I'm a loyal customer of Jos. A. Bank: It seems that part of every paycheck I get ends up with them. Recently I signed up for their e-mail and now my inbox is full of Jos. A. Bank messages letting me know about their smart clothes -- and steep discounts and clearance sales.
Jos. A. Bank's marketing works. I find myself clicking through to the store's website from almost every e-mail. But each time I get there, basic problems with site design and usability prevent me from ordering online.
When I clicked through to the site's Clearance section, here's what slowed me down:
- Signage is hidden. Signage, like page headlines and link labels, helps customers know where they are on your site and how to find what they want. On the Jos. A. Bank's Clearance page, lack of contrast and suboptimal placement makes the signage hard to see and read. My eyes -- and I suspect the eyes of most -- zoom right past the winter clearance graphics at the top of the page. They appear in muted colors on a gray background, and their placement makes them look like the banner ads most shoppers ignore.
- Left-hand navigation links are hard to scan. Repeating"CLEARANCE" and "50% OFF ALL" before each item in the list makes me work harder to see whats different about each choice. (And the use of all caps forces line breaks which decreases readability. )
My sense is that Jos. A. Bank repeated "Clearance" before every link to emphasize the sale, but if the page's main headlines were more visible themselves, would repeating "Clearance" really be necessary?
- An aside: Although I was driven to this page by a "Sale" email, the page also lacks the ability to sort products by price, a feature that I suspect bargain shoppers will miss.
Scannability is key.
Customers want to find items quickly. They don't read pages -- they scan. Hidden headlines, missing signage, and cluttered left nav reduce scannability. This forces customers to spend time thinking about how to use the site, instead of thinking about their desire for a great new shirt.
Jos.A.Banks actually could have sent me to a more effective page-- on their own site. If I enter the term "clearance" into the Jos. A. Bank site search, the results reveal a different shopping experience.
On this page, headlines and signage at the top of the page are still hard to scan, but subheads in left hand navigation makes links and product choices readable and clear, and I can sort my choices by price and bestsellers.
My intuition tells me that this search-based page provides the customer with a better overall shopping experience. But that's just my hunch. Jos. A. Bank could run a quick A/B test between the clearance sale product category pages and the search-based pages I found when I explored their site.
I'd wager that the search-based Clearance page would convert at a higher rate than the current clearance section. But the beauty of testing is my hunch could be easily validated or proven wrong.
Online retailers must get the most value from their email list. These are the people who like your brand so much that they are happy to see you in their in-box. You pay to send them messages, and they're likely to cut you a little slack if their shopping experience hiccups. If its hard for these loyal customers to find, choose and buy, isn't the casual shopper, even less likely to stick around?
So what about those great deals mentioned in the email? I did take advantage of of them, but I ultimately bought my suit at ... the Jos. A. Bank bricks and mortar retail store, down the street.