Online Retail Review – Big W

Customer Service

Big W home page

Online Retail Rating 7/10

Good for creating an accessible, helpful and easy to navigate site.

Bad for full range of Big W products found in retail outlets and product reviews.

The Big W chain of retail outlets was founded in the 1970s and is a division of Wooworths Limited.  They have over 160 retail stores around the country making Big W one of the largest discount department stores alongside Kmart and Target.

Price and stocking a large range of brands is their stated point of difference and they guarantee to match a lower price advertised by their competitors.

The first thing you notice on the home page is the large rotating graphic taking up half the real estate of the page above the fold.  Like walking into a Big W retail store, it is visually busy home page with a lot of graphics and if new to the site it can take a moment or two to take it all in.

However, it is a clean looking site in terms of layout with a white cloud background and clearly marked sections.  It could be even cleaner if they had kept the colour choices for the site to a maximum of 3-4 – I counted 9 different colours for headline or highlighted text, although some are of a similiar tone so for the most part it doesn’t seem too jarring.

The main departments are listed across the top of the page below a big search box and checkout status.

The search box is clearly displayed in the middle of the header which is great, especially for a site with a large product range like Big W.  There is also a prominant ‘Contact us’ link on the top right that states ‘We’re here to answer your questions’.  There has clearly been considerable thought put into making the site accessible, one way this is obvious is through the use of language across the site that is friendly and inviting.

I visited the electronics area within the online shop and found a slightly altered navigation setup with detailed listings down the left including filters like price and the ability to shop by brand. There is also an advice section which contains useful tips mainly for those not used to online shopping. It’s a nice touch and answers basic questions like whether you have to have an acocunt to buy online and the minimum age for opening an account. Those that don’t need it will ignore it and those that do will be glad of the help.

The individual product pages have a clean, crisp layout that makes it easy to find relevant information.  Delivery is calculated for each item and this is done by entering your postcode on the product page.  I wondered how this worked when you buy more than one product but I saw a clear explanation when I clicked on delivery.

Each product page has tabs for specifications, reviews and delivery. At the bottom of the page they ask visitors to help with any errors if they spot a mistake. Again friendly language makes the site seem helpful and not as impersonal as shopping at a large department store can be.  The product I looked at didn’t have any reviews and this is something that maybe worth encouraging (perhaps offering a prize to a random reviewer each month?) as having a tab for reviews and then no reviews feels a bit hollow (are other people not buying the product? is there something wrong with it?).

There was only 2 photos for the item I viewed – a digital camera – the front and top. Not sure why they wouldn’t include a back photo as well?

I also checked out the Digital Camcorder section and noticed that they have a buying guide and definition of common camcorder jargon which is a nice touch as buying electronics be a daunting prospect filled with acronyms and detail overload. It doesn’t replace talking to a camcorder specialist but it does create trust (creates feeling Big W know their stuff when it comes to camcorders) and demonstrates thoughtfulness and a positive feeling towards the site for providing helpful resource for the visitor.

For those not registered with the site, checkout is a 3 step process with a 4th step as the confirmation page.  This is OK and probably a trade off between presenting a long form and risking higher cart abandonment rate vs shorter forms on each page that at least capture contact details (name, phone and email) on the first page so follow up can be done if the cart is abandoned during the next 2 steps.
This information isn’t clearly displayed on the home page above the fold.  There is detailed information available if you scroll to the bottom but it would probably be a good idea to at least have a link to a pop up in the header which explains how shipping works.

Helpful Info
While there is no customer chat which is surprising for a company the size of Big W that employs over 17,000 people around Australia (couldn’t spare a couple of extras to staff a customer chat line?), they do provide a detailed help centre and Big W information section, including information on store locations and opening hours and other services they offer.

Compared to their two largest competitors, Kmart and Target, the Big W site is vastly superior not only in terms of range but also ease of use and accessibility.  They could improve the site by adding a link in header to shipping info, more photos, including a live chat option and encouraging more reviews from customers.

In the longer term, adding more categories would strengthen the site further and create a destination site like Amazon.  Amazon has become so good at what they do that they are often a first choice site for purchasing pretty much anything.  Also Amazon’s large product range, detailed product information and extensive reviews create a sizeable barrier to entry for competitors.

Big W have laid the foundations to become the Australian equivalent of Amazon and have an advantage over Amazon in that they already stock and warehouse a large number of products for the existing Big W retail outlets.  Amazon’s reliance on third party suppliers to ship and supply products can make for a frustrating shopping experience with staggered delivery times for products coming from different suppliers.

Name: Big W

URL: www.bigw.com.au

Offline:  164 retail stores

What they sell online: electronic, baby, beauty & health, home & garden, entertainment, toys, sports & leisure.

Who’s in charge: Julie Coates, Director