What Makes a Great e-Commerce Site?
Which? Magazine have announced the top 100 best online shops according to their readers. There were some really surprising results. The top prize with a customer score of 91% was WexPhotographic.com - a supplier of photographic equipment. You might expect to see the online behemoths at the top of the list but in fact Amazon.co.uk came in a number 15 and Apple at number 25. We thought we'd take a detailed look at Wex Photographic to find out why customers seem to love them so much. Here's what we found.
We got the stopwatch out and did some timing tests. Over 10 tests the homepage loaded in an average of 1.8 secs, which is lightning fast, especially considering the amount of photography on the page. Doing some basic searches from the type-in search box was even more impressive with average find times of 1.5 secs. This site just whizzes along!
Easy to understand category browser
The main category menu makes good sense and is written using jargon-free terminology. We're not photography experts but we understood what we were going to get when we clicked through. Again, clicking main menu options gave us page-load timings of under 2 seconds on average.
Product photography and video
You'd expect great photography on a photography web site wouldn't you? It's amazing how photography lets down so many online stores. Most product pages have several clean and clear photos. A minor quibble is that you can't zoom in and look at the surface textures of products, and some products had only one photo. [caption id="attachment_3272" align="alignright" width="350"] The store features product videos as well as photography.[/caption]
Details and specifications
The technical details are important! Measurements and specs can mean the difference between a successful purchase and a return. On this site we found the specifications particularly clearly laid out, and each product featured detailed descriptions of features and benefits too.
Accessories, cross-buys and freebies
We were impressed by the number of recommendations we were offered. For example when buying a camera, we were presented with compatible tripods to go with it. This suggests real attention to detail. On many of the products we added to our basket, we were offered, free of charge, a useful extra to go with it. For example an astronomy telescope comes with a free torch - rather handy when you're in the middle of a field in the dead of night we suspect!
The purchasing journey
[caption id="attachment_3275" align="alignleft" width="123"] Checkout was clearly signposted[/caption] Adding to basket and moving through the various processes to checkout was a breeze. The route was clearly signposted with large and obvious Checkout buttons. At each stage we were offered phone and fax contact numbers which would be very helpful for a difficult purchase. We were also shown images of the different cards you can use. When it came to creating an account we found the instructions clear and obvious. The signup/signin page was one of the clearest we've seen and setting up our customer details was also clear and straightforward.
Clarity of contact options
Wex display their phone number prominently on every page. This seems to encourage people to phone in and speak to a real person. Customers are looking for contact points such as phone numbers and opening times, even if they don't actually want to use them. Wex's site also features a live chat option - another handy way to contact them if you're perusing the site and need advice. [caption id="attachment_3276" align="alignright" width="350"] Login and signup are crystal-clear[/caption] There is a strong social media presence with links to their Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Flickr and YouTube channels on every page. The 45,000+ Facebook Likes displayed certainly gives the impression of a sizeable fan base.
It is rather rare for e-commerce sites to encourage on-site user-generated content such as community forums. But Wex have taken the plunge and offer a fully-fledged forum where photography enthusiasts can mingle and chat. The blog features hundreds and hundreds of product reviews, tips and advice posts. Plus there are photography competitions and even seminars and events beyond the store. All this creates a really strong impression that Wex is super-keen on talking with their customers and sharing their passion for photography.
If you're paying £2000+ for a camera you want great support. As well as the phone contact option, Wex helpfully offer a list of manufacturer helplines so customers can speak direct to the manufacturer.
All in all the experience of using the site was very good. Fast page-loading times and clear navigation mean you can get to what you want quickly. The generous add-ons and freebies make you feel valued and important. The vast amount of technical information, background knowledge and support really comes across. Delivery times and contact points were clear and easy to understand. It's not hard to understand why this site has come out number in the Which? Online Shops Satistfaction Survey. PS: we are not connected in any way at all to Wex Photographic!