Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Compare and contrast: Damart

As a Yank who lived most of her adult life in the Boston-New York corridor, I wasn’t impressed by what passed for record-breaking low temperatures here in England's West Country. But I was impressed that the cold spell boosted sales at Damart, best known for its thermal underwear, by 20 percent. So that seemed as good a reason as any to compare Damart’s UK and US ecommerce sites.

At first glance it’s apparent that Damart makes a real effort to localise its sites, down to the tagline: “You think you know Damart… think again!” in the UK (above), “… more than you imagine” in the US (below). The point the company is trying to get across is that it sells much more than warm undies. This is especially obvious on the UK site, where the home page includes tabs for Ladieswear, Menswear, Underwear, Footwear, Household, and Sale in addition to Thermal. The Stateside product line is much narrower, with just three product categories: Menswear, Accessories, and Ladieswear.

It seems counterintuitive that the US home page doesn’t include a category link dedicated to thermal garments. It does have a banner touting “Warmth & Comfort with Damart Innovation Thermolactyl”, but as HL Mencken wrote, “No one in this world… has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people”, and this might be too subtle for busy shoppers seeking thermal undies. If you ask me, Thermolactyl sounds more like a dinosaur than a type of toasty fabric.

The US site gets short shrift in several ways compared with its British counterpart. There’s no contact phone number; you can order via the web only, and if you have any questions, you must ask them via an online form. Given that Damart’s target audience seems to skew older, this seems like a grave error. Would it really be unprofitable for the company to contract with a third-party call centre in the States or set up some other type of telephonic solution? The UK site posts the number in boldface on its left-hand navigation bar, albeit just below the fold. The UK site also displays its security credentials on the bottom of the home page, whereas the US site doesn’t, which again seems to be a miscalculation given the age of the target market.

And of course, there’s the fact that the US product range is much more limited. I counted 59 SKUs on the US site (yes, my dedication is such that I actually tallied the number of products). The British site has... well, appreciably more (I’m not dedicated enough to count what appear to be hundreds of SKUs).

Because the Stateside offering is so much smaller, the navigational options are fewer. You click on one of the three product categories and, for the Ladieswear and Menswear, are shown a page with links to two subcategories (Tops and Pants); for Accessories you’re simply shown the first page of products. The subcategory pages feature eight product thumbnails per page; you can sort the items by price or name. The product pages enable you to see a slightly larger version of the main image—not detailed enough to give you any sense of the fabric quality—and colour swatches.

Some of the product images include a warmth rating, and of those items, only some of the warmth ratings are visible on the subcategory page thumbnails. So if you were shopping for an ultra-toasty vest, say, you’d have to click every single item to find the warmest. Or, if you’re like me, you’d say, Sod it, and head to Google, where you’d type in something like thermal vest and take it from there.

The UK site resolves this issue with its category pages. The Thermal category page, for instance, features separate columns for Ladies, Men, and Warmth Accessories, and under these are links to subcategories for product types (pants, vests) and warmth ratings. The product pages themselves are similar to those on the US site.

The British site also does a somewhat better job of highlighting Damart’s “innovations”—its patented materials. Just below the search box on the top of the left-hand nav bar is a box with links to several of its fabrics: the aforementioned Thermolactyl, the equally prehistoric sounding Climatyl, something dubbed Ocealis (a name that’s uncomfortably similar to Cialis), and “Other innovations”.

These fabrics sound impressive: “Océalis [the accent is used here but not elsewhere on the site] is a revolutionary new double faced fabric with breathable fibres, designed to keep you dry and comfortable through the hottest summer days. As a fibre that 'breathes', it quickly removes your perspiration and creates a dry and healthy climate, even during the hottest of summer days.” Granted, the copy could have used some editing; there’s no reason to repeat “hottest” and “summer days” at the end of both sentences, and the strapline, “Freshness in an instant”, brings to mind a feminine hygiene product. But as someone who begins to sweat profusely when the temperature hits 21C/70F, I’m intrigued. And what do you know: The Ocealis page includes links to the products made with the fabric.

I know that the purpose of the article is to point out the similarities and differences between the UK and US versions of the website, but what’s most apparent to me is that neither makes the most of what I’d consider Damart’s unique selling point: its exclusive, innovative fabrics. If I sold clothing made of fabrics that kept you cool and dry in hot weather, warm and dry in cold weather (Thermolactyl), and at an “ideal, constant temperature” regardless of the weather (Climatyl), I’d be bragging about it on my home page, not hoping that visitors are curious enough about my “innovations” to click on the link, regardless of which country I’m marketing to.—SC

1 comment:

  1. It would be far more useful if you investigated and compared the selling practices of these companies. Damart in the UK has been shown to be considerably unhelpful in its customer service and short of honest with disclosing information. For example:
    it does not tell you before you have ordered that you have to pay postage for any return
    it does not answer or deals with the email service because they want you to use the premium line
    they drag their feet in refunding money paid for goods which have been returned