The race for first place on the Usability Index among Merchandiser sites is fierce. You have Internet Retailers going up against Specialty, General, and Apparel sites. Given this competition, you would think one of the Internet Retailers would be a shoo-in for the top spot since the web is their native home. But you would be wrong. Specialty Retailers beat out the rest of the pack, leaving the Internet Retailers in the dust.

HomeDepot.com places first in the Merchandiser segment, but it is hardly a landslide win. The site is followed closely by Lowes.com and BestBuy.com, with a margin of less than 1% spanning the three. This means one misstep from HomeDepot.com could easily land it in third place.

But what does HomeDepot.com do that makes it the winner – and what should it do to hold onto the leadership position?

Home Depot

HomeDepot.com’s most important strength is its ecommerce engine.

The site shares the ecommerce lead with BestBuy.com, which makes its first-place position in future evaluations questionable. That said, HomeDepot.com has some best practices that will keep it at the top of the roster.

First, the site’s purchasing process is very logical and easy to understand and navigate. This is no small feat considering the number of products the site sells and the multitude of ways visitors can get their products.

Second, HomeDepot.com’s minimalist design makes information easy to see and read. Its page layouts use abundant amounts of white space to separate the content from the imagery, which makes information easy to spy.

But HomeDepot.com has corporate marketing covered too.

The main reason for HomeDepot.com’s success is its wealth of corporate marketing content. Unlike most retailers that focus solely on making sales, HomeDepot.com also uses its online presence to support employees, inform investors, and spread news to the masses. And it’s not just lip service. The HomeDepot.com team puts as much attention into crafting these areas as it puts into its eselling processes.

You may think, “Retail websites are eselling venues, so how important can corporate marketing be?” The answer is – very.

Our evaluations show that over 50% of retail websites provide corporate information, such as company overviews, recruiting facilities, and investor relations information. This presence doesn’t just make corporate-class content a good idea but a competitive requirement.

Admittedly, this information is tangential to the primary objectives of these websites. However, the parent companies have employees, investors, and members of the press that need these types of information. So, if your retail website is missing this content, it’s leaving groups of people that are crucial to the company’s success behind.

If your retail site has poor (or no) corporate marketing, then adding this information should be moved up on your to-do list, and HomeDepot.com should be the first retail site you visit for inspiration.

The bottom line

While HomeDepot.com garners a first-place ranking in ecommerce, it’s overall win comes thanks to its strong corporate marketing footprint.

But corporate marketing doesn’t pay the bills. To solidify HomeDepot.com’s place at the top of the podium, the HomeDepot.com team needs to improve the site’s product marketing – and increasing contact information beyond chat would be a great place to start.

But what about buying?

The fact is the bulk of retail website visitors are there to make purchases, not learn about the company. So, what if we focus on the functions that are the most important to buyers – navigation, product marketing, and the purchasing process? Who gets the gold?

BestBuy.com

When corporate marketing is taken out of the equation, the winner is BestBuy.com. And this is no fluke. BestBuy.com shares first place with HomeDepot.com in the eCommerce category and wins in Product Marketing (albeit by a hair).

The site has the best product marketing

BestBuy.com may come in first in Product Marketing – but Lowes.com isn’t far behind. Both sites display an impressive selection of products effectively, and the entry into the purchasing process is straightforward.

Take one dive into BestBuy.com’s wealth of product marketing information, however, and it is easy to see why it wins. Not only does the site provide its own content, such as an Overview and Specifications, but it includes a full suite of marketing content from the manufacturer.

Visitors can also drop the product in a cart to begin the purchasing process. Those that need more handholding can simply click on the “Help” tab from anywhere on the page – which is more than just chat. You can check out information about store pickup, same-day delivery, and check your order status.

It’s no slouch in the ecommerce department either.

Admittedly, HomeDepot.com’s ecommerce system is more stylish than BestBuy.com’s. That said, BestBuy.com’s wealth of product marketing information bests HomeDepot.com.

BestBuy.com’s “Help” tab that tracks the visitor down the page also provides more value for those that have questions before they buy.

The bottom line.

BestBuy.com may not have the prettiest purchasing process, but does provide the whole package when it comes to buying products.

The site delivers product information and ecommerce features when it counts. Its wins in the product marketing and ecommerce categories show that BestBuy.com has the whole process down – from research to putting down the credit card.

Honorable Mentions

There are two other areas that are crucial to online purchasing, but rarely gets much attention – website navigation and search. Here, AdvanceAutoPart.com takes the win in Navigation & Architecture by 0.1% over AutoZone.com and shares the first-place ranking with Lowes.com in Search Features & Facilities.

Although AdvancedAutoParts.com’s navigation panel and home page selections are only by product category, the navigation mega-menus are surprisingly comprehensive.

Its search engine, on the other hand, allows visitors to input their car specs before and after the search, provides an image of the product, indicates if the product is available at a nearby store, and if it is available for online purchase.

If improving your navigation structure and search engine is on your agenda, then AdvancedAutoParts.com should be on your watchlist.

About the siteIQ Usability Index

siteIQ evaluated the 32 Merchansider Websites listed on the 2020 siteIQ Usability Index. These Websites are categorized into four industry-specific segments including:

  • Specialty Retailers (AutoZone.com, BedBathandBeyond.com, BestBuy.com, DicksSportingGoods.com, DollarTree.com, GameStop.com, HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com, OfficeDepot.com, OReillyAuto.com, Shop.AdvanceAutoParts.com, TractorSupply.com, Ulta.com)
  • General Merchandisers (Costco.com, Dillards.com, JCPenney.com, Kohls.com, Sears.com, Target.com, Walmart.com)
  • Apparel (Burlington.com, FootLocker.com, Gap.com, Macys.com, RossStores.com, Shop.Nordstrom.com, TJMaxx.TJX.com)
  • Internet Retailing (Amazon.com, eBay.com, Etsy.com, Overstock.com, Poshmark.com, Shopping.Google.com)

These in-depth evaluations were conducted using the 2020 edition of the siteIQ Usability Index Best Practices Benchmark, which tracks results in 11 sub-categories and 16 Usability Dimensions.

The 2020 evaluations were performed during the first quarter of 2020.

Category: Index Rankings

Class: Website Reviews and Rankings

Websites Profiled: siteIQ Usability Index Websites – Finance Industry

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