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Websites of smaller value-led retailers outshine those of much larger full-price rivals

Smaller price-focused food retailers continue to perform better than their larger full-price rivals with their online propositions, according to the results from the Q1 testing of the Retail 500 of top UK retailersÂ’ online stores. By Glynn Davis


Websites of smaller value-led retailers outshine those of much larger full-price rivals

None of the largest grocery chains such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s managed to make it into the top 50 of the list whereas a clutch of discount operators performed sufficiently well to place in the top quartile for the Q1 testing.

Among these star performers were Farmfoods, which held on to its second slot with an impressive score of 9.10 out of 10, Poundland moved up 11 places to 28th spot with a score of 6.74, and Aldi slipped slightly but still scored creditably with 6.45 to put it in 38th place.

They were joined by other smaller food-focused players Greenhalgh Craft Bakery in ninth place, Budgens in 25th spot and Greggs in 47th place having jumped 43 positions with its score of 6.08.

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: “Just like the last quarter the big grocery players are absent from the upper echelons of the table whereas the smaller fry continue to do well. This shows that you don’t need to be a big operator with loads of money to perform well online and that you can also be a discount player and still deliver a high level of performance with your web stores.”

Farmfoods was beaten only by DFS that again held the top spot with a strong score of 9.50 in a top 20 grouping that remained largely unchanged apart from Gieves & Hawkes that moved up 35 places to seventh spot and two of the quarter’s biggest risers Oddbins, which shot up 286 places to 13th spot, and Cotswold Outdoor, which moved up 323 places to 20th place.

The presence of these three players highlights the improving scores of transactional sites, with each of them trading through their websites. They are also joined in the top 20 by other transactional retailers including Scalextric, Tripp Luggage, and Suit Direct.

This counters the claims by some critics of Sitemorse that the criteria it tests for favours the simpler non-transactional websites. “The presence of many improving transactional sites in the upper end of the table dispels any myth that the non-selling sites get an easier ride from the Sitemorse testing. We’ve also always argued that the transactional retailers should in fact provide a better level of performance because they are delivering a much more important service than simple being informational-only,” explains Halson.

Providing a far from acceptable level of performance are those retailers in the bottom 50 of the table where there were some notable big movers this quarter. The Fragrance Shop declined 325 places to 447th spot with a score of 2.00, while Carpetright fell 211 places, and HMV slipped 115 places to 468th spot.

This pushed the entertainment group into the third from bottom slot alongside sister company Waterstone’s in 469th spot and the worst performer in Q1, the online home and garden retailer featureDECO that scored a mere 0.74 out of 10.

Many online-only retailers that fail to deliver the basics to customers seriously damage their brand values and ultimately run the risk of losing sales to their better-performing rivals,” explains Halson.

There are only twelve risers in the bottom 50 that suggests there is a certain amount of consolidation among the weaker performing players. In among this batch are some big names that should really be on the up as this would at least show that they were making some progress in addressing the deficiencies in their websites.

 “With Christmas out of the way, this is an ideal time for retailers to take a look at where their websites are failing and to make the necessary changes. In many cases, we are not even talking about complex changes but simply housekeeping type issues being sorted out. This could be adding titles to pages, putting in descriptions, and adding Alt tags for visually impaired customers,” suggests Halson.

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