my oar in a bit didn't I? if I absolutely had to make some suggestions on their impressive growth online I'd say some of the following may have contributed:

1. New image styles - NL used to use model shots, albeit headless, whereas now they use cut outs of the product by itself. Assuming they tested this in with customers this can contirbute heavuily to conversion.
2. New search functionality - conversion through search boxes is traditionally higher than via a browse journey. New Look search used to be a cross site search - which was a nice feature but not necessarily accurate and meant customers had an extra step to drill down. This has now changed with increased functionality
3. MVT - New Look are clearly using a multi variant testing tool (right click peeps right click)  - from what I can see this is focused on the cross sell section of the product page but may well be on all sorts of places on the site, they're optimizing the experience, learning from what customers do and not what they say, and developing their own idea of what suits their site and their customer. And that the point.