Waitrose’s new website launched earlier this month has received much criticism from users. What went wrong?

Having led the development of major websites at companies like RAC and Egg I know how much effort goes into a successful launch. Waitrose are rumoured to have spent £10 million pounds on their new website so they must be disappointed to say the least with the number of complaints on their Forum.

Some people don’t like change
Inevitably, there will be some people who don’t like change. In a real store, when products are moved to a different aisle there will always be some people who will be irritated if hey can’t find their cream crackers. However, Waitrose must have hoped that there would an equal or greater number of people who like the changes. This doesn’t appear to be the case, so what went wrong.

Is the new site working?
Waitrose will be disappointed with the number of complaints but the real question is whether these are just a vocal minority or whether the new site is failing to perform against business objectives.

I don’t work with Waitrose so clearly, I do not know what their specific web objectives are but given it’s a transactional site, converting web visitors and growing customer lifetime value must be important. Waitrose will already know from their web analytics whether the new site is performing as well as the old site. For Waitrose, I suspect they will be looking closely at:

  • what % of visitors start a transaction? Is it harder for people to buy?
  • what % of people who start a transaction complete a transaction? Is the shopping experience worse and will people get fed up and abandon the basket?
  • what’s the daily turnover? Is it going up or down?
  • what’s the average basket size? Are people giving up part way through?
  • customer feedback on the forum? What issues are people raising and can they be rectified quickly?

Graham Charlton’s article on Econsultancy highlights some of the problems on the Waitrose website including poor navigation, slow loading pages and changes to the shopping / product list.

Key learning for companies big and small

  • Before making changes, review website preformance against business objectives and identify what’s working and what isn’t
  • If possible, get customer / target prospect feedback? Use email or a web survey or a Facebook page
  • Develop a solution that builds on your strengths and eliminates key weaknesses
  • Test a concept with target users. This is key especially for navigation. It may work if you know the website and product range inside out (i.e. from an internal perspective) but be baffling to new users
  • Agree the key perfomance indicators that will help determine whether the new changes are performing better against business objectives
  • Measure performance, identify areas for further improvement, implement changes and measure again
  • If you get it wrong, apologise to customers, admit there are areas for improvement and tell them how and when things will get better
  • If in doubt, talk to a web marketing expert