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As it's one of Australia’s most successful grocery retailers, you may expect Woolworths to have an excellent e-commerce site.
In other markets major retail brands such as Tesco and Walmart have proven that online shoppers are integral for continued sales growth in the digital age.
But for reasons unknown, Woolworth’s doesn’t seem to have kept its site up-to-date.
To highlight some of the more obvious usability issues, we asked WhatUsersDo to run several user tests using its Australian panel.
Here are some of the findings, as well as my own observations...
The testers were generally impressed with the homepage, as they liked the colourful design and found it easy to navigate.
One of the users suggested that it is too cluttered, but even she found it easy to find what she was looking for and went straight to the ‘Shop Online’ tab.
In my opinion, Woolworths uses a rather complicated layout for its product categories.
First of all, rather than ‘Browse Products’ or ‘Browse Categories’ it uses the term ‘Browse Aisles’, which doesn’t really make sense online.
Also, it has two separate product lists, both alphabetised, with each containing different options.
The top list appears to contain the most popular products, but that isn’t made clear and understandably it confused one of the testers.
In fact, ASOS managed to halve its abandonment rate by removing any mention of registration for new customers, even though it still asks for an email address and password during the checkout process.
Woolworths has one of the worst registration processes I’ve ever come across – it forces you to create an account before you can even place an item into your basket.
All the users found this a frustrating experience, as highlighted in this video.
Problems with registration
All the users involved in the test were frustrated by the registration process as it flags up error messages for all the fields the moment you land on the page, so before you’ve even had a chance to enter anything in the text fields.
As this video shows, the instructions for the password criteria appear as a pop-up after the customer has filled in the first text field.
This is confusing, as it appears even if the user has met the password criteria (at least six characters and one number) so appears to be telling the customer that they have entered it incorrectly.
Adding items to the basket
Once you’ve registered an account, adding item to the basket is a relatively straightforward process, and prices are even broken down into cost per 100ml or per kilo so shoppers can compare prices properly.
It also flags up the delivery cost of $13 upfront, which is useful information for customers to know as hiding the delivery costs until late in the buying process is another common cause of basket abandonment.
However the product pages themselves offer you no additional information beyond the name of the product and the cost.
This a bizarre decision by Woolworths, as not only does it miss out on upselling products it fails to provide even the most basic information that customers need to make a purchase decision.
For example, how long is the cable for these headphones? What devices are they compatible with? Do they come with a case?
If you compare Woolworth’s product pages to the likes of Tesco, then the difference is staggering.
After I finished my shopping I navigated through to the checkout, only to be told that the minimum order is $30. Woolworths couldn’t have made that clear before?
So, after adding more items to my basket I went back to the checkout. Overall it provides a decent summary of the items, including images, and reveals that delivery is free.
Free delivery is a great selling point for online retailers and Woolworths should highlight it to shoppers earlier in the buying process.
There are only three short stages in the checkout process, but actually this is due to the fact that shoppers are forced to register at the very beginning of their visit.
Furthermore, Woolworths doesn’t provide any reassurances that it’s a secure checkout process or accept alternative payment methods. These are useful ways of making sure consumers who are concerned about online security aren’t put off making a purchase.
The user testing flagged up some major usability problems with Woolworths’ ecommerce site, many of which are fairly basic errors.
I feel that the product options are too difficult to navigate and there’s not even the most basic product information required to make an informed purchase decision.
However the main problem is definitely the forced registration process, which interrupts the user journey and was a point of frustration for all of the WhatUsersDo testers.
At least two of them said they would abandon the site and shop elsewhere if shopping in real life.
At the moment Woolworths may be able to rely on its brand name to attract online shoppers, but unless it does something to improve the user experience then it will begin to fall behind its competitors in ecommerce.