Free UX Audit

Free AuditRetail UX reviewed 30 top apparel e-commerce web sites in Q4 of 2012, and created the “Retail UX Audit: Apparel” to present the results. We rated the sites according to a list of 30 user experience feature criteria (listed below). Feature categories included Social Commerce, Purchase Support, Catalog Navigation, and Multichannel Shopping.

The apparel retailer with the highest UX Audit score, with 16 out of a possible 30 points was:
Nordstrom
Also near the top were the following sites:
Saks.com 15
Sears.com 15
Walmart.com 15
The UX criteria we used to score the sites were developed during an initial site review. The criteria included:

Social commerce features:
1. Email To A Friend
2. Product Reviews
3. Share Via Facebook and / or Twitter
4. Google +1
5. Pinterest
6. Facebook Like
7. Customer Q&A in Page
8. Back Side View (*Depends on Product)
9. Alternate Images Visible on Product Page
10. List Page: Rollover Alternate View
11. Expert Advice (Chat, E-mail, Callback)

Purchase support features:
12. Coordinated Products, Outfitfree UX audit
13. Video of Product or Subcategory
14. Multi-Store Marketplace
15. Price Drop Alert
16. Express Shop
17. Virtual Try On or Try Out
18. Personal Info. About the Model
19. Next Prev
20. List Page: Category Specific Filters (Not price, brand, color, or size)

Catalog navigation features:
21. More Like This
22. View Product Detail Page In Spanish
23. Find Product In Local Store
24. Print Page
25. Save To List / Favorites / Wishlist / Bookmark

Multichannel shopping features:
26. Order Online, Pickup in Store
27. Available Colors for Products On List Page
28. E-mail Customer Once Size / Color / Combo Becomes Available
29. BFF Us / Text Me
30. Send To Mobile
The Audit summary results are reproduced below, with the total score for each retailer, and links to their product detail pages at the time of the evaluation. Companies included in the Audit can request a more comprehensive debrief with Retail UX that includes your company’s full results as well as those of your main competitors (available at no charge). To request a full debrief, send an email to: audit@Retail UX.com.

Disclaimer: Retail UX consults with top retailers across the USA. We don’t mean to imply with this Audit that the total number of UX features is in any way a measure of a successful UX strategy. Developing a winning UX strategy requires an intensive review of research data, web analytics, corporate business goals, marketing and merchandising objectives, the competitive landscape, in-store logistics, IT capabilities and constraints, the state of the art of interaction design, and many other internal and external factors. Retail UX considers such factors when conducting research and strategy engagements for our retail clients. The UX Audit is one small part of the work that goes into a UX strategy, and we choose to give that work away as a means of familiarizing retailers with our UX research and strategy consulting practice. It’s a quick, handy way to view the latest UX designs of top retail competitors each quarter.

Site Points Product Detail
Abercrombie & Fitch 7 View product detail page
Amazon 13 View product detail page
American Apparel 13 View product detail page
American Eagle Outfitters 12 View product detail page
Ann Taylor Loft 9 View product detail page
Anthropologie 11 View product detail page
Bebe 12 View product detail page
Belk 13 View product detail page
Charlotte Russe 14 View product detail page
Chico’s 11 View product detail page
Express 12 View product detail page
Forever 21 9 View product detail page
Fossil 8 View product detail page
Gap 6 View product detail page
H&M 10 View product detail page
J. Crew 6 View product detail page
JCPenney 11 View product detail page
Kohl’s 6 View product detail page
LL Bean 14 View product detail page
Macy’s 14 View product detail page
Neiman Marcus 12 View product detail page
Nike 8 View product detail page
Nordstrom 16 View product detail page
Saks 15 View product detail page
Sears 15 View product detail page
Target 12 View product detail page
Urban Outfitters 12 View product detail page
Victoria’s Secret 10 View product detail page
Walmart 15 View product detail page
Zappos 12 View product detail page

Notes:

1. We omitted retailers from this list, at our discretion, with respect to whom the UX Audit evaluation could be considered a conflict of interest.
2. We may have missed features if they were not immediately visible on the product detail pages we reviewed. We did not dig throughout the whole catalog to find instances of features, but looked at a few representative pages.
3. Alternate images were only counted if they were visible as thumbnails on the product page, not if the customer needs to click a link to see them.
4. In-page Q&A is a social feature that lets all customers view questions and their answers. It does not encompass links to ask customer service questions or live chat.
5. Many sites have had new releases since the Audit was created.
6. Retail UX offers the above audit summary free of charge as a service to retailers and user experience professionals, and takes no responsibility for its accuracy or completeness. We have made every effort to be fair and thorough, but errors or omissions may be present.
7. Retail UX retains full copyright privileges for this UX Audit and all of its predecessors. Retail UX grants permission to reproduce all or part of this audit under the condition that the words “Produced by Retail UX” accompany any partial or complete reproduction of its contents.

Read Also: On Location Customer Interviews

UX Strategy

UX Strategy

UX Strategy is the marriage of business strategy and user experience design, as applied to the expanding array of digital customer touchpoints, such as web sites, mobile phones, iPads, interactive kiosks, digital signage, etc. Retail UX helps clients create a design roadmap that is based on a solid rationale, supported by quantitative and qualitative data. Retail UX uses a combination of processes and practices to produce a UX Strategy.

