Secret Shopper: Primark's new stock-checking website
As part of TheIndustry.fashion's Secret Shopper series we gave Primark's new stock-checking website a try.
The new site, which launched on 7 April 2022, does not allow customers to buy items online but aims to make their shopping journey easier by helping them understand which items are in-stock at specific stores.
Here is our verdict after completing a full shopping journey using the new site.
At first glance the landing page of the new Primark website looks very on-brand - it's fresh, fashionable, young and colourful. Inclusivity is also front of mind, with models of different genders and ethnicities represented, as well as those with disabilities.
The website looks more like a catalogue than a transactional website and takes cues from Zara by focusing on crisp imagery and guiding users through different seasonal product edits with names such as "Surf & Swim Staples".
A navigation bar allows customers to see Primark's full range of products - including women's, men's, children's and babywear, as well as body, beauty and home collections, and a special area for collaborations. There are small glitches across the website which make the experience a bit jarring.
It's not clear if this is intentional or not, but the product edits are cut off at either the left or right side of the screen, which makes browsing a bit bothersome. It is also slightly perplexing to see the low prices, for which Primark is known, displayed online. There is something about seeing a plain white t-shirt selling for £2.50 that just looks strange on an online store.
First impressions of the stock-checking process
The stock-checking feature, which is the central new addition to the webpage looks easy at first glance. When clicking on a specific product the user can choose their size and a specific store, and the website shows them if the item is available or not.
The process is very reminiscent of the stock-checking function on IKEA - a little "i" button informs consumers that availability is an estimate only and may vary due to in in-store replenishment and sales. Customers can also use a filter in specific categories, such as women's clothing, that allows them to only see items that are available in the store of their choice.
The shopping journey
I chose five products from the website to trial the entire shopping journey. My first three items are from the womenswear section - a blue floral dress, bootleg-cut jeans with rips and a lilac cross-body bag. I also choose a PJ set from menswear and a pink diamond frothy bath bomb from the body selection. The items are chosen pretty randomly.
On the website there is no option to reserve the items I have chosen or to click-and-collect, and there is no indication on which floor the items are located. When I arrive the true scale of the endeavour hits me. As I wonder how I am meant to find the five items I am here to buy, I pull my phone out and start a timer. As the first seconds tick by I look around for a sales assistant to point me in the direction of my first item - the blue floral dress.
I caught up with a member of staff who indicated the general area that the dress may be in. Surprisingly I actually spot the recognisable floral patter within about two minutes of walking in the right direction. My search for the jeans proved more difficult however and I had to consult another sales assistant for directions.
After consulting an additional four members of staff who were all unsure on how best to help me find this one style of jeans, one took me around and for a few minutes we looked together. At one point she admits defeat but I continue to look eventually I come across two pairs of the jeans I want - and one is in my size.
Once I pass this hurdle, finding the bath bomb is a breeze and takes about a 30 second scan to locate. When I get to the menswear section, which is considerably smaller, I find the product I'm looking for with ease.
After about 30 min I have all my products and head to the changing room. There is a large queue so skip it and head straight to the till, only to face another large queue. Of the 13 cash registers only about half are manned and even as I shuffle along, the line starts to extend into the sales area.
By the time I step outside I have spent around 45 min in the store, with 35 of those spent running across three different floors looking for my items and 10 wasted in the cash register queue. The whole experience was exhausting.
The Primark website displays 1,016 items in the womenswear clothing section. While I'm not sure how this compares to the selection in-store, it's clearly not the entire range. A sales assistant somewhat confirms this view and tells me: "You never know when stock will arrive, it just comes in randomly." She adds that the website focuses only on showing the new stock that comes in.
It also feels a little inconsequential to put trust in the website when by the time I get in store my size may have been snapped up by someone else. Furthermore, by the time I am in-store my online product selection pales in comparison to what I see in front of me. If I were a normal shopper I would most likely abandon my online selection and just wander the store.
The one really positive thing about the whole experience was the customer service. The large majority of the people I consulted whilst in-store were friendly and very invested in helping me find what I was looking for, even if it meant taking me around and rummaging through mountains of clothing.
What I noticed though is that the website does not feature a chat option that other fast-fashion companies have, and there is no email address readily available, only a form that customers can fill out with an enquiry - the effort of store staff is not reflected in the customer support available on the website.
"There's Something For Everyone" reads the slogan on Primark's website, which is true if you're willing to put in the time to search for it in-store. In short the website's functionality is limited and instead of making the shopping journey easier it rather adds an unnecessary obstacle in the way to purchase.
If I had spent 45 minutes wandering the store instead of trying to find five specific items I would have had a much more relaxed and enjoyable experience - and the discovery of a cute outfit would have been more satisfying as well. Instead, I left the store feeling frustrated at having to cross three different floors and ask around 10 different sales staff for help.
The website itself has some visual kinks that need sorting out but it has a nice look and good photography. A click-and-collect option, which is in the cards for the future, would make the whole experience a lot more straightforward. Even indicating in which section of the store I could find the item would be a helpful addition.