Thursday, 21 June 2012

No Man is a River Island

Or "how to forget the basic hygiene factors when trying to do international ecommerce".

Today River Island has a special international free delivery offer on its site. Special enough to be the banner on its homepage, and in fact to potentially cost River Island £7 or more per order.


So what happens if I try to take advantage of this offer?

Well, first of all I have to register. Why? Why is there no anonymous checkout option? If English is not your first language, have you ever tried to follow in the instructions on one of these forms that insists on a strong password with a weird '*&!()***' character and a number in it? If English is your first language, try registering on a French or German site now, and see how you get on...

In countries which are more nervous about data protection than British consumers, Germany for example, or Holland which is one of River Island's core target markets, this has already cost them at least 25% of their potential new sales, possibly more.

To be fair, they then jump the next hurdle successfully: the site at least manages not to demand a UK postcode/housenumber combo for customers who indicate they are not based in the UK.

But then, they lose the next 25% of the potential overseas customers with one simple, glaring error: you can't enter an international phone number! Their phone number field only accepts the digits 0-9. So if you try to use the standard international convention of +countrycode, your number gets rejected, and you can't proceed any further. Game over.

                "! we think you've mis-typed your phone number - please try again"

No I haven't, I'm just trying to take advantage of your free delivery offer, but my phone number looks like this: +44 (0) 1234 567890.

Then I'd like to pay. River Island has stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, they are key target markets for its international offer. Google for "River Island .nl" and you get directed to the UK site. Fair enough. But...

Dutch customers like to pay using a scheme called Ideal. In fact >50% of all eCommerce transactions in Holland are conducted using Ideal. Does the River Island site support Ideal? Of course not.

Now of course it's quite challenging to incorporate all the possible local schemes into a website checkout, even if you have a worldwide payment gateway. In most of western Europe, however, there is a quite reasonable alternative: PayPal. However their site doesn't support it, and in fact goes so far as to provide a separate help page explaining that no, they don't support PayPal.

Yes, of course they support MasterCard and Visa. But European customers are much less likely to be prepared to use such a card online than the British are, even if they have one (in a country like Belgium, another core River Island market, they possibly don't).

I wonder if River Island's payment gateway has a default fraud-prevention rule in it blocking non-British card BIN ranges! Lots of retailers do this automatically. Given how little else seems to have been tested, I wonder if they've tested this.

It takes more than adding an international delivery address-box and an international parcel-courier to be ready for international eCommerce, and River Island unfortunately falls at the second and third hurdles. Nul points.

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