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May 1, 2015

Opinions of a savvy shopper

Where I like to shop online and why . . .

In this post I am going to talk about four eCommerce websites that I regularly use and their strengths. Im also going to share some insights into how I shop on these sites and navigate myself around. I could have easily talked about websites that I admire purely from a design point of view but beautifully designed websites don’t necessarily work well when it comes to selling products.

So I have decided to talk about sites that have worked their magic on me; a savvy user when it comes to being sold to.


ASOS for me is the best example of a fashion eCommerce store out there. ASOS clearly have a large eCommerce team who have been perfecting the site in a serious way for at least 6 years and they have a dedicated and loyal audience as a result.

I’m completely addicted to it and I suspect that I’m not the only one.

Not only does the site have great UX it’s also extremely habit forming and employs closed loop marketing extremely well.

I’ve just mentioned three things there that Im sure will peak interest. The ASOS site has all three working together, the closed loop marketing and UX (or user experience) both coerce you into forming a habit of how and when you use the site, making repeat business more likely.


Once a month ASOS attentively reminds me of their existence through their email marketing, always fairly near the end / start of the month, which is handy because that’s pretty much when I’ve been paid.

So once a month I end up doing a dream shop where I add a bunch of stuff to my wish list and then leave it to see what gets reduced or sells out. At the same time I’m reminded of the last set of products I added to my wish list, the items that I added last month I will now be reminded of and see that they have been reduced in price. The chances are I’m going to find a bargain that I just can’t refuse.

Even if I don’t buy anything at this point ASOS then stalks me with the items I’ve been looking at, reminding me that I might need that new dress (even when i’m on Facebook!). This is the closed loop part, the experience doesn’t end when I leave the site.

Because the user experience on ASOS is good, I have developed a strong habit of how I use it. I’m quite happy to tend my wish list at least twice a month. Combine this with their constant promotions and reductions, there is always going to be the temptation of a bargain. Not to mention the 10% off coupon code they just sent me for my birthday.


Society6 isn’t your bog standard eCommerce store, it allows artists and designers to upload their artwork, which is then sold as prints on a range of products. There are a few stores like this about and on many of them you will see the same artists uploading their work. But what makes Society6 stand out for me is the product images.


Each product image is created when the artwork is uploaded to the site by the artist from their seller account. Unlike other sites where the artwork has obviously been superimposed, on Society6 it looks like each print has been photographed separately. This is a really nice bit of functionality and makes a massive difference to the perception of quality on the site, which in turn increases buyer confidence. Backing this up with an actual quality product will then be crucial! Having purchased a rather fetching Bill Murray cushion myself, I can vouch for the quality of the products.

The site on a whole handles crosssells very well and also has the functionality for each artist to have their own profile where customers can browse all of their prints.

The design is understated and allows the images to do the talking.

Even with everything they have going on, the site is clean and easy to navigate. This is due to a well thought out user journey. They have considered at what point you would want to discover certain information rather than trying to cram everything in all at once.

Again Society6 are very good with their newsletters and stalker advertising, ensuring that you don’t forget them once you leave their site.

The Whisky Exchange

Twice a year I need to buy my dad a present and if you haven’t already guessed my Dad likes whisky. Due to living overseas for the last five years i’ve had to buy my presents online and twice a year I’ve always come back to this The Whisky Exchange site for my Dad’s present.

I know absolutely zip about Whisky apart from the fact that Scotch is the popular one and the older the better.


So I start my browsing with a budget in mind and the determination to get the best deal for my money. This is where a good category structure and product filtering are important. First of all I choose a part of the world to buy whisky from, this decision can be based on knowledge or just the romance of the location. No need to be an expert in whisky, this is a user friendly navigation. Once I hit the catalogue page I can start filtering; I filter by price range and then by vintage. This allows me to easily see the oldest vintage I can get for my money and then choose a bottle based on the best looking label – lovely!

Fast shopping (especially around Christmas) when I have multiple presents to order is important. As well as being easy to browse, the site also allows me to deliver to a separate address and add a gift card with a personalised message all from the one step checkout. Finally, once I’ve placed my order I know it’s going to be delivered fast (within three days) at no extra cost and I will receive email updates for each stage of the delivery process.

First impressions really do count!

Because I had such a great first experience with this store i’ve never looked elsewhere.

E Spares

E Spares is not an attractive site, it’s busy, has lots of categories and it adds tax at the cart, which is annoying. However what isn’t annoying is the fact that I managed to get all the replacement parts I needed for my coffee machine, which had been in storage and manage to lose all its extra parts.

This isn’t a site for browsing, it’s a site for searching.

Customers who come to this site are in general going to know exactly what they are looking for and I imagine they will go straight for that nice big yellow search bar (as I did) looking for their specific part.

What’s even better is that once you think you’ve found what you’re looking for and are on a product page you can enter your brand and model to make sure the part is the right one. I was about to abandon my search as I was doubtful I had selected the right product, until I saw the words ‘Will this part fit my appliance?’ – next thing you know I’ve spent ¬£40.


Again, email marketing from these guys got me back and looking for spares ‘I might need’ after they sent me a 25% off voucher.

This website is a great example of a site that doesn’t have overly great design, but still employs plenty of calls to action and functionality in order to convert its traffic into sales. Spare parts aren’t high end products, if you went into a physical store that sold spare parts you would expect it to be more like a Pound shop than the Apple store, the same applies for websites.

In conclusion, there are a few main elements that are important for an eCommerce store to be successful:

  • Good product images
  • Stock that people want to buy
  • A design that reflects what’s being sold and its target market
  • A considered user journey
  • A good first experience
  • Email marketing after the customer has left the site
  • Possible stalker advertising

Not all eCommerce stores are the same and it’s important to think about your target market and their user journey before then comparing this to your direct competition to see what approach works for them.