Online toy retail rankings

Research from online specialist Brandbank has examined who is doing the best job of selling toys online. The new study has rated the top toy websites across a number of criteria from presentation to ease of use.
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Broadbank’s report finds that Amazon.co.uk, Early Learning Centre and Argos websites perform most highly, each providing a sophisticated purchasing environment. However, no toy retailer’s site was rated higher than 5.5 out of ten. The conclusion is that there is great scope for toy retailers to enhance product display and usability to improve the purchasing environment for consumers.

All retailers provide the basic elements of search boxes, allowing consumers to browse the website’s products, and zoom functionality, enabling customers to zoom into product images.

The sites also score highly on making it as easy as possible for consumers to complete their purchase. Ease of purchase is measured by analysing the purchasing process. Features such as visibility and availability of ‘buy now’ buttons and the number of stages in the purchasing process were used as measurement criteria, as was the overall usability for the customer, of the checkout system.

However, there are many other basic elements which vary significantly between retailers.

Product images are one major area where some retailers could improve. The higher ranking retailers included multiple, high resolution product images, often demonstrating the product in a lifestyle setting. However, other websites fell down in this area, showing only one, often low res, product image.

There is also a clear opportunity for toy retailers to make use of more advanced, rich media features such as quick-view boxes, video and 360-degree image rotation. On the most part, these features weren’t utilised despite their ability to improve the purchasing experience.

Rated on all retail criteria, Amazon emerged as the leading website for providing the most sophisticated purchasing experience for customers. Early Learning Centre and Toys R Us also rated highly for helping consumers to make informed purchasing decisions. Toymaster and WHSmith’s visual product displays were less advanced.

Overall website rankings

1. Amazon
2. Early Learning Centre
3. Argos
4. Toys R Us
5. The Toy Shop
6. John Lewis
7. Hamleys
8. Tesco Direct
9. Smyths Toys
10. Play.com
11. WH Smith
12. Toymaster

Quick view functionality allows customers to gain instant access to additional product information by hovering their mouse over the product and seeing a mini-window, showing alternative images, product reviews and additional information, all without leaving the browsing page. This is an alternative to putting shoppers through the inconvenience of navigating to an individual product page and then having to click the back button to return to their search list.

The retailers were also ranked by the number of images featured per product and the quality and size of those images. The availability of multiple images is important as it allows customers to see a product from different angles and in different settings, significantly impacting sales. Previous Brandbank research found that almost one third (30 per cent) of customers have abandoned an online purchase because there was only one product image available.

Amazon.co.uk, Thetoyshop.com (The Entertainer’s site) and Tesco Direct all provide multiple, good quality images of all their products from different angles. Retailers such as WHSmith and John Lewis provide some additional images for certain products, but often this is just an enlargement of the initial thumbnail. Argos is the only website which doesn’t include multiple images for any of the products analysed.

All websites studied allow customers to zoom, to some degree, on most of their product images.

The websites’ zoom functionality was rated by how easy it was for consumers to zoom into a product, the scale of zoom, whether zoom was available for multiple images and the quality of the zoomed image.

Early Learning Centre received a top score of 9.5 out of ten for its zoom box function which allows customers to hover a zoom-box over the product image and the enlarged area appears in an accompanying screen. Unlike with other websites, this means the customer does not have to wait for a new page to load or a new window to open when they zoom in to a product. John Lewis, Amazon.co.uk and Toys R Us also have multiple enlarged images for more of their products.

High resolution imagery is vital in allowing customers to make an informative purchasing decision and image quality has been shown to influence the likelihood of purchase of a product. According to additional Brandbank research, more than half (58 per cent) of onsumers have abandoned an online purchase because of low quality images.

John Lewis, Amazon.co.uk, Toys R Us and Early Learning Centre all supply multiple, high resolution images. The analysis found that Argos, WHSmith and Toymaster all use images of a lower quality which are more grainy and less clear.

Most of the toy retailers supply some form of additional ‘off-pack’ textual information.

Amazon was most rated highest for its comprehensive inclusion of customer product reviews and star-ratings system, which allows customers to look beyond the normal marketing information to gain real opinion on the product.

Amazon also includes information on special offers on the products selected, comprehensive technical details, the manufacturer’s description, as well as the websites’ own product description, other items which customers might like or which customers have bought along with the product and a section of tagged words which have been applied to the product. Many products also come with numerous, detailed customer reviews.

The site also allows customers to rate reviews, meaning that the best rated and most helpful reviews are easily selectable. 

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