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EDITORIAL What the best and worst of UK etail can learn from Amazon and apps

Apps are where its at – perhaps

Apps are where its at – perhaps

The best and worst retailer sites list for the UK makes for interesting reading. Those at the very bottom of the list are perhaps unsurprising – Homebase, which has ‘bottomed’ the list before and is currently in a state of transition; and B&Q, which is just not very pretty – but some of the other losers are a surprise. Those at the top of the list – the best – are also not what you’d expect.

Zara comes out in the bottom 10 in the Which? study, which I personally find to be surprising: it is well designed and clearly a lot of thought has gone into it. If you compare it to, say, fellow bottom-10-er it is positively beautiful and functional. I imagine there will be some head scratching at Zara HQ over that one.

At the other end of the list, the top 5 – three at equal top spot and two at equal fourth place – are all non-mainstream retailers. It isn’t until you get to sixth spot that John Lewis appears. Well done Liz Earle, Richer Sounds, Wex Photo and Video, and Axminster.

So what is it that these retailers are doing so well? The key thing seems to be clarity and ease of use – and here it is apparent that niche and specialist etailers have the edge. Of course it is easier to create a nice and easy to use website if you just sell make up, as opposed to a department store that has an inventory of tens of thousands of often quite disparate items.

There is also the fact that smaller companies are more agile and can leverage new technology more quickly and often at a lower cost compared to revenue than some of the established behemoths that make up the bulk of the list’s lower orders.

And this neatly crystalizes the issues faced by many of the larger, more established retailers. They know what they want to do and where they need to get to – optimised, adaptive and responsive websites essentially – but that is costly and difficult. Many were early adopters, too, and so have grown their current sites organically. Starting again is hard and expensive.

There is also the issue that many of the mainstream retailers also have quite good apps. What Which? hasn’t taken into account is that many have apps that work really well and, as household names, are more likely to see at least their mobile sales coming via that platform, rather than the web.

This is something that Amazon knows only too well. Other research out this week from  Edge by Ascential, finds that Amazon now holds an impressive 30% market share of the UK ecommerce market. To put that into perspective, the next nearest rival is eBay, which has a 9% market share.

Part of Amazon’s success lies in the fact that it has a very effective web and app strategy. Amazon is high on the Which? list, hampered by being boring-but-functional and not that attractive, but it works. And its market share in the UK shows just how well that works.

But make no mistake, its success stems from being both a website and an app – and that they both work together. You can log into each and shop between them, remembering you basket and offering simple payments, delivery options and more.

While it isn’t the winner in this list, it is, in my book, still the gold standard in how e and m-commerce should be.

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