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?

    Pics - Savage Run: Energy SL Varsity, Shanti Crops, Double Back Tank

    Pic of a Savage Green Run: Energy Short Sleeve Tee with the varsity graphic. I don't think we've seen the green version before but I could be mistaken. What are those funky striped shorts? They almost look like boxers. I wonder if a sleeveless silverescent tank will come out in the green. A reader commented that she has seen Savage and Potion Run: Swiftly short sleeve tees in stores in western Canada so I hope they will show up in the US or website soon.

    Photo of the Shanti crops cinched (meh) and uncinched (cute). I have to try these on and hope they get repriced because $86 is too high for non-technical cotton crops.

    Finally, a photo of a color other than the green Double Back tank. It looks kind of cute with the Layer Me bra under it but I would have chosen something besides black. The green tank might not have looked so bad with a green bra under it but I don't think a Flow Y looks that great with this tank. I like how Lululemon demonstrated the tank without anything underneath it:

    It might look cute as a beach coverup with a bikini top under it.