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Supermarkets. The country is full of them. In fact we can think of 5 Tesco’s within a 5 minute drive of Exact HQ! They’re not without competition, there are Asdas, Sainsburys, Waitrose and Morrisons competing in the arena too.

Because the supermarkets are operating in such a saturated sector, they really have to bring their A game when it comes to usability online. Luckily for the supermarkets they have physical stores from which to take inspiration when considering eCommerce website changes. You could get in on this action too.

Let me explain…




Let’s start with a simple one. I was walking around Currys the other day to pick up a phone. I immediately looked up in the hopes of finding some signage to direct me to the phone section – nada!

It took me a good few minutes of walking up and down aisles to locate it, lost in the centre of the room, at which point I began thinking how much more efficient it would have been if they’d just put up a blinking sign!!

Tesco is great for this, they have huge blue signs above each aisle with a summary of the contents, so even if it doesn’t say ‘Balsamic Vinegar’ up there you can be pretty confident you’ll find it with the ‘Condiments’. This goes for eCommerce sites too in the form of navigation. This is very standard procedure but the trick is to ensure that the right products fit in the right categories, so that that anyone from a novice to a pro would understand where to go.





Have you seen Morrisons updated fruit and veg section? The stands are bare wood, there’s a dewy mist that floats over all the fresh fruit and veg and chalkboard-esk price tags. It all makes for an impressive entrance and a very fresh, organic feel.

This is just a pretty frontage, we all know that the quality of the fruit and veg is exactly the same as it was when they were on metal carts with standard labels. It basically comes down to dressing and displaying your products to show their best features. Let your products be visible and if possible promote a lifestyle that your customers will crave.

notonthehighstreet.com do an amazing job at this. Their lifestyle shots use brick walls, fabrics, floorboards and plenty of other secondary decoration to makes the product seem right at home surrounded by desirable decor.

If your products don’t really work in this situation, as fashion does, then a white-out background, with clothing on a model with multiple angle shots means the customer can see how the overall design as well as how it would look on them would be a good solution. Even dressing the aspirational model in accessories that reflect your brand style helps them to envisage the item in an aspirational setting. You could even use your other products to dress the rest of the model. This is the equivalent of putting a recipe card for a salad next to lettuce.

Some stores like Boohoo.com even have videos for their clothing so you can see how it moves to get a better sense of the fabric. This all takes place on a clean well lit runway – with good looking models I might add!

product photography




I used to live right by Morrisons and I still shopped at Tesco. There were a few reasons; one being that even though they are the only place that do my favourite apples, red delicious, the queues were always huge and there never seemed to be a time when it was quiet. So I sacrificed my apples for greater usability at Tesco with a plethora of self scan registers.

This is the same for your online checkout. Baymard Institute says 67.91% is the average documented online shopping cart abandonment rate. Simplifying the checkout is the biggest improvement you can make to reduce this number.

Here are a few ideas on how you can achieve this:

  • Only request details that you really need to speed up the process
  • Provide a guest checkout option as timely registration is a big put off
  • Make it obvious as to where the user should click to progress so they don’t get lost and give up
  • Provide speedy options like Paypal
  • Remove your standard nav bar so they are not tempted to navigate away
  • Make it clear as to what stage your customer is at in the process so they feel like they are progressing
  • Clear shipping costs so the customer doesn’t feel surprised by extra charges




Customer Service

There is good customer service and then bad customer service, whether its before or after your purchase. It’s always nice to be greeted with a smile in-store and asked if they can help you with anything (As long as it’s not too pushy anyway). The same goes with online stores.

I recently ordered a belt from www.kiltmakers.com for my husband’s wedding gift, a bit last minute than I’d like to admit. So I sent an email asking if it would be possible to ensure I got it in time as delivery was between 4-6 weeks. The following day I received an email congratulating me on the up-coming nuptials and ensuring me that it would arrive in time, along with how their process worked for that specific order. Everything was so pleasant and transparent that I already liked the company for their responsiveness.

Unfortunately I had ordered the wrong size, only to found out post wedding and then went on honeymoon. We were well out of the 30 day returns policy but I thought I’d give it a shot. Their very quick response gave sympathy to my situation in a friendly way and told me I could return it as long as I had the order number and it was still in the packaging. Fantastic service all around which has made me quite loyal to the company.

These days it is not always practical to have an inhouse customer service team but you may find that it is cost-effective to outsource to a 3rd party, like us!

Not only should you have a friendly, understanding voice at the end of the line or email but you also need it to be visible and accessible throughout your site should a query arise. Even a good FAQ can work wonders.

customer services



To sum up

Commerce is the same beast whether you enter a store by foot or Google search. You still want customers to find their desired product easily or browse your stock and be inspired. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to make that transaction whether it means hiring extra till staff or simplifying a form, and wherever you are sell with a smile (whether physical or not) goes a long, long way.

by Jennifer McMillen on 06/08/2014

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