Thursday, 26 August 2010

Compare and contrast--Simply Be

In June, we reported that UK-based plus-size apparel catalogue Simply Be was crossing the Atlantic to launch a US catalogue and website. The American website has now landed and an autumn (or rather Fall) catalogue is in the mail. So apart from the wording of the seasons, what else is different?

Although the home pages of the UK and US sites are fairly similar, there are subtle differences. First, Simply Be’s international sites (for the US, Germany, and an English-language euro site) are all built on the Venda platform, whereas the main site displays no developer/vendor logo. The UK site (below) also has no favicon. The international sites do.

Whereas the US site (below) has just one horizontal navigation bar along the top of the page, the UK home page has two. UK shoppers can click through to the categories of Fashion, Accessories, Sport & Swimwear, Lingerie, Footwear, Home & Garden, Electricals, and Gifts. Below that are links to New In, Designers & Brands, Style File, Editors [sic] Notes, and Sale. The US site only gives the options of Apparel, Lingerie & Sleepwear, Shoes, Accessories, and Active & Swimwear. The UK left-nav bar also has more messages than its American counterpart—it calls for votes in the Company Fashion Awards.

Another difference is that the UK site has two main images on the home page, whilst the US has only one. The established UK site is promoting its ranges for autumn, emphasising new trends. The US site, which has only just gone live, is going for a more generic approach and is mainly promoting the company’s newness: “From Britain with love…Fresh, fabulous and right here in the USA!” Is this an indication that Simply Be is taking a leaf out of Boden’s book and using its Britishness as part of its appeal?

Links to Simply Be’s social-networking presence—a Twitter feed, a Facebook page, a blog, and a YouTube channel as well as links to Simply Be’s international sites—are present on both sites. Noteworthy, however, is that the blog link takes both American and British shoppers to the same page; other etailers, like The Book Depository, have different content for different regions. Simply Be’s recent blog post are all aimed at a UK audience—promoting the Company Awards, shining a spotlight on the latest UK TV ad, and writing about the Simply Be model competition, which as far as I can tell, is only open to UK entrants. I also tried clicking through to the blog from Simply Be’s German site, which launched in 2009. Once again, it was the same, UK-focused blog and I couldn’t see any references to its German shoppers or its activity in Germany. From this I gather that Simply Be will probably not embark on writing a US-focused blog.

Navigating around the site
Both the UK and US sites have their search bar in roughly the same position on the site. As I didn’t have anything specific in mind, I headed for the Fashion category on the British website (above) and the Apparel category on the American site (below). I was greeted with very different pages: The UK site took me to a dynamic page where, when I hovered the mouse cursor over a category, a corresponding image was displayed on the left. The bottom of the page also has a sliding carousel showcasing other “new-in” items. The US site also has a slideshow of items, but it’s not as dynamic as the British equivalent. Also, the Apparel landing page has much smaller images than the UK site. And did you notice the name of the page? “European designs womens apparel”— putting emphasis on its links to Europe and high-fashion.

I selected the Jersey Drape dress—an item available on both sites—in order to make a comparison. To change from sterling to dollars, Simply Be doubles the price—a £27 dress becomes $54. The copy is almost the same, but the US site states the item is imported and does not give the garment’s length in the product description, though it is included in the item’s title. When it comes to zooming in on the item, both sites offer a zoom function, though I would have liked to see a larger picture, as the image at 100 percent was not big enough to see close-up detailing.

Although both sites require a log-in to get into the checkout, neither sets out which payment methods are accepted before an account is created. In the interests of transparency, Simply Be should perhaps consider displaying payments methods (such as credit card, debit card, PayPal, customer account) somewhere on the home page.

The fully fledged US Simply Be website has only been live for a fortnight or so and I’d be interested to see whether it evolves at the same pace as its older sister, or whether, given the opportunities a US market opens up to Simply Be, it will soon overtake the British site in terms of traffic and functionality.--MT

1 comment:

  1. Simply Be have only just launched in the US and the blog itself has only been around for 12 months. I think you have to give them a little time to get settled in before you expect everything to be regional.