Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lululemon's Website Issues

Many of us were surprised to read Christine Day's comment regarding the website, primarily that Lululemon wants to focus on improving the creative and social side of the website rather than the technical aspects. I think this focus is wrong and many of you feel the same way.

A lot of you had great comments regarding Lululemon's website and I think it's worthy of a top level post in the hopes that some one from Lululemon will read it and address the issues which range from problems with ordering, bad organization making it time-consuming to search for the product you want, wrong photos, wrong prices, badly posed photos so that you can't tell the detail of the clothes, and poorly modeled clothes that don't entice you to buy. The Lululemon website experience is poorly designed and a notable contrast to the top-quality in-store experience Lululemon offers.

Two of Lululemon's competitors, Lucy and Athleta, have very good, professional, user-friendly websites. Granted they both started as internet stores and then branched out into brick and mortar. However, what is interesting to me, and I didn't even realize it until I did some googling, is how much smaller their sales are compared to Lululemon's. Lululemon has annual sales of over $500 million. Athleta has sales of around $30 million and Lucy's is $60 million. I know Athleta and Lucy are now owned by very large companies but before they were bought their websites were superior to Lululemon's. Even Zohba, a tiny yoga-wear company, has much more professional product photos and a better organized website. Lululemon's web sales are already at 6.6% of their annual sales making it equivalent to Athleta's so there is really no excuse for them to ignore their website.

Here were two really good comments regarding the website experience:
  • They said so themselves right here in the [quarterly] report that their customer wants the Lululemon experience- why are they not giving it to them online?
  • The website is the worst - by far - of any etail site I visit. Like a first-pass bad student project. Items are not grouped correctly (5 colors of power y tanks here, 1 or 2 more over there), the feature photo is often of a color that is not even available in any size, non-loot stuff in loot, mispricing, etc, etc, etc. Not to mention that they don't have real-time stock availability (you can't breathe easy until you get that shipped notification, especially on loot items). Plus, I pay via paypal and I've had it happen that if I buy a bunch of loot items and ONE item turns out to be out of stock guess what - my WHOLE order is cancelled. And then guess what, I can't reorder the other items because they sold out quickly. This has happened to me more than once (lulu insists it is paypal's fault - i highly doubt it as this never has happened to me anywhere other than lulu). And the website is SLOOOOOOOW.
I don't understand the obsession with social media at Lululemon.  Facebook and Twitter can be useful to drive sales to the website but having a poor shopping experience once there will inhibit sales. I wonder exactly what improvements Lululemon needs to make to it's Facebook/Twitter pages. Other than having the educators chime in now and then or upload a photo or some dull blog article about bhags or some such, what more can you do? Come up with a Lululemon Facebook game like Mob Wars and hope it goes viral? Day's statement sounds impressive until you think about it, then you realize it's a zero cost "improvement". Upgrading the website would would actually take man-hours and cost money.

The Lululemon Facebook community is at 127,000+ people (and 128 of their stores/showrooms) so they've gathered an impressive number of people but they don't even use Facebook to it's full potential to promote the products. The main site is used primarily by Lululemon fans to chat amongst themselves, bring up issues with products or ordering. When they do the weekly upload they rely on users to notice and post it. They never post a notice themselves "upload happening" or "new loot". They also don't post a complete set of photos or a list of everything that has been uploaded. Sometimes I am looking for something small like a hairband in a certain color. Other yoga-brand sites I am a Facebook fan of (Zohba, for one) do a much better job at announcing their specials and new products.

The stores do an even poorer job at posting their new shipments on Facebook. The Product Alert emails are good but often don't capture everything they've received since the last PA. This is a good area where Facebook could be used to fill in and generate traffic to the local stores. I subscribe to over 70 Lululemon stores and only a handful are very diligent about posting new items. One pet peeve that should be addressed is that when stores post photos of their educators modeling items they should take care to try and put a well-coordinated outfit together. Mismatched colors and styles don't help sell the clothes. Moreover, make sure an item fits well. For instance, the Seek the Peak Jacket was often modeled in too big a size making it look boxy and unattractive in 98% of the photos I saw it in when it's actually very flattering in the right size. I also saw white jackets modeled with white pants, creating a hazmat suit look. Not good for creating sales.

