M&S jumps to top of retail website top 20

Marks & Spencer and WHSmith have the most user-friendly websites among high street retailers, according to the latest annual study by web consultancy Webcredible.

Marks & Spencer and WHSmith have the most user-friendly websites among high street retailers, according to the latest annual study by web consultancy Webcredible.

Relaunched Woolworths, which is now an online-only store, also did well in the study, and Boots saw the biggest jump in its ranking.

Retailers have invested in improving their websites as online sale increase. The average usability of the studied websites was 73.3% compared to 67.8% last year.

Webcredible gives marks out of five for 20 different variables on each website that make them easier to use. These include how visible product categories are, whether prices are properly displayed and the linking to the shopping basket and checkout.

Trenton Moss, director at Webcredible, said there has been increasing focus on the user experience of websites by high street retailers. "This is no doubt largely down to online shopping revenues continuing to increase despite the recession, making retailers realise that the user experience of their websites is a key point of differentiation in such a competitive marketplace."

John Lewis, which had the third most usable website, made £327m worth of online sales, overtaking sales at the company's flagship branch in London's Oxford Street. Online sales accounted for 13% of total sales last year and increased by 22% compared with 2007.

M&S, which relaunched its website last week, jumped from ninth to equal first with WHSmith which retained its top spot.

Trenton Moss said that since launching as an online only retailer Woolworths has put the user experience at the forefront of its proposition. He added that this is what all retailers must do.

Woolworths moved from 14th position to equal fourth with a score of 80%.

Online High Street 2009 website usability ratings

1. WHSmith 83% (last year 1)

1. Marks & Spencer 83% (last year 8)

3. John Lewis 81% (last year 3)

4. Woolworths 80% (last year 14)

4. Boots 80% (last year 17)

6. H Samuel 76% (last year 6)

6. B&Q 76% (last year 7)

8. Early Learning Centre 75% (last year 2)

8. HMV 75% (last year 3)

8. Waterstones75% (last year 2)

11. Game 74% (last year 11)

11. Mothercare 74% (last year 17)

13. Argos 73% (last year 11)

14. Hamleys 72% (last year 3)

15. Currys 70% (last year 9)

16. The Body Shop 69% (last year 14)

17. Next 68% (last year 14)

18. Debenhams 67% (last year 11)

19. Accessorize 59% (last year 19)

20. Top Shop 56% (last year 20)

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I will certainly attest to the fact that having a really user friendly retail site is extremely important! Trying to shop on a site with a frustrating interface will absolutely drive me away. 
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As Marks & Spencer's site becomes more and more user-friendly, sales have increased. That's certainly a model US sites could adopt. Instead some have cut corners so sharply that it's getting harder and harder to find the product  you want and near impossible to duck past the ongoing harassment to buy more. Retail has a lot to learn about supporting its customers.
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