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Top websites make improvements but many still fail to deliver a high standard to shoppers

The best performing websites of the UK’s top retailers improved sufficiently in the second quarter to set them apart from the vast majority of the country’s sites that continue to under-deliver, according to the results from the Sitemorse Q2 testing of the Retail 500 of top UK retailers’ online stores. By Glynn Davis

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Top websites make improvements but many still fail to deliver a high standard to shoppers

The best performing websites of the UK’s top retailers improved sufficiently in the second quarter to set them apart from the vast majority of the country’s sites that continue to under-deliver, according to the results from the Sitemorse Q2 testing of the Retail 500 of top UK retailers’ online stores. By Glynn Davis

The top eight websites achieved scores of more than eight out of 10, compared with only five hitting this mark in Q1, which is regarded by Sitemorse as the level that all retailers should aspire to. Indicative of the improvement at the top was the score of 9.7 by DFS, which again holds the top spot, and compares with the 9.5 it achieved in Q1.
The testing of the 500 sites is undertaken by Sitemorse using automated software that, page by page reads the first 125 pages of each retailer’s sites to generate a ranked table based on checks to Quality, User Experience, Accessibility, Performance and SEO capability of each of the websites.

Mike Halson of Sitemorse, says: “There is a small bracket of merchants at the top of the table that are setting the pace but they are in stark contrast to the many others in the 500 who are still achieving very poor scores.”

This high achieving grouping includes two new names, with Anoushka London appearing in the Retail 500 for the first time with an impressive maiden score of 9.37, and Turnbull & Asser that moves up 161 places in the table to fifth spot with a score of 8.49 out of 10.

The high class Jermyn Street shirt maker replaces its Savile Row neighbour Gieves & Hawkes that drops 12 places to 19th spot. Above it in the top 20 are a couple of other serious climbers this quarter – Fired Earth is the biggest jumper with a leap of 311 places to 13th spot with a score of 7.64 and Tie Rack moved up 111 places to 14th position with a creditable score of 7.46.

Another big mover is Walter Smith - that operates a chain of butcher’s shops in the Midlands, which climbed 128 places to 20th spot and highlights how the top 20 is mainly the domain of smaller merchants.
Apart from DFS and Spar (UK) there are many recognisable names but they are certainly not tier one operators. It is fair to say it is largely bereft of big name retailers, which leads Halson to conclude: “It is clear that achieving a high score is not simply about the big operators throwing lots of money at their websites. The upper echelon of the table in Q2 is chiefly taken by smaller players.

The likes of Pownall Carpets, Rayner & Keeler, Greenhalghs Craft Bakery and Walter Smith are a credit to the industry and show the big guns how to do it online. It’s not about money it’s about focusing on getting the basics right and all these retailers do exactly that and deliver the goods to their customers.”

Not only is this in contrast to many big name retailers but also to numerous pure play merchants. The bottom 50 performers in the Retail 500 this quarter are littered with online-only retailers and many have of them have suffered falls since Q1.

Among these poor performers are Scotts of Stow that is down 30 places to 428th spot, Shop Direct Group-owned Very is down 28 places to 439, Home Shopping Direct is down 158 places to 445, Grattan is down six places to 457, and Freemans is down 13 places to 463.

It has also been a shocking quarter for N Brown Group that has seen many of its websites fall. Its key JD Williams site has dropped 225 places to 437th place with a score of only 2.04 out of 10 and other fallers in the group include Fifty Plus that is down 182 places to 438, Shapely Figures down 23 to 443, Classic Confidence down 57 to 447 and Oxendales down 123 to 454.

“It continues to surprise that pure play retailers deliver such poor performances as their online presence is all they’ve got. We’ve argued till we are blue in the face that they should be the best performers in the Retail 500 but they many of them remain in the lower quartile of the table,” says Halson.

What is also surprising is the appearance of some big brand names propping up the bottom of the table, with Muji in 469th place with a score of a mere 1.26 and bottom-placed Conran Shop Holdings that is the only merchant in the Retail 500 this quarter to score less than one out of 10. It managed a paltry 0.93.

“We can only assume the level of damage that is inflicted on these high class brands by the failure of their websites to deliver some of the most basic online requirements like accessibility to visually impaired people and acceptable page download speeds,” suggests Halson.

The final ranked table includes only 470 retailers because merchants were excluded from the testing if they used assistive technology such as JavaScript, which breaks the general “rules of accessibility” of internet sites, according to Sitemorse.

For the full Index, click here.

Printed copies of the Sitemorse Q2 Retail 500 Report can be collected at the stand of Sitemorse's partner Sage Pay at the Internet World show on May 10 to 12.

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