Issues with the website:
  • Poor quality photos - item doesn't look attractive on the model, or model is at a bad angel which doesn't show meaningful product detail. In addition to angled shot, please add a full-on or nearly full-on backside shot of the pants. Women want to know how their rear will look in the pants. We can't tell that at a 45-degree angle. Also, why doesn't Lululemon use professional fitness models and photographers? I think Lululemon thinks they are quirky by using employees but it comes across as cheap and unprofessional.
  • Wrong photo used for the item - happens many, many, MANY times. Where's the quality control?
  • Poor organization of items makes it hard to find the color and style you are looking for. Instead of one Scoop Neck photo that clicks through to all the color choices there are multiple Scoop Neck photos that click through to a subset of the color choices. And, they are scattered around the tank page. The Search feature is not always comprehensive so you can't rely on that.
  • Lack of meaningful product information. People have been screaming for inseam numbers on shorts, particularly the very short shorts, for quite awhile now. What's the problem?
  •  Anything else?


    Anonymous said...

    Another issue: when you order tanks online, they almost always come without cup inserts. 3 or 4 times, I have had to contact the company to have cup inserts mailed to me - more costly for them, so I don't get why they do that? I contacted them about it and they said they have gotten this feedback before - but so far, no change!

    Zanna said...

    I agree about the lack of product information. All tanks should have proper measurements especially the length. Bags also. Most of the times for bags, the images on the web site make them look that they are a certain size but in real life, its actually huge. In fact, for bags they should have it modelled on someone so that we can actually see the actual size in comparison with someone. Pants, crops, shorts should have their inseam size.

    It also bothers me when the tanks are not grouped.

    There are so many other weaknesses of the web site, it will be a whole long list. I have never seen a company as big as Lulu have a sloppy web site that they have right now. And one of the main problem is that they should link their inventory system with the web site.

    pilatesmom said...

    I have received email surveys on website quality from several etailers that I frequent - most relevant in this case from Athleta - asking what I like/what works about the site and feedback on potential improvements/features (how useful would I find them point by point). Lululemon should do such a consumer survey to guide their web redesign (and it does need a total redesign).

    Oh, and don't catch their own mistakes - they wait until someone on facebook points out a mistake, such as a non-loot item appearing in loot, and then they comment "thanks for pointing that out, we'll work to correct it." Not very on the ball.

    One HUGE website kudos: free shipping. That really rocks (also results in A LOT more purchasing).

    By contrast the instore experience is beautifully merchandised and organized and the atmosphere is always great. I "drag" my kids with me and last week my 10 year old said when we left that she loves "the way the store feels."

    momof5 said...

    Personally, I like when websites like anthro, jcrew and athleta show the clothes in real photos -- not model shots -- plus I like to see the coordinating pieces that go with them -- other sites have side boxes with -- You might also like or whatever next to it -- We should not have to go trolling on the various lulu facebook sites to see how an outfit coordinates with other pieces -- for example -- I am not a fan on the run energy with the writing -- but it looks so cute with the foxy plaid skirt -- i would never have considered that if I didn't se it as an outfit -- I think they would generate a lot more sales. This is irritating especially when often on the current site they show an item that is not even available on the site with the model picture -like a tank shown with pants that are not for sale yet-- annoying! Then often when the other item is finally available -- the first item is sold out!

    Definitely include the cups with the online orders -- how easy would it be to include a check box similar to the Bag me box they have now -- Bag Me, Cup Me -- yes please. The GEC is so random with actually sending out the cups that it is annoying --besides for 52 bucks -- I want my cups!

    Inseams and bag size -- NEED TO HAVE!

    KEEP FREE SHIPPING - I buy so much more knowing that I do not have to ay for shipping - and am more inclined to pick up something instead of waiting and risk sell out because of this --which I am sure generates more sales!

