A new m-commerce benchmark study rates the ASOS mobile website, which we reviewed last year, as the best among those of 16 UK retailers.
This is the verdict of eDigital Research's latest mCommerce Benchmark study, which uses mystery shopper surveys to assess the customer experience for websites viewed on smartphones.
ASOS narrowly beats M&S, and Play.com's non-mobile site to achieve the highest score, while Waitrose's non-mobile commerce site comes last...
Issues with the study
Though the survey contains some useful findings, and some valuable insight into what people want from mobile retail sites, it could be improved.
Here are four problems with the study in its current form:
Some good mobile sites excluded from the study
Some well designed mobile sites have been excluded from the study in favour of some which haven't even been designed for mobile.
For example, eBay is a great example of a mobile commerce site, and though it appeared in earlier studies, it is absent here.
Also, New Look, Mothercare, and Halfords, and are just three examples of well known retailers with very good mobile websites.
The surveyors in the study were instructed to ignore apps, and just look at the websites of the 16 retailers in the study.
So, for example, though Next has a pretty good mobile app, the 'mystery shoppers' judged the retailer's m-commerce offering by using a site that hasn't been optimised for mobile.
There are some very good reasons to choose to develop a mobile commerce site rather than an app, but apps still play a big part in mobile commerce.
Is it fair to compare optimised against non-optimised sites?
Of the 16 retailers in the study, 11 are dedicated mobile sites, and five just the regular desktop version.
It seems obvious that a site that has been optimised for mobile will perform better in such a study than a desktop version viewed on the small screen, so I'm not sure why the latter are included in the study.
Having said that, Play.com's non-optimised site managed to get third place, though I'm not entirely sure why. I've looked at this before and the checkout process alone, which is long and fiddly on mobile, would be enough to deter many shoppers.
Not all of the sites are transactional
On at least two of these sites, Comet and Waitrose, people cannot actually make a purchase, so it could be said they are not proper mobile commerce sites.
This means they cannot be assessed properly in the purchase section. It's no wonder Comet receives the lowest score of 66.7% here.
I think it would be far more valuable to have 16 mobile optimised and transactional sites studied, so we can compare best practices for mobile checkouts.
What does ASOS do well on mobile?
Reservations aside, the website that has been picked as the best is certainly a great example of how to do mobile commerce well.
The site design and navigation is simple, yet the look matches that of the main website, and it has the same range of products on offer.
ASOS achieved top marks for navigation and product pages, two vital elements in mobile commerce, and scored consistently well across all sections.
The product pages are a great example for other retailers. Product and price information is clear, and multiple images are provided for clothes, all of which can be double-tapped to zoom in:
The site uses tabs to present important information on the product, delivery charges, and returns policies without making product pages too long:
Key takeaways from the study
Mobile homepages are not well liked
The homepage was the worst performing section in the study, though I think many of the issues are due to the limitations of the mobile screen.
In order to keep homepages simple and easy to use, and also to minimise page load times, retailer use fewer images, and the mobile versions often lack the range of product images and promotions that are typical on desktop e-commerce sites.
The top performer in this category was the Kiddicare homepage which, though it still has a simple layout, presents plenty of links and navigation options, as well as a 'deal of the day':
Interflora needs to work on its mobile site
Interflora was actually one of the first retailers in the UK to launch a mobile commerce site (we reviewed it in March 2009), but in the last two years, doesn't seem to have improved the site enough.
Though its business is a great fit for mobile, the florist has performed consistently poorly across the last few surveys, and had the second lowest mark this time. Bizarrely, the mobile site only allows users to purchase one product at a time...
Don't make customers register before purchase (especially on mobile)
Many of the sites that didn't perform so well in the purchase category were those that users felt required too much information from them in order to register on the site before checkout.
Users want detail on product pages
While retailers do need to simplify their websites to work well on mobile, users still need a certain amount of detail to help them make a purchase decision.
This means that product pages should contain all the information that customers are likely to need about a product, as well as multiple zoomable images, and reviews where available.
Provide alternative payment options
Some of the best performers, such as House of Fraser, provided alternative payment options (mainly PayPal) on their mobile sites.
Data entry can be a pain on mobile, and if users have a PayPal account, all they have to do is enter an email address and password to make a payment, since their address and payment details are already saved.
This avoids the need to enter address and payment details and makes the process as simple as possible for mobile shoppers.
The full m-commerce benchmark study can be downloaded here, after completing a short survey.
You might be interested in
ASOS.com is a global online fashion and beauty store based in the UK and has fast become Britain’s largest online fashion retailer, since its launch in June 2000, selling over 65,000 products from a mixture of own-label, global and local brands. They currently offer free shipping to 234 countries and have local language websites for the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia, Russia and China, attracting 29.5million users per month.
Fashion is not their only forte, however, as they have also dipped their toe into the editorial market, with the launch of their own monthly magazine in 2007, geared towards their female customer base. Alongside their magazine, which is available both in print and online, they also run an online blog called ‘Daily Newsfeed’, on which they share posts about style, beauty and celebrities.
