This time last year I looked at the mobile sites for the UK’s top 20 retailers to see which offered the best checkout process.
I found that there were a number of common flaws, such as forced registration, but in general the standard was quite high.
However I was also surprised to see that eight of the retailers were still relying on desktop sites.
As 12 months has now passed I thought it would be interesting to see whether the situation had changed at all and find out which retailers have made an effort to upgrade their sites.
But first here’s a quick recap of the criteria that I evaluated using my Android smartphone...
