Internet Retailing asked 4 retail experts to take a look at Amazon and give readers insight into the retail strategy, site performance, usability and customer experience. RETAIL STRATEGYEmma Robertson, Director, Transform
Like most retailers, Amazon is looking for growth across its range, customers and territories, specifically international expansion, with strategies already in place to support these objectives.
Fulfilment of international ordwers can be supported either by delivery from UK warehouses to overseas locations or through the establishment of local hubs and distribution networks. The growth of internationalisation amongst major UK retailers such as House of Fraser, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer has seen the adoption of the former approach.
Amazon however, is supporting both methods in addition to making its offer available to other retailers through the relatively new Amazon Fulfilment Services, thereby opening up revenue streams for both its retail business as well as its logistics business.
As a U.S. based online retailer, Amazon’s international market is the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, China and Canada. Even this retail giant is not immune to the Eurozone crisis (from where the majority of its international revenues come) since it is seeing a slowing down of international revenues. In the 2nd quarter, growth slowed to 22%, and although revenue was up 29% year-on-year it remained below expectations.
Although net operating profit dropped lower in the quarter up to July at 0.8%, and despite revenue growth, Amazon looks set to continue with its investment programme. Already well established in Europe and with its presence in China becoming stronger, what’s next for Amazon?
In February this year it entered the Indian online retail market with the launch of junglee.com, offering more than 10 million products from 14,000 Indian and global brands. The etail market in India has grown by approximately 34% a year since 2005, and is expected to reach $24bn by 2015, so it’s no surprise that Amazon committed itself further to this market by launching its India Kindle store in August.
And it doesn’t end there. Further expansion in China is expected to be announced this quarter and there are rumours that Amazon is considering a bid for ASOS. So, as its logo suggests, the etailer may soon be in every international market from A to Z achieving its ambitions to become the Earth’s most customer-centric company; that’s internationalisation in its truest sense.USABILITY Mark Palmer, User Experience Consultant, User Vision
In recent years, Amazon has become synonymous with a slick customer experience. What if, however you were purchasing a gift for a relative in another country? Can you easily purchase these goods from the UK site and have them shipped abroad?
My initial thought was that I should just create an international address. This was indeed the case. No different to adding a UK address. So far, so good. Once the item is in your basket and the delivery address set up, delivery options are presented, which clearly reflect the international nature of the delivery. An option is provided to identify your purchase as a gift – important given the likelihood that you will be sending it direct to the recipient. From start to finish, this is a seamless process and no more taxing than having an item delivered to a UK address.
Amazon perhaps don’t promote the ability to send to international addresses enough. The only mention of international delivery to be found on the homepage is tucked away in a fairly small ‘Delivery Rates and Policies’ link in the footer. This could result in users visiting an international site instead to send to a relative living abroad. Again, this is a fairly smooth process, identical to that described above. Where this may be problematic is that certain products may not necessarily be available on international sites.
Furthermore, not all countries have their own dedicated site. It’s not clear which international site would apply to Luxembourg for example.
Purchasing goods from an international site to be delivered to the UK is straightforward, although it would have been nice to see prices displayed in Sterling.
Overall, Amazon has removed the boundaries to international purchases from their site. The interface and journey is consistent regardless of where you are purchasing from or the delivery destination.EYE TRACKING ANALYSIS Guy Redwood, Managing Director, SimpleUsability
Users started on Amazon.co.uk looking for a Christmas gift to buy a relative living in the USA. The main strategy used was to go directly to a particular product and through to the end of the checkout in order to investigate the cost of having their item shipped directly to America. Following this route, users struggled to enter a foreign address into the UK formatted fields as they missed the ‘How to enter a US address’ link. Once the international address has been entered into the website, there was no indication that the cost of delivery will remain the same until the final step in the process.
We observed users sporadically and impatiently searching the website for the ‘Delivery rates & Policies’ link shown throughout the website, which contained the delivery costs to America. The positioning of this section did not stand out to users and some buyers explained they would have abandoned the website to investigate the delivery options on Play.com.
One user, purchasing a camera, struggled to understand the delivery options due to their item not explicitly being music, a book or a DVD. They would need to pay around £23 and have to use the priority express with no other option available for this type of product. The user was not restricted by time and was disappointed by the cost. Another user struggled with the categorisation of their product, a DVD box set, which they were unsure would come under the label of a ‘Single DVD’.
Generally, users began from the UK website and arranged for their order to be shipped to the USA. Some users did query whether it would be cheaper to action this from the global website. Few users investigated this directly by working through to the end of each of the checkouts on both the websites, and found buying from the United States and shipping there would work out free. Users accidentally ended up on the American version of the website from the country links at the footer of the page in their final attempt to find the delivery information, but abandoned this after realising this was the American website.SITE PERFORMANCE David Flower, VP EMEA, Compuware APM
Compuware Gomez analysed Amazon.co.uk’s web performance from 8 September through to 11 October for Internet Retailing using its Gomez performance network. It conducted standard tests, evaluating Amazon.co.uk’s availability, response times, consistency, competitiveness and ability to support various browsers from an internet backbone and last mile perspective. Generally speaking, Amazon.co.uk performed well.
From an internet backbone perspective – test nodes at various strategic locations on the internet – Amazon.co.uk had a competitive website response time of 2.33 seconds and a solid 99.87% availability score, which meant that the site was both quick and highly available for visitors to access.
Web performance on the last mile – end users’ devices – is usually slower compared with the internet backbone. Amazon.co.uk’s last mile speed was 5.27 seconds, however in this category it was slightly more available and had a score of 99.25%.
The tests conducted also evaluated Amazon.co.uk’s web performance across major mobile web browsers and smartphones including Blackberry devices and iPhones. Overall, its data reported that Amazon.co.uk has a solid presence in the mobile space.
Compuware Gomez also compared Amazon.co.uk with Amazon.com over the same test period. Amazon.com was marginally slower than Amazon.co.uk from a last mile perspective. This could be down to any number of reasons. For instance, one typical challenge many ecommerce websites are faced with is how they manage third-party content providers as this affects web performance. Sites such as Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com will have several content providers streaming content into their online properties. For example on 4 October there was some degradation in performance on Amazon.co.uk due to latency from a third party supplier.
During our comparison we also discovered that Amazon.co.uk’s performance was more consistent than Amazon.com, meaning that the UK landing page offered customers a much more stable performance. Amazon.co.uk was also more available compared to Amazon.com – it had only one ‘timeout’ error compared with Amazon.com, which had 9 ‘timeout’ errors.COMPUWARE GOMEZ SCORED AMAZON.CO.UK 3.7 STARS OUT OF 5:
|Availability from Last Mile peers:||23 out of 25|
|Response time from Last Mile peers:||12 out of 25|
|Consistency:||9 out of 15|
|Competitiveness:||6 out of 15|
|Browser Support:||23 out of 20|
|Total ||73 out of 100|