Before formulating a UX strategy, we fully examine the business context that the user experience is to support. We review business strategy documents and plans to develop a complete picture of our clients’ business goals and direction. We assess the technology capabilities of our clients in terms of the user experience features that they are prepared to release. We also analyze the competitive environment to understand the latest user experience feature sets within our clients market sector and merchandise categories.

strategy

Once we understand the business context, we conduct user research to fill any gaps in our understanding of customer behavior. We interview customers in their homes and in stores to determine customer needs, wants and expectations in a changing retail environment. We structure ethnographic and video diary studies to get an inside look at evolving consumer behaviors across shopping channels. We formulate behavioral segments (Personas) to illustrate patterns and to create predictive models. We corroborate qualitative data using web analytics and other quantitative data sources.

The end result of a UX Strategy engagement is a prioritized set of user experience features that map directly to a company’s business objectives, and a road map that plans out the release of these features over a period of one to three years.

Read Also: Video Diaries

Modeling Customer Personas

Customer Personas

Personas, or user archetypes, are a form of behavioral segmentation that retailers can use to set design priorities for its various shopping channels. Retail UX personas are based on data, not conjecture or whimsical storytelling. We also formulate methods to quantify and track personas as they interact with your digital properties.

Our persona projects vary widely in depth and breadth, but there are some standard steps we follow to generate or enhance a retailer’s customer personas. The steps listed below describe how we develop personas for large retailers. For smaller budgets, we combine some of these steps, and may use available the best data available rather than conducting original research.

  1. Review existing customer data and web analytics
  2. Conduct in-depth customer research, either through on-location interviews or ethnographic studies
  3. Determine customer needs, wants, motivations, and purchase processes relevant to web, mobile phone, tablets, and/or in-store technology
  4. Determine the variables and attributes that impact shopping behavior
  5. MODELING CUSTOMER PERSONASCreate customer profiles that summarize values of these variables for actual participants
  6. Group participants based on shared characteristics and behaviors
  7. Create personas that represent each distinct segment
  8. Prioritize personas based on probable value to the company
  9. Develop a design strategy to engage and develop loyalty for top personas
  10. Track results, and refine the model

It’s easy to generate a set of plausible personas. Anybody can do it. However, it’s more challenging to create personas that are based on data and that truly represent the behavior patterns of your most valuable customer segments over time. Retail UX has the experience to guide you through this process.

Read Also: Rapid, Remote User Testing

On Location Customer Interviews

Customer Interviews

Behind every web site interaction, behind every click on a business-oriented web site, is a real-life setting. That setting, or context, encompasses both obvious and hidden factors that cause users to select one path over another, or one product over another. Retail UX conducts in-depth interviews wherever customers use technology to shop, whether in their homes, in stores, or on the go.

Our unique ethnographic research approach helps web design teams understand the real life context that drives online behavior and needs. Customers are “in the zone” that our commercial partners have created, so they are able to respond more realistically than in other settings. An understanding of the motivations and needs associated with these situations are essential to design innovation, that is, a leap ahead in design rather than incremental changes to an existing design.

ON LOCATION CUSTOMER INTERVIEWSOn location interviews are easy to combine interview with other methods of research to provide a more complete set of insights about customer behavior across channels. Such additional methods could include in-home product inventories, shop along in a retail outlet, observation of store associates and customers, observation of consumers in public or private spaces to note behavior patterns, collection of artifacts from an employee or consumer context.

Once the interviews are completed, we code them by assigning tags or descriptors to chunks of thematically related text, formulate overarching themes and findings, and finally, generate recommendations about the design of multichannel tools to meet customer needs as revealed in the data.

Rapid, Remote User Testing

Remote User TestingAt Retail UX, we prefer to spend quality time with customers in person, in an authentic setting, such as their homes or in stores. But that’s not always possible, particularly with tight development cycles or tight budgets. The next best thing is to test remotely. The software for remote testingis getting better all the time, and current systems allow video recording, chat sessions, and ubiquitous availability. Participants don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes or offices. Which is how they use your designs anyway. You have the option of sitting in on the session virtually, and will be able to send us chat messages to have us probe deeper on issues that interest you.

Remote User Testing

In terms of the participant sample, you have three very flexible options. You can designate your own customers as participants (which we highly recommend because they can be matched against very specific criteria). Or, alternatively, we can use Retail UX’s pool of participants, when rapid testing is required and the characteristics of the test audience can roughly match the general public. Or, as a third alternative, we can use third party marketing agencies who have a large database of users ready to test web sites. In this case, Retail UX will create specific screening criteria and a screening interview.

We can set up regular user tests to correspond with agile sprint cycles, so that no matter how brief the user experience window is, some user testing will have been done to avoid discovering usability problems after the launch. Since remote user testing doesn’t require travel or lab costs, it is a cost-effective way to catch problems earlier rather than later.

Video Diaries

Video Diaries

Retail UX has pioneered technology-assisted shopping research methods that capture customers in their natural environment, where they search, compare, and make decisions. In the video diary method, customers use pocket camcorders and a video diary guide to document their personal shopping habits. The resulting video diaries are a close-up, personal window into how customers use web, mobile and in-store technology to accomplish real-life shopping tasks.

Video diaries are a powerful method for discovering insights and new opportunities to meet shoppers’ rapidly evolving needs and preferences. Our video diary protocols are carefully formulated to ensure that the data customers are providing in their videos is the data needed to make complex design decisions.

VIDEO DIARIES

Video diary highlights have been a hit with executives, who find the personal window into the world of customers both envigorating and enlightening, as customers candidly discuss their needs and wants with respect to technology-based shopping. The insights communicated in this way have a lot of staying power as the program matures.

For our clients, developing a comprehensive omnichannel UX strategy is a fast-moving target that will continue to accelerate. But Retail UX video diaries provide a rich set of data and findings to help them set priorities and make decisions about complex digital design programs.