Posted on04 November 2015 5:19 PM GMT

The UK's 10 Best Online Shops according to Which?

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In its latest magazine, Which? rates the UK’s online shops on 5 key criteria to ascertain which provide the best experience. It does not fully explain the mechanics of its weighting and what emphasis is placed on its own experts’ scores versus those returned in the customer survey. It also excludes the big grocery retailers from this survey for some reason.

 

My 3 preferred online go-to vendors have been Amazon, Ebay and Ocado for some time now - in that order of frequency. I sporadically buy Internationally too - clothing from Italy and France, and various collectibles from USA, Hong Kong and Japan. Typical frequency of use is 3-5 times per week with Amazon getting the main share.

 

Which? uses these criteria:

  • Price
  • Deliveries
  • Ease of finding products
  • Quality of Service
  • Customer Score

 

There is not too much detail given beyond Price meaning affordability and Deliveries meaning reliability. I extend the list somewhat for my own criteria, and add further definitions as follows:

  • Price = Affordability + Payment Terms / Instalments + Value
  • Deliveries = Despatch + Delivery Options / Cost + Punctuality + Reliability + Alerts & Service + Click and Collect + Lockers
  • Ease of finding products = Search and Suggestion + Navigation + Paging / Browsing
  • Quality of Service = Ease of getting in touch + Responsiveness + Helpfulness + Continuity
  • Packaging = Quality + Minimalism + Returnability
  • Payment Options = Visa / Mastercard / Paypal + Guest Checkout + Rent / Lease / Outright Purchase / Finance
  • Recommendations = Alternatives + Substitutes + Customers Bought + Also Bought + Peripherals + Browse Category Top Sellers
  • Returns = Ease of return + Ready Labels + Packaging + Doorstep Pickup + Collect Plus
  • Detail = Completeness and Clarity of Information + Necessary Supporting Material - Media, Manuals etc.
  • Ease of Use = Seamless Journey + Responsive Design / Multiple Devices + Legibility + Clarity + Speed + Clickability


Which?s Top 10:

=1 : AO.com 87%

=1 : LizEarle.com 87%

..3 : Toolstation.com 85%

..4 : JohnLewis.com 84%

=5 : AllBeauty.com 83%

=5 : TheBodyShop.com 83%

=5 : Wiggle.co.uk 83%

=8 : Amazon.co.uk 82%

=8 : Ebuyer.com 82%

=8 : FragranceDirect.co.uk 82%

=8 : MacCosmetics.co.uk 82%

 


While I haven’t shopped from all of these, I have used several, and for the others I can apply a number of my criteria to the experience up to the final checkout / delivery and service phase.

 


AO

Really good site on desktop, missing crucial filtering options on mobile. Believe it could be improved with a better search including all key dimensions. So many times you are searching for appliances to fit a particular space - height, width and depth - would be nice to be able to easily search and filter on those criteria (rather than just width). Would also have liked full-screen pop-up images so you can properly see the details of each appliance. Contains a wealth of information otherwise with great customer reviews too - no doubt one of the best places to go hunting for appliances.


Liz Earle

An excellent health and beauty site, again like AO.com not responsive. Has a wealth of information including really neat descriptions of ingredients. Fonts are a little small, and the lack of responsive scaling somewhat impacts on usability, but otherwise a friendly and easy place to be. Slightly worryingly Liz Earle has suspended one of the products I use - ’Daily Eye Repair’ - supposedly in re-formulation currently whatever that means. Why was this item discontinued? And why was it removed before the replacement was ready? I have significant issues with health and beauty product manufacturers, particularly in haircare - removing products without explanation. Something I have bought and liked for many years suddenly just disappears - no explanation and no suggestion of replacement or alternative. I have lost count of the number of times this has happened. Strange that Liz Earle offers up no explanation onsite for why ’Daily Eye Repair’ has been suspended. On the /stock-status page there are 5 products listed which ’will return in the near future’ - but no explanation provided onsite as to why, there is a helpline number which makes it all appear rather ominous ...

 


Toolstation

Poor Search - first thing I enter ’Dremel’ yields 0 results - not even a suggestion of ’Rotary Tools’ / alternatives. Another non-responsive site. I get better and more results on Amazon for most of the categories I search on. Toolstation has a 1 hour click and collect promise and cool branch stock availability listing, but otherwise not particularly much going on. Seems to provide only the barest of information / detail - often missing essentials like full product dimensions.


John Lewis

One of the websites I have pretty much always loved - particularly on desktop. Great to search and browse, fantastic in stock details and product information, and pretty much great up until the delivery phase. Seems the delivery issue is more in the despatch than the delivery time. Many stores are guilty of saying ’delivery in x days’ but when you buy the product before lunchtime, it often does not get despatched until the following day or a day or two after that. Both my brother and I have experienced issues with John Lewis deliveries, they seem to be very slow to despatch for some reason and not wholly truthful in the availability of some of their larger appliances - which they often order in from abroad.