    Also -- how about a preferred customer reward card or plan -- most sites have these for preferred customers -- finishline gives you 20 gift card for every 250 spent -- jcrew sends out free gifts to select customers, other stores offer percentage off discounts -- How awesome would it be to be rewarded for our continued support!

    houndlvr67 said...

    I am most surprised at how long it actually takes them to make changes to their site-like one line of description for inseam length... Not very "agile". Rather embarrassing I would say.

    I think a lot of their lack of putting coordinating pieces together on the site (or offering that option) has to do with their supply chain or the "scarcity model". Buy one piece, the coordinating item hasn't been released yet, and you will keep going back to the store/site to check for the matching item.

    Much of Lulu's sales success is thanks to head games-pure and simple. The "scarcity model", the "free" yoga and hemming, the manifesto (which was written, in part by a marketing firm). I could go on.

    LuluAddict said...

    The cup thing is funny. Tanks like the Power Y always have the cups in them in the stores, yet luxtreme tanks like the Swift and Push UR Limits never do. You have to ask for them. It seems backwards because the luxtreme shows every detail of your nipples even when you are not cold & especially in the light colors. I agree a checkbox should be added but for the price we pay they should be always included and you have to opt out.

    Is it true that if you go to a class at the store, you get a coupon for something like 15% off? I've never gone because the stores are 15 miles away and my gym us less than a mile. However, it sounds like they may reward regular event attendees with free stuff like the woman from the Superficial Endeavors blog who has twice gotten free run shirts for being a run club regular.

    lulu said...

    Another way that LULU is lagging is the lack of any kind of affiliate program. You mentioned Lucy and Athleta. Both have an active and well managed affiliate program making it possible to sell their items, without having to buy the items. As an active affiliate marketer, it would be great to see LULU have their own affiliate program.

    Yoga Clothes

    momof5 said...

    @luluaddict ==if they reward B&M customers than they should definitely reward etail --especially if this is an area they are trying to grow-- I am 60 miles from the nearest store -- and rely solely on internet -- with an occasional trip if I can -- My dollars are just as green!! I should see some rewards as well!!

    Lulu IT girl said...

    Did you guys every noticed that when the crops/pants/shorts is low rise, mid rise or high rise, the model always has the rise at the SAME spot. I can't tell from the photo. And I don't trust their description. I always have to go to the store to make sure of the rise. I wish they would give the inseam and rise for each item.

    pilatesmom said...

    @luluitgirl: totally agree about the rise pictures. low/mid/higher rise all hit the models at the same height. i have to try them on myself or rely on descriptions from consumer sources like this blog or FB

    Anonymous said...

    I've been to their Sunday yoga class and they do not give 15% discount - at least not at the store I went to. I think the Superficial Endeavors woman is really lucky that she lives by a store that gives her free stuff to test out - did you see in addition to the shirts, she has also receives free socks and headbands from them. Her boyfriend also gets free stuff for his birthday??? Pull up challenge?? Gosh I wish my store would do that! We should all move to where she lives!! Lol!

    Anonymous said...

    I agree with most of your comments... but I LOVE seeing the clothes on employees and not models. I feel like I can better picture how they might look on me.

    LuluAddict said...

    @ anon - I like seeing people model the clothes, too. Those photos are very helpful. My comment was directed towards those times that the employees just throw something on and it doesn't fit well - often too big but sometimes way too tight - or when they just put the latest tank on with whatever they are wearing and the colors look awful or the styles don't mesh.

    The educators at the Oakville Facebook site probably do one of the best jobs of all the stores at putting together coordinating outfits including accessories that makes me want to buy the whole outfit. They are great at marketing their products.

    Anonymous said...

    I think it would be helpful if the clothes (pants in particular) were modelled by differet body shapes. A pair of pants will look great on any thin model - but I'm curvy with hips, so I'd like to see what a woman with hips will look like wearing their pants and shorts.

    Anonymous said...

    The 2 local stores near me also don't give out a discount card if you attend their classes.