Will adding new features to your website deliver the benefits you want, or will it just annoy your customers?

November 24, 2013

I’ve been a Waitrose grocery customer for many years, taking advantage of their free delivery when ordering online. In terms of quality and prices, they have always been good at keeping up with their competitors. The only thing I’ve always thought they lagged behind with was the flexibility in their choice of delivery booking slots. Last month, when they announced that the website would be offline for an hour while they make improvements, I was hoping that they were going to address this. After all, it’s something which I have suggested to them in all of their customer satisfaction surveys.

When I visited the new website I found a subtly different but slick-looking design, which promised many improvements. The website features hover menus and mouseover events meaning that buttons only appear when hovering over items. It’s a great way to stop the page from becoming cluttered with too many buttons and controls. However, when using a tablet computer, there is no concept of hovering, so the only way to find these buttons is by pressing around on the screen. It’s difficult to believe that Waitrose could have made this mistake if they had designed the site with mobile devices in mind. Am I the only person who likes to do the shopping in my iPad? I think not! Many other retailers get around this problem by having mobile apps which deliver the features of their main website in a mobile-friendly way, but Waitrose has no such app.

Without addressing many of the problems of the old site, Waitrose have introduced some new features which are obviously intended to boost sales. There is a new cross-selling feature that has to be navigated through in order to complete a shopping order. The old website gave a warning if the customer was missing out on a special offer, so I wasn’t surprised to see this screen:


After clicking the Next Step button, I was presented with another, similar looking screen:


I suppose a helpful reminder might be useful if I had forgotten something that I usually buy.  The strange thing is, the items that were suggested are things that I buy perhaps once a month or even less frequently, so I am not sure they have accurately identified what is meant by ‘you usually buy these’.  Anyway, I click the ‘Finished here. Next step’ button only to be shown yet another cross-selling attempt:


This time they are telling me about random offers that they must think I might be interested in. I have to click another button in order to continue with placing my order.

I do not have a problem with Waitrose trying to cross-sell a few extra items, after all they are a retail business and the purpose of their website is to sell. What I really think is annoying to Waitrose customers is that they have to click through three additional and unnecessary steps to complete their order. These new features do not need to have their own separate screens, they could all be shown at once. Or, even better, Waitrose should have strategically placed the cross-selling features in other carefully considered places throughout the website.

What can we learn from this?

Although you might sell a few extra items through cross-selling, it’s more important that the ordering process is quick and easy for your customers to use. This is especially important if you have repeat customers because it will annoy them every time they shop with you. Whenever you make changes to your website, think about the effect this will have on your returning customers – will they have to re-learn how to use the website? Could this be enough to make them go somewhere else?

Even if your efforts are focussed more towards attracting new customers, when you add new features to your website think about whether it will interfere with the usability of your website.