The ASOS website is designed in a way to optimise the customer experience, with a range of handy tools and features on offer, from catwalk videos of models wearing items on sale, to the ‘ASOS Fashion Finder’ – a popular feature that showcases current fashion trends selected by the ASOS stylists and fashion bloggers. Links to each of their social media platforms can be found at the bottom of the homepage and visitors are given the option of sharing pictures of items they like on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Google+ below each product listing. Easy to use apps are also available on smart phone and tablets, for the ASOS Store and Fashion Finder, making browsing simple and accessible on the move.
The target market for the ASOS brand is fashion forward twenty-somethings and ASOS know full well that their marketing needs to be innovative and fresh, in order to reach and influence their desired clientele. In response to this, they have pushed social media to its limits with their strong social media presence. ASOS have accounts on LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, amongst others; though they are most active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Here’s a deeper look into how they make use these top three platforms to market their brand.
The ASOS Facebook page is currently one of the most popular retail brands on Facebook, with over 3.5 million fans, in comparison with other online retailers such as Boohoo’s 2.2 million and Net-a-Porter’s 1.3 million.
They use the page to promote new ranges & sales, as well as to direct traffic to articles on their blog and online magazine.
On a typical day they will post 1-2 visual updates, including at weekends; which will generally rack up a couple of hundred ‘likes’ and a dozen or so comments. The updates that tend to be the most popular amongst their fans are ones that involve celebrities; however competitions and other posts that encourage their fans to get involved themselves also receive a significant response. A recent example of this was their recent #AsSeenOnMe campaign, that asks their customers to tag photos of themselves wearing their ASOS purchases, with the opportunity of being featured in a gallery on the website. An album of photos uploaded by ASOS customers was also added to their Facebook page to showcase their current entries. This is a particularly effective marketing technique, as it builds a relationship with their customers by valuing their taste and style; at the same time as exhibiting items that are available for purchase on ASOS.com.
Customers often use the Facebook page as a means of contacting the company regarding enquiries about purchases and ASOS are diligent at responding to all of their fans questions in a helpful and polite manner, even with the most difficult of shoppers.
ASOS are exceptionally active on Twitter and have multiple accounts to cater for their different markets and purposes. Their primary global fashion page (@ASOS) has nearly 800,000 followers, in contrast to @Boohoo‘s 15.5k and @NetAPorter‘s 24.3k; however they also have pages for ASOS Australia/ US/France/ES/DE/Italia, ASOS Menswear, ASOS Careers, ASOS Fashion Finder, ASOS Marketplace and ASOS Greenroom.
They additionally run a separate customer care page –@ASOS_HeretoHelp, which enables them to keep their marketing and correspondence with potentially unhappy customers segregated; which is important for them to maintain a positive brand representation.
A large amount of time and resources are invested into maintaining their Twitter accounts and engaging with other users. They are remarkably attentive when it comes to responding to fans comments and enquiries, particularly on their Customer Care account, which attracts a large response.
The key use for their multiple fashion accounts is to circulate links to their current stories on their blog and magazine, however they frequently share pictures and videos from outside sources which are appropriate for their clientele.
Sunday isn't Sunday without bacon
— ASOS (@ASOS) March 2, 2014
The updates that attract the most attention from their followers are generally ones that their customers can associate with themselves, for example funny GIFs about lazy weekends and easy to apply fashion tips; usually receiving around 100 favourites and a couple of dozen retweets.
Unlike their Facebook and Twitter pages, ASOS have given their Instagram account a much more personal touch and present fans with a bit of a ‘behind the scenes’ insight into life at ‘ASOS HQ’.
They use Instagram much like any other user, piggy-backing on existing trends such as selfies and photos of their food. Posts often include snaps of the staff’s breakfast or coffee break, to their stylist’s outfit of the day(from ASOS of course.) This makes the brand relatable for their fans, as well as providing inspiration for them to shop on the website when they see ASOS products on real people.
Hashtags are occasionally used on posts to maximise discovery in searches, however with over 3,000 followers they aren’t always necessary and the purpose of their Instagram account appears to be more for building a relationship with fans, than marketing their products. It is in fact the ASOS customers who make more frequent use of the affiliated hashtags and over 1 million images can now be found under #ASOS, so I guess their marketing is being done for them.
In December 2014, ASOS launched an ASOS advent calendar competition with prizes to be won every day leading up to Christmas; all fans had to do was post their festive pictures with the hashtag #instaadvent. Competitions such as this may not bring much publicity to the brand from outsiders, considering you would not instantaneously associate ASOS with the hashtag ‘instaadvent,’ though the interactivity and chance to win builds a loyalty amongst customers.
For ASOS, social media is the perfect tool for targeting their desired customer base of young and trendy individuals. It allows them to communicate directly with their fans, helping to build a closer and more personal relationship with their clientele and enabling their customers to have an input. This kind of personalisation, helps customers to really associate themselves with a brand, meaning they are more likely to return or recommend the company.
The high number of followers for their social media accounts speaks volumes about the efficiency of their social media presence and demonstrates how it is successfully attracting their target market. Though their accounts are mainly beneficial for the brand and bring about a lot of positive feedback, a large number of customers also use them to contact the company about their dissatisfaction with the service, which may reflect badly on the company when the posts are public. ASOS resolved this issue on Twitter with a separate customer service account; however, on Facebook and Instagram the enquiries frequently appear in comments below images shared and can only be resolved with public responses to the enquiries, which are usually dealt with well.
Overall I think that ASOS are a brand to watch on social media and other companies could seek pointers from them.