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Can you do all your Christmas shopping on a mobile? Weve's Will Dorling takes the test

Will Dorling takes the mobile Christmas challenge

I’m a completely unashamed Christmas fan. I love all of it, from buying the tree to planning menus and thinking about presents. So when Weve challenged me to do all of my Christmas shopping on my mobile this year, I was in two minds.

On the one hand, I’m a big fan of mobile and I work in mobile advertising, so I should have a vague idea how to go about it. On the other hand, I worried about missing out on the festive experience I enjoy so much. So here’s the big question: at the end of the process, am I walking in the air or was the whole experience a gigantic Christmas turkey? The answer is a bit of both.

Let’s start with some good stuff. The first thing that became immediately apparent was how mature mobile search technology has become. Doing the background research is trivially easy via mobile search, especially if you know what you’re looking for; if you don’t, the choice can actually become overwhelming.

Narrowing that choice down a bit should be part of the retailer’s remit. I went into this hoping that I’d be inspired by the sites I visited, and thus guided in my choices. But for all their efficiency, the number of retailers making any seasonal efforts with their mobile sites is vanishingly small. There’s barely a holly leaf or a Santa figure in sight, let alone a jolly Jingle Bells audio soundtrack; neither the sites nor the apps have been reskinned in the vast majority of cases and don’t reflect the wider in-store or above-the-line campaigns.

Lessons from Will’s mobile Christmas:

The mobile shopping experience is best when you know what you’re looking for. Research is now so easy on the mobile web that it’s actually quite overwhelming, and it can make the whole process more of an ordeal. Real-world research can help you narrow down your options.

The ease and enjoyment of buying is defined by the quality and age of the handset. Don’t try this if you’re still using a first-generation Android handset or a mark 3 iPhone. Faster processors and better screens make a vast difference to the quality of the experience.

Retailers are missing some opportunities. I really didn’t expect Jingle Bells to be playing on every site I visited, but the lack of mobile Christmas spirit was very noticeable. That really makes a big difference to Christmas fans like me. I even missed the Christmas ads – at this time of year, I’m just not inspired by the same old advertising for PCs, tablets and TV sports subscriptions.

It’s not just about the money. Sure, you can save some money shopping via mobile – I probably saved 10 per cent or so in total – but the real benefit is the convenience and the liberation.

So for inspiration, the mobile experience scores pretty poorly. You can’t help thinking that the retailers are missing a trick here; they’re taking very few opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell, and I was constantly wondering if I might be having an easier time of it elsewhere. One thing I did note is how important it is to be in the search rankings. On a mobile screen, if you are not there, you won’t be part of the shopping experience.

There’s better news about the actual buying experience. With only one exception, the retailers I visited as part of this challenge had websites fully optimised for mobile visitors, a surprising discovery given the reticence of the rest of the commercial world to adopt mobile approaches. Many of them now have apps too, helping to streamline the whole experience.

So from a purely functional perspective, my Christmas shopping was a pretty painless experience. Once you know what you want, finding it and buying it is generally a doddle, although there were one or two wrinkles buying back-catalogue trainers for my wife that required a trip to a real store. Similarly, once I’d researched smartwatches for my brother, finding the best place to buy it (a Nectar eShop, as I got quadruple points for my pains) couldn’t have been easier.

Inevitably, there are some hoops to jump through. If you’re using anything other than a new, up-to-date smartphone you’re in for a world of pain; older screens and processors make filling in payment forms on modern sites an exercise in terrible frustration.

Overall, though, almost everything about mobile Christmas shopping was easier and more enjoyable than I’d anticipated. I spent a lot more money than I was expecting £440, nearly £200 more than the average spend Weve reported from its 2013 mobile Christmas shopping survey. And it’s all done now.

Presents are already starting to arrive, and the next few weeks are free for me to enjoy the run-up to Christmas the way that it should be enjoyed slumped on the sofa in front of Die Hard, instead of making more trips to the crowded high streets. Would I do it again? Most certainly. Merry Christmas!

Will Dorling is agency partner at Weve. Follow Will on Twitter

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