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A functional website that promotes ease-of-use is key to a great online experience, according to the latest Digital Customer Experience Retail Benchmark report from Voice of the Customer leaders Maru/edr.

Maru/edr found that Amazon, Marks and Spencer and John Lewis all topped the benchmark study with sites that focus clearly on ease and function to offer a better all-round experience than those retailers who focus on imagery and inspiration.

Using trained digital shoppers to assess the end-to-end digital experience of top retailing sites, Maru/edr discovered that clear navigational menus and promotional offers are preferred over statement images and video content, especially on homepages. In fact, retailers who offer more detailed top bar navigation all perform better than those that do not – scoring on average six percent higher than others – despite an increase in retailers ditching navigation in favour of more minimalist menus.

Crispin Boon, Research Director at Maru/edr, explains, “Our benchmark first-timers Ted Baker are a key example of why functionality matters. Ted Baker opt for a clear emphasis on inspiration with bold images and an uncluttered menu on their homepage – and while shoppers rated added features and exceptional product imagery, many marked the site down for its lack of clear navigation and product reviews, demonstrating the need for retailers to get the core fundamentals of digital experience’s right before adding the bells and whistles. Ted Baker have some great features on their site – their checkout is ranked best-in-class – and have seen an increase in online sales, they just fail to match the functionality of leaders, such as Amazon and John Lewis”.

Keyword search and site navigation remain the two strongest performing areas of the benchmark – with eight out of ten shoppers scoring these areas, on average, as high. It adds to the notion that functionality must remain the core priority – and supports additional Maru/edr insight from earlier in 2016 that ease-of-use remains a key hygiene factor for retailers and plays a fundamental role in overall site satisfaction www.maruedr.com/online-retail-success.

Mar/edr’s Digital Customer Experience Retail Benchmark has been measuring online site experiences since 1999, providing much needed guidance and best practice to retailers as they continue to develop their digital presence in line with consumer expectations. Maru/edr’s experience in the digital retail sphere is second-to-none – and analysts have uncovered four key trends for the coming twelve months, including how ease and functionality matter above all else.

Kat Hughes, Associate Director for retail at Maru/edr, comments, “While, on the surface, ease-of-use seems quite a simple notion, it’s actually a lot more than that – functionality covers both personal commerce and instant gratification too. Shoppers increasingly want what they want, when they want it and for a lot of retailers in means trying to anticipate needs and deliver good experiences at speed.

“It means tailoring experiences around key journey’s – including browsing and looking for inspiration – through integrations, information and images, which all impact loading times. It all suggests that retailers who can crack the code of delivering functionality and personalisation at speed will deliver a better, all-round customer experience”.

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