All I want for Christmas is UX (for mobile shopping)

Once upon a time, the act of Christmas shopping was conducted on Christmas Eve where shopping streets were filled with people in furry hats, surrounded by the sound of church bells, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine- and depending on where you lived, snow. Admittedly, a more realistic picture would involve replacing the enchanting snowflakes and aromatic mulled wine with overcrowded shops, overworked employees and overstressed customers. I feel that’s more like it.

Fast forward to the 1980s and the task of shopping  changes considerably- buzzwords such as e-web-store’, ‘web-shop’ and ‘virtual shop’ indicate a (slow) shift to online commerce and promise us shopping from the comfort of our sofas and in the privacy of our homes. No more queues, no more overheated and crowded shops, no more last minute panic and uncertainty of our gift choices.

And then we moved even further; no longer shopping was done while we sat on our desks was good enough, we were given the opportunity to  shop from our beds on our laptops and tablets. And dare I say it- this might already be considered ‘old fashioned’ as I overheard someone claiming on the train today:

I have already done all my Christmas shopping on my phone- I do it while I am on the train every morning – it’s wicked‘.

Evidently,  we now shop ‘anywhere and anytime’ on our mobile devices- a phenomenon that experts predict will only get bigger in the next few years.

Speech bubbles for Right and Wrong

So with more of us turning to mobile shopping, ensuring the best user experience for the stressful task of Christmas shopping is more important than ever. I decided to do a little (festive) experiment. I decided to do all my Christmas shopping on my phone/tablet so I will document the various UX features I have come across on various retail apps that together improve the mobile user experience.

Real time store availability check

House of Fraser’s app offers a real time stock check , allowing the user to select their local of favourite branch and can then check stock in that particular store, as shown in the example below.  The app allows users to not only select their preferred store, but set up default size options within their profile. The app will then automatically select their preferred size when checking stock availability.

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Argos’s gift finder offers an intelligent and collaborative gift finder tool that uses the swipe-to-like interaction (which has worked really well on online dating apps/sites) to suggest gifts to customers. Each like and dislike contributes to and improves an intelligent collaborative filtering system.  What I found really interesting with Argos’s gift finder is that all interactions can be achieved one handed!

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Argos has also added a different twist to gift inspiration this year with the smart social Facebook game ‘Friend or Fraud’, where users log in with their profile to build their own wish list and invite their friends to test how well they know them by guessing their selection by swiping left or right. The users swipe through 20 items they like or dislike to set up their profile before inviting their friends to play. From here, users can invite their friends to play, and a leader board is created ranking how well each friend has done when guessing the wish list.The game also allows users to give gift inspiration by emailing a particular product to a friend or click directly through to the online shop to make a purchase.

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Showrooming affordances

‘Showrooming’ is a new term that describes the situation where consumers find the gift in a shop and then check their mobiles to read reviews and find the best price for their intended purchase-, which will then happen, online. An  example of ‘showrooming’ is Amazon’s app and as you can  imagine, it only gives the user Amazon’s prices as a point of comparison. In the example below I tried to scan the barcode of one of the books here in my office and as you can see the available results and prices.

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Checkout Journey

Once I have decided what I want to buy, I want to make the purchase as quickly as possible. I also like simplicity- a clean and uncluttered checkout page that is also mobile optimised

I particularly enjoyed the clean look of the checkout page of the Selfridges mobile site, with its  handy ‘add to wishlist’ option and clear summary of my order. Marks and Spencer’s check out screen offers an easy way to add a discount code to the checkout process (something that I usually have to search quite hard for) and to also add a gift option.


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Geofencing is the considered the ‘flavour of the month’ in the mobile tech world and even though there are lots of examples of this in the US- I haven’t come across many in the UK just yet. Vouchercloud is an example where the app uses the GPS on your phone to identify where you are in order to offer discounts nearby and send automatic push notifications with discount codes from contributing high street retailers direct to shoppers.

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It is apparent to me that geofencing and showrooming will be major trends in mobile commerce in 2015 and I am intrigued to see how these will impact our mobile shopping experience.

Will we user our watches to do our Christmas shopping next year?

Will we be shopping from our cars?

Only time will tell…

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