29.4.12

Debenhams: The Mobile Department Store



Debenhams is the first department store to move their entire product range into mobile commerce. With such a vast assortment of products from clothing to homeware to beauty, it is a surprise they have managed to fit so many items onto one application. Yet somehow they have, allowing the Debenhams consumer to search and purchase through their app alike to their online store. Not only this, the app often sends out push promotions for mobile consumers, displaying pop-ups on the users phone for free delivery and voucher codes for use by app users only. The incentive for the consumer is therefore great and even I have been tempted to purchase something for the sake of utilising the discount.


The app is reasonably good. It doesn't shout fashion or excitement at you but it does offer a simple and easy way to browse the products. The menu screen displays a background image of a recent promotional shot. The image is probably supposed to be selling the clothes, but it is somewhat unexciting I feel. The menu options are listed above this for selection, but seem to get lost in the image somewhat, yet otherwise it is fairly straight forward. 


Moving through into the 'shop all' category, the product floors are listed for quick selection. Here the user can navigate into clothing or view the homeware, lingerie or beauty areas. Simple.


Moving into women's, the categories of clothing types are then shown again simple categorised. I do feel though that some sort of colour or image at this stage, perhaps transparently placed beneath the categories would have brightened it up a bit and given the user some inspiration. 


When the user has finally chosen their product category, the store lists the items in horizontal bars stacked vertically, alike to the other apps developed by NN4M. The products include a thumbnail image, a price, brand name and description and the user selects the bar to move into the product page. Alternative apps displays these areas slightly differently. Where some retailers opt to utilise a thumbnail only view, others tend to employ these horizontal bars, meaning that the user has to scroll through the products at a fairly slow speed. Yet some apps have integrated customisation features that allow users to switch from thumbnail to listed views. I can't help feeling that this app would have benefited from such a feature due to their abundance of products, but still the categorisation is clear and straight forward.


The product pages are the same as the other NN4M apps, utilising a large image and smaller thumbnails that can be selected to enlarge. However, additional to the other apps, this app employs additional features including viewing the other items in the range and viewing customer product views. The app also gives the user a star rating of the product based on such reviews. 


The description is placed behind another button and offers only the very basic description of the product. I'm fairly surprised that this is all they offer for the consumer, especially when product information is so important for consumer purchases. The fabric would have been fairly useful at this point.


The enlarged view of the products is a nice feature, allowing the user to flick through the product images in full screen mode. The user can also manually zoom the images to view finer details. It is a necessary element of image interactivity and increases the apps professionalism. 


The product reviews include the latest reviews from the consumer including a star rating and their recommendation. I haven't seen many apps integrate such a feature up to this point, as of course product reviews can either sway or deter consumers. However due to the Debenhams target audience, product reviews are more useful and helpful for purchase decisions, therefore their usage seems fairly useful here.


The app also integrates a gift list feature, whereby the user can add products to their wish list as well as a gift list area. This is perfect for those consumers planning birthday or weddings, allowing them to browse and gift list products on the move or even when shopping within the store. Very useful indeed. 


The range items tab offers further products in the range of items. This is again another feature that is not often used, and is extremely handy for those users looking to buy matching items. 


The refine and sort tools are again useful for the consumer, allowing then to sort the vast assortment of items according to their preference. 


The 'My Debenhams' tab is the consumers area. They can view their gift list, wish list and add their own sizes for quick product searching. 


The app also incorporates a bar code scanner, again perfect for the in store shopper looking to add to their gift list or to buy later at home. The user can either scan the item with their phone camera or enter the products code to find the item manually. It is again a feature not often utilised and builds the bridge between offline and mobile shopping.


The user is also able to manage their gift list, adding more products that the store seems as relevant or gift like. It creates an easy and usable experience for the consumer.


The Debenhams TV area is another insightful feature. Displaying recent videos of product ranges for inspiration, the user can view the videos on the move. It works as an added entertainment feature for the consumer and adds value to the brand.


The store finder is again sufficient for a consumer looking for the high street store.


The offers area, entered via the message icon on the menu screen displays the latest promotions from the brand. Some may be brand promotions such as the blue cross sale, but others as mentioned may be vouchers for the mobile users. This area makes it easy for the mobile user to find the latest promotions and will act as an incentive to purchase. 


The information area entered via the menu screen is another great feature on the app. The  user can view size guides for the products as well as information about the company, purchases and returns. Each category is listed simply for the user, allowing a quick and efficient method of information retrieval. Not many apps have integrated so much purchasing information for their consumers yet and it still baffles me to why this is.

Overall the app is a really useful and sufficient channel for the Debenhams consumer. They are able to shop all products, view item descriptions fairly detailed, view multiple views and utilise promotion codes. They can additionally utilise a wish list and create and manage a gift list. The TV area adds further value and creates a full shopping experience, and alongside the information area, creates an experience parallel to the service in store. Due to such detail and though being placed into the app, but the design being somewhat plain, I award the app a 4 out of 5 stars.


All screenshots taken of the Debenhams app, April 2012.

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