This article was published in Internet Retailing January 2011
Christmas is a key period for retailers and Marks & Spencer has succeeded in developing a comprehensive cross-platform shopping experience.
The mobile website is well structured with some excellent features while the desktop site benefited from the introduction of the seasonal ‘Your Christmas Helper’ application.
Visiting the site with an iPhone, the user is firstly given the option to add a link to the handset desktop to expedite access to the site in the future.
This is a great timesaving feature and one not regularly encountered. An automatic redirect to a dedicated m.mobile site is then provided on selecting marksandspencer.com.
Signing up on the mobile site is straightforward. However, there is no clearly visible ‘Register’ link. The user must click on ‘Sign In’ before being presented with a ‘Register’ option.
Perhaps the provision of a register link further up the architecture would be beneficial. Progressing beyond this point the registration process presents no real difficulties. Should the user make a mistake, clear error reporting is provided and the user is directed to the appropriate field to rectify the issue.
Following completion of the registration process, the user is automatically signed in. So far so good.
At the homepage level the provision of a furniture event promotion impacts the mobile site page length. The trade-off between promotions and
navigation is a tricky and cross-platform one.
The mobile site navigation is well segmented with large touchpoints and clear labels (however, I’m still not sure what a ‘Maxi Dress’ is). Mobile guidelines are followed as the active/selected option is differentiated by colour.
Clear home, search and basket options are also provided. It is also possible to ‘sort’ the options by a variety of categories.
Given the lack of screen real estate on a mobile device and therefore the amount of scrolling required this is a helpful feature. And in these price sensitive times, sorting by price will likely be utilised extensively.
Having found a product of interest it is an easy task to add it to the basket and this is where the cross-platform experience really comes into its own. Adding a product to a basket means the user can view the product on another platform in a later session.
For example, it is unlikely that a dress will be purchased when it has only been viewed on a mobile handset (even for the laziest of husbands). Returning to the desktop to view the product requires a login and the product is already in the basket
The ‘desktop’ site is a little messy and could be improved. The ‘Sale’ links underneath the primary navigation appear visually as secondary navigation options and the ‘recycle’ and ‘email’ offer links look like a tertiary navigation.
Whilst they are presented in a way that does not impact the page length, to any extent, visually they could be overlooked and are a little confusing.
That being said clear calls to action are provided and the information required is there. Multiple product views are provided as is a video.
Whilst a nice multi-media touch, video adds little when browsing clothes and has less of an impact when looking at accessories such as handbags.
Video is used for a more useful purpose in the ‘Christmas Helper section (see later).
There are options provided for both ‘Home Delivery’ and ‘Store Collection’. It is helpful that this is highlighted at the product level rather than deeper in the site where it could create a more wasteful experience.
For home delivery, a helpful address finder is provided and store selection is also a click and a postcode away. The length of the purchase process is illustrated via a progress indicator at the top of the page.
There are five short steps from sign-in to purchase with one of these being the addition of gift wrap if required.
The security graphic provided at the foot of the page should also be well received given the increase in internet fraud in the run up to Christmas.
During the festive period, Marks & Spencer introduced an additional feature, namely ‘Your Christmas Helper’.
This was a good interactive application that allowed users to watch step-by-step videos on fashion and food.
It also included a tool for planning a Christmas dinner party where users could select how many guests would be attending and choose course options from a list of descriptions with clear images.
An ingredients list could then be generated detailing what to buy and suggested quantities. A clear call to action to get a printer friendly version of the list was another useful aspect of this feature.
Considering the cross-platform experience and the additional value-add features provided, Marks & Spencer create a straightforward and engaging shopping experience.
It is a breath of fresh air to see such a seamless integration of both the mobile and desktop web.