Website of the Week: Air Canada – 07/02/08

Website of the Week
Air Canada
Content (0-4):
Pricing (0-2):
Navigation (0-4):
Style/Design (0-4):
Supplementary information (0-2):
Overall incentive to shop (0-4):
Total (0-20):
Scoring system explained – click here

Website of the Week: Air Canada

As the national flag carrier, Air Canada is the largest provider of scheduled passenger services in Canada, the Canada-US transborder market and the international market to and from Canada. Together with its regional partner Jazz, Air Canada serves over 32 million customers annually and provides direct passenger service to over 170 destinations on five continents.

The carrier’s online travel retail offer “˜Essential’ forms part of its overall duty free programme and works in tandem with the airline’s “˜Essential’ inflight shopping brochure.


Air Canada’s online retail offer is clean and simple to navigate; it maintains the two-tone blue styling already established on the rest of the Air Canada site, with the Air Canada logo and the maple leaf icon always visible. The entry page, however, is a little sparse and while the key categories are listed, more could be done to highlight the range of products on offer.

Images are displayed throughout the site showcasing the products available. In each instance product images can be clicked on to provide a larger, higher resolution view – a nice touch considering the importance of visual impact in retail.

Content and usability

The wording on the opening Duty Free page promises much and it runs: “Air Canada’s Duty Free online catalogue is packed with new additions from the world’s leading brands. An impressive selection of fragrances, fashionable watches, chic jewelry, cosmetics, truly Canadian gifts and lounge essentials awaits you. Items can be purchased on board for up to 50% less than those of comparable quality sold elsewhere.”

Users are not given the option to pre-order.

Overall simplicity is key. The nine product categories for Winter 2007-08 are divided into Fragrances for Her, Fragrances for Him, Cosmetics, Jewellery, Accessories, Liquor and Tobacco, Confectionery, Watches and Canadian Collection. The latter category is good to see, as so many shopping sites lack any evidence of local flavour.

Fragrances for Her brings up a neat grid of 20 thumbnail pictures, accompanied by pricing in Canadian dollars and the bottle size. The images can be clicked on to enlarge. The roll-call of the latest must-have products includes Chance by Chanel (C$89), Fendi Palazzo (C$74) and Juicy Couture (C$70), alongside classic items including Chanel No 5 (C$82) and Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (C$70). Product pricing is in Canadian dollars only throughout.

Fragrances for Him spans nine skus, featuring Armani Code (C$64), Polo Black by Ralph Lauren (C$62) and Tokyo by Kenzo (C$55). Also available is a perennially popular coffret, in this instance a quintet from Calvin Klein (C$55). Unfortunately there is no detailed information on the sizes of the skus included, and the set comes with the codicil “contents may vary” which could prove disappointing if the purchaser is expecting the exact same references displayed in the image.

Cosmetics brings up 24 options, spanning skincare, body care and make-up. Best-sellers from leading brands, and sets/multi-packs dominate, such as Bobbi Brown’s signature Shimmer Brick set in Pink (C$56), Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat duo (C$74) and a regular/waterproof Hypnôse mascara duo from Lancôme (C$50). All great tried-and-tested travel retail stalwarts.

In terms of price positioning, there seems to be something for everyone. At the top end is La Prairie’s premium Extrait of Skin Caviar Firming Complex, priced at C$118. At the bottom end is the 100ml Avocado Butter Body Treatment by Fruits & Passion (C$12).

Again, the vast majority of products do not feature any information about the size of the sku. And if any of the sets featured include an additional value saving or bonus item – as is often the case – it is not specified.

The Jewelry section comprises 14 items, from well-known brands such as Swarovski, Majorica, Crislu, Pierre Cardin and Carlo Orsini. All the items featured are for women.

The Papillon Necklace and Earring Set by Equss (C$83) could not be viewed in close-up as there was a problem enlarging the thumbnail.

The jewellery offer is dominated by necklaces, often complemented by matching earrings, plus an eight-sku earring set by Pierre Cardin (C$50). There is no information available about the materials featured, which could prove problematic for people with nickel allergies and so forth.

Accessories brings up a wide range of 14 items. Included are sunglasses, writing instruments, consumer technology products and children’s tote bags. Price points range from C$12 for a Maple Leaf Pin by FAF Design, to C$148 for the Digital & Wireless iPowerPro 120 Watt Mini UltraSlim Universal Auto/Airplane Adapter.

Liquor & Tobacco comprises 15 items, and this time the sizes/amounts are clearly included. However there were more problems involving the enlargement of thumbnails, this time for Inniskillin Icewine 200ml, Macallan Elegancia 1L, XO Excellence Cognac by Rémy Martin 700ml and Marlboro Regular / Marlboro Lights 200 per Carton.

Crown Royal 1L (C$27) and Inniskillin injected a Canadian feel, and the rest of the offer covered the key category basics.

The Canadian Collection (11 items) is largely a combination of comestibles and children’s items. Injecting a note of humour are the Canadian Moose Droppings (Chocolate Covered Almonds) at C$11. Targeting the collector is the C$65 Air Canada Heritage Plane Collection.

The Confectionery section features just three items: Toblerone, The Original Gourmet Jelly Bean and All Natural Liquid Oxygen Drops by 02 Spa Bar. More information about the latter item would have been helpful. The offer seems a little sparse, largely because the confectionery/comestible items featured in the Canadian Collection are not included in the Confectionery section too.

Eleven models are featured in the Watches section, which includes brands such as Festina, Tommy Hilfiger and AK Anne Klein. The price points range from C$54 for the Air Canada Dual Time Watch to C$249 for the Pilot Dual Time Watch by Oxygen. On offer were both men’s and women’s models.

The nine product categories for Winter 2007-08 are duplicated in a section called Spring/Summer 2007. There is no information offered about the differences in terms of range, availability and so on. With some exceptions, the offer is mostly the same for both.

Overall the retail offer has plenty of room for improvement. In certain sectors the offer is a little basic, with no supporting information. The technical problems with the thumbnails could also discourage shoppers.

What we like:
• Neat presentation
• Consistent branding
• Clean and simple navigation,

What needs improving/adding:
• Improved product range
• More product information
• More incentives to shop such as promotions and special offers
• Pre-order facility

Website of the week scoring system explained:
Content: How wide is the range of items on offer? Are there good quality photos and product descriptions?
Pricing: Are product prices listed? For all products?
Navigation: How easy is the site to use?
Style/Design: How does the site look?
Supplementary information: On allowances, currencies, after-sales service, useful tips and so on.
Overall incentive to shop: This includes tone, promotions, offers, competitions and, importantly, pre-order.


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