All Beauty

Decent discount beauty products / fragrances site - very easy to find products, but rather dubious ’Normally dispatched within 1 business day’ notes which does not inspire confidence - no stock listing which for me is a problem too. Seeing how many units are in stock is an essential clincher for me. I have too often fallen foul of stock not being available and having to wait an inordinate amount of time for them to finally show up. I love on Amazon how it tells you what time-frame you have to make your order to get it delivered at a specific point. All Beauty is nicely laid out with discounts clearly indicated, but it does not win me over on confidence with its lack of stock and accurate delivery information - I would be concerned about the timeliness of my delivery.


The Body Shop

I thought I was on the wrong site initially as The Body Shop logo on the site is not the familiar circular one which still graces its products. I also really dislike the category landing pages - why not top sellers and new additions within category rather than just a series of feature buttons? There are all manner of things wrong with stock and delivery information. Somehow this site does not inspire confidence. For me there seems a real disconnect between the online shop and the physical retail space - there is no continuity of branding at all - site comes off as rather generic and displaced.


Wiggle

This is another site I really love, have purchased from here numerous times and the experience is delightful. I love seeing ’10+ In stock, ready for despatch now’ legends on products - these totally inspire confidence and in the many scores of times I have ordered Wiggle has never let me down. Their packaging and returns policy is great too, and they include a sachet of Haribo sweets in most deliveries. For sports gear this is my go-to destination - as long as they have the product in stock which I am after. Definitely in the top 10 of my favourite online shops.


Amazon

The Granddaddy of Online Shops is still my most used retail resource by far. They are category leading in so many different departments, and the Prime membership is mostly worth it and mostly works. Of late I have been having some significant delivery issues with Amazon’s new delivery division ’Amazon Logistics’. My brother who lives in the countryside still gets to benefit from the vastly superior DPD delivery service, but we in the capital have to suffer an inferior service. We used to get mostly DPD deliveries which were always delivered in a timely fashion and with alerts and notifications telling you when to expect the courier and an easy means to re-schedule. Amazon Logistics is just pants in comparison - already this year I have had 6 or 7 deliveries arrive the day after they were announced being out for delivery. Amazon also has untimely delays in despatch where not everything goes out on schedule. For the most part nearly everything Amazon does they do it well, but deliveries are really damaging their reputation at the moment. Also packaging is sometimes too much - receiving a box within a box within a box on occasion - and it is not usually easily returnable. Other retailers have cleverer packaging which can be easily resealed and returned. Would be nice to also have a pre-printed returns slip just requiring signature and ticking of boxes - the Amazon returns process - printing off paper etc. could be hugely simplified in this way ...


Ebuyer

Not a site I am overly familiar with - a Computer Components Specialist which has branched out into more mainstream computing, electrical and electronic devices and accessories / peripherals. Has limited range beyond its specialism, but there are odd gems to be found on here if you search for them. I love seeing ’Order up to 11pm for next day delivery’ and ’Order within x hours for next day delivery’ legends. Has much smaller range than Amazon so not a proper challenger in most areas, but can offer some decent alternatives. Overall I still prefer Amazon for everything I searched for, Amazon seemed to have keener prices too.


Fragrance Direct

A competitor in many ways for All Beauty above, has better search and filters, more choice yet worse listing. For fragrances it is nice to be able to browse a list ordered by brand with all their products listed underneath as found on several other sites. I have ordered from this site before and rate the experience pretty good, although I don’t find the despatch and delivery information sufficiently obvious and overt. As a fragrance specialist the description details could be a lot better - cf Liz Earle ingredients or something like fragrantica.com


Mac Cosmetics

Most of the females in my extended family use Mac Cosmetics, so I am familiar with buying them both in-store and online. I find both the stores and the online experience to be somewhat cluttered in approach, and in particular I don’t like the specifier drill-down approach where options appear in skinny columns of navigation. Search works well, but as with many sites in this sector despatch and delivery information is somewhat scant. In direct contrast to Liz Earle, there is no detailed listing of ingredients either. There is no doubt that Mac has one of the widest and most complete ranges of make-up products, but the purchasing, checkout and delivery experiences can certainly be improved both online and in-store. For these tiny items some of the prices are extraordinarily high, and the packaging and overall experience does not necessarily justify them. In-store would definitely benefit from Apple-store-like hand-held EPOS consoles - to spare high-spending customers from the magnanimity of the long-winding and ramshackle queue to checkout - and yes Westfield branch - I am referring to you!

Stefan
Posted by Stefan
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