Oh, the joys of online shopping in a big city. I never have to haul cat food and litter down the street. I don't have to suffer the lines at the food co-op. And shopping for clothes has resumed its status as a non-competitive sport. Still, each is not without its challenges: online clothes shopping, in particular, takes a whole lot of patience.
There's patience required to navigate the digital aisles (and figure out what Target means by the color "Manatee Gray"); patience to read customer reviews; and patience to decipher size charts. But what I never bargained for was having to be patient to the tune of two weeks for my $200 order from the recently-launched HM.com to be shipped.
H&M's Long-Awaited Online Debut Falls Flat
HM.com operates in eight other countries, and customers like myself have waited since 2011 for the Swedish retailer to finally launch its U.S. dot com. So, unsurprisingly, when the e-commerce site launched on August 1 of this year, many dealnews editors were eager to shop the digital racks. Unfortunately, the long-awaited HM.com lacks essential navigation features, and the company's shipping and returns policies are subpar.
My biggest grievance is that the order I placed on Monday, August 5 wasn't shipped out until the following Friday, August 16 — a full 11 days later. And while H&M's shipping FAQ offers a delivery window of 4 to 7 business days for in-stock items, it then took an additional three days to arrive at my door in Brooklyn, NY, two weeks after my initial order. It's one thing to wait between 5 to 9 business days for an online order to arrive via free shipping, but it's surprising that an online retailer that charges customers a flat-rate shipping fee ($5.95) should incur an order processing time of a week and a half without any communication whatsoever.
Granted, the company is still working out a "viable logistics model" that can offer customers free shipping and easy returns, but one might assume that these kinks would have already been heavily researched considering the fact that H&M already owns and operates multi-national e-commerce sites; and after two years of almost launching HM.com in the U.S., it would seem that the clothier should have had plenty of time to examine standard practices of successful brick-and-mortar-turned-online stores.
But the issues don't stop at shipping. Given our experience as perpetual online shoppers, I additionally noticed some obvious kinks in HM.com's design that may be detracting customers from shopping and placing orders to begin with. Some of these user interface speed bumps include the following:
- There is no search box
- There is no "arrange by price" function
- There is no sale section
- The photos are often insufficient, as most products don't have multiple views or angles
I can't help but see the contrasts between the seamless launch of Uniqlo's online store and the oversights made in the HM.com UI. And as far as deals and coupons go, while we've never seen a free shipping coupon for Uniqlo, its $7 flat rate shipping effectively covers 3- to 5-day shipping fees and allows the retailer to cover the cost of offering in-store returns on all items. H&M, on the other hand, has once offered free shipping on orders (with email sign-up for its newsletter), but charges another $5.95 for most returns and doesn't offer in-store services for anything bought online. (Note that only partial returned orders incur this fee; returning an entire purchase to HM.com does not entail any return shipping fees.)
For the world's second largest clothier and a company with over 264 stores across the globe, not only are H&M's shipping policies a surprise, but the site's obvious flaws are the kind that can disappoint a shopper even before she finds out that, after two weeks of patiently waiting, the $200 worth of apparel is just not quite right.
But sometimes patience pays off, and we expect H&M to continue to develop the site so that it's up to the standard that most digital shoppers have come to expect. Readers, have any of you shopped at HM.com this month? Take our poll and tell us about your experiences in the comments below.
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