9 reasons why H&M’s website sucks

this sucks H&M was a relative latecomer to ecommerce; the fashion retailer only started selling online in September 2010. They’ve now been online for just over four years, which is probably ample time in which to have improved their website.

Despite this, the online experience is still pretty poor, partly due to the fact that the in-store experience doesn’t match up at all to the ecommerce site.

In this post, I’m going to take a quick look at H&M’s website and suggest ways in which they could create a seamless customer experience.

1) No click-and-collect option

As more high-street shops are adopting a joined-up, omni-channel approach to retailing, customers have increasingly high expectations. When services click-and-collect is offered by your competitors, then naturally, your customers will increasingly expect this to be the norm.

According to the Financial Times, click-and-collect is growing at a faster rate than home delivery options. Strategy consultants, OC&C forecast that the volume of products collected in-store will increase by 53m compared to a rise of 38m for home delivery.

Despite this, a 2013 report by Serco highlighted that less than half of the UK’s Top 50 retailing brands offer click-and-collect. An enticing offer of free delivery (via the click-and-collect option) can often make the difference between your customer shopping with you or with your nearest competitor. As well as increased loyalty and satisfaction, click-and-collect gets your customer into the branch or store, providing upselling and cross-selling options.

H&M are definitely missing a trick by not offering click-and-collect, as adding an additional delivery cost can be frustrating for customers. New Look, John Lewis, Debenhams and Monsoon are just some of the high street retailers who currently offer this option, while Argos has seen serious benefits from early adoption of this channel. Some 30% of Argos’ sales are through click-and-collect.

2) Mismatched product codes 

Okay, so you see a shirt you like in one of H&M’s stores, but it’s not in your size. So you decide to buy it online instead, by writing down the product code. However, when you get home and type in the code, the shirt is nowhere to be found…

That’s because H&M’s in-store product codes don’t match up to the codes online, making it quite difficult for customers to find an item online that they’ve seen in the physical store.

So what other options do you have? The product codes in-store do match up with the catalogue, so items of clothing can be ordered this way. It’s also possible to type the product code from the catalogue into the website to find something. Or thirdly, customers can use the Scan and Buy option from the H&M app on their mobile. 

Although there are a few options available to the customer, H&M could streamline the process and make it so much simpler by using the same product codes across all their points of sale; from the store, to the catalogue, to the website. This would make it far more convenient for the customer to find an item of clothing, regardless of the channel they buy it from.

3) The website crashes during peak campaigns

H&M often run lucrative collaborations with key designers. The most recent collection was launched with Alexander Wang in November 2014. Eager shoppers sat at their computers, poised to find a designer bargain.

However, the whole experience was pretty frustrating for customers, as the sheer volume of traffic led to the website crashing. Those customers that were able to access the site soon found that many items of clothing were already sold out.

This is something that H&M could have anticipated, given that they have run similar campaigns with designers in the past. The lesson here is that if you’re going to run such hotly anticipated campaigns, make sure your website can handle the traffic. It can be pretty annoying for your customers who want to spend money with you but can’t even get to your site in the first place.

4) Difficult to locate a product found online in-store

As above, if you see a product online, but you want to try it on before you buy it, it’s very difficult to locate an item of clothing in the physical H&M store.

A recent report from Business Insider Intelligence revealed that 69% of Americans have “reverse showroomed”. This means that they have gone online to research products before heading to the physical store to complete their purchase. There’s clearly an opportunity for H&M here to actively capture those sales, by adapting to customer behaviour and joining up the online journey to the in-store experience.

5) Sales staff can’t order items of clothing for you

There is no link between the physical retail store and the online shopping experience. In other stores, including rival fashion retailer, New Look, if you see a jacket you like, but it’s not in your size, the in-store staff can order the right size for you and have it delivered to your house. This is a great win in terms of convenience and customer service.

At H&M, the only way to have an item delivered to your house is to go home, sit on your computer and order it yourself. You could scan the item with the H&M app, but it’s not something the sales staff can do for you.

6) Sale items appear to be there and then sold out when added to basket

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve managed to grab a bargain and then later finding it’s sold out when added to your basket. You seriously don’t want your customer’s experience to result in broken dreams, so don’t raise their expectations in the first place. If your site says you can buy something, make sure the customer is able to complete the transaction.

7) No free shipping option

The flat rate of shipping is £3.90, regardless of the size or weight of your package or regardless of how much the customer spends. This seems like a good option if you’ve got a big order, but most customers are now used to getting free shipping of some kind, even if they need to spend a minimum amount (e.g. £50) to qualify. Offering a click-and-collect option would also provide customers with the possibility of free shipping.

8) No next day delivery option

If you order from the website, you can expect to receive your order within 4-6 working days; not bad, but pretty lousy if you need to buy a present urgently, or need an outfit for that big party your friend told you about at the last minute (maybe she’s trying to tell you something…). If you were buying a last-minute gift, you’d be better off by purchasing from one of the many retailers who do offer an express service, such as Next, John Lewis or New Look.

Speaking of New Look, the high street fashion chain, which offers value fashion at a price comparable to H&M, even offers free next day delivery if you spend over £65.

9) Sold out clothes shown on home page

sold out clothes

There’s little point marketing clothes to your customers if they can’t actually buy them. The home page is valuable space for highlighting some of your best products, but if the customer can’t convert, then surely this is wasted space. Why not replace the images with products that customers can buy instead?

Do you have any examples of companies or brands who are providing a seamless customer experience and winning at omnichannel retailing? Please let me know in the comments!

Image credit: shaolin46 via Flickr

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How Roses & Lipstick uses Instagram, blogging and Facebook for content marketing

r&lscarvesRoses & Lipstick is an online retailer, primarily selling headscarves to Muslim women on the internet. Okay, so how is that relevant to me, I hear you ask? Well, what they do really well is lifestyle marketing, creating a brand around quirky, modest fashion and giving out free tips and advice about how to look good and keep up with this season’s latest trends and funkiest colours.

This means regardless of whether you actually wear the hijab or not, you engage with them, you like their posts on Instagram and you read their blogs, because they provide interesting and useful content for fashionistas.

In fact, you really don’t need to wear a headscarf at all to find their content relevant, as there’s plenty of juicy tidbits about how to put together the boldest of fashion trends, at high street prices.

It’s something that big fashion brands as well as small businesses could learn from. Don’t forget that your audience doesn’t just consist of the people who wear your product. By creating engaging content, you become the go-to brand when say, someone wants to buy a gift for a friend. Or when a friend of a friend asks where they can buy a trendy scarf from. Effective content marketing amplifies word-of-mouth and increases brand awareness.

In this post, I’m going to look at what Roses & Lipstick does well, and hopefully provide some useful pointers for other small businesses who want to understand more about how to use Instagram and blogging to promote their brand.

1. You don’t need a big budget to do content marketing. You just need to be interesting.

When globally recognised brands think about content marketing, they might create a high-budget video or a specialised microsite or even a social game or app. This is fine, but it’s not necessarily something small businesses can afford to do.

Roses & Lipstick simply uses Instagram, blogs and Facebook to create engaging content. But before you write or post anything, ask yourself, why would anyone care about what I’ve written? Ultimately, your content needs to be relevant to your key audience. For example, the Roses & Lipstick website includes a lookbook, a simple but effective idea, which allows customers to see to to get the most out of their hijab purchases, so that they can pair the headscarf with stylish outfits.

Crucially, the team behind the company understands their audience; it’s the modern Muslim woman, the woman who wants to wear hijab, but also look good and keep up with the latest fashion trends.

2. Make sure you have something to say.

R & L - Blog - primary stripes beautiful messToo often, businesses will see others using Instagram, blogging or Facebook and think “this is something we really need to be doing!” without thinking about the why or the how. Think about your product: is it visually appealing? If your product looks good and photographs well, then by all means, use sites like Pinterest and Instagram.

Blogging can also be an effective tool, but it’s worth bearing in mind that you need to continually provide content for your readers, particularly if you’ve got something to sell. There’s nothing worse than writing a few posts and then finding you have nothing to say. And if you’re going to give tips about fashion, you need to be reading the latest magazines and blogs, as well as understanding the newest trends this season.

Roses & Lipstick has its own blog, aptly named Good Veil Hunting. As mentioned, you don’t need to wear a hijab to read this blog and find it interesting. For example, the blog provides tips about how to wear citrus brights, don a poncho effectively and go vintage shopping in East London.

3. Be aspirational.

R & L - Blog - white shirt- collage NEWThe fashion industry is constantly criticised for promoting images of unhealthy young women, and if you think about it, this really goes against all the principles of openness promoted by the internet and social media.

Roses & Lipstick is aspirational because it uses real images of real people wearing affordable clothing that you can buy on the high street. This shows that anyone can afford to look good; it’s just about putting together outfits in a unique way and being a bit creative.

This is something the big fashion brands could learn from. After all, who wants to see images of unhealthy models, setting unrealistic goals for young women? Be real, be authentic and make your product accessible to your audience.

Furthermore, Roses & Lipstick’s main blogger, Sarah is a mum, which is inspiring because it shows that having a baby doesn’t mean that your life is over or that you can no longer look fabulous and funky.

In an Instagram post, Sarah’s says she “refuses to look like I’ve jumped out of bed on the school run”. That’s quite inspiring to those of us who have just had a baby. 😉

This personal styling blog post about rediscovering fashion after motherhood is a perfect example of how brands can grow with their customers and their changing lifestyles.

4. Make the most of the talents in your team. 

zaynab cool picRoses & Lipstick is run by three sisters, who each have their own role within the business. Sarah, a journalist by trade, runs the blog. Because the blog is run by an experienced professional, the content is well-written, genuinely interesting and engaging. The photographs featured in Roses & Lipstick’s lookbook are taken by Farah Mirza, a professional photographer. And the model featured in the majority of the shots? Well, that’s middle sister, Zaynab Mirza, who’s effectively the face of the brand.

It’s important to consider that the marketing tools you use need to be adapted according to the talents in your team. If you’ve got someone who genuinely enjoys blogging and can write well, then make the most of it. On the other hand, you may decide blogging just isn’t your bag. That’s fine. Don’t use a particular tool just because everyone else is. Use what works well for your product and your team.

5. Use events to create content. 

We all have rough days and writer’s block. But if you’re going to run a blog, think of innovative ways to generate content. Covering events is an effective way of finding something to write about.

For example, the team behind Roses & Lipstick have set up personal styling sessions, gone to bespoke shoe-making workshops,  and covered events such as the Hermès Silk Ball.

Finally… 

As a final note, remember that while social media tools are undoubtedly effective, there is life beyond Facebook. For example, the humble email newsletter is still effective for sending out regular updates to customers and brand advocates. And don’t forget, it’s not just about the internet. There’s a whole breadth of marketing tools out there, on and offline.

Check out Roses & Lipstick’s Instagram, Facebook page, and blog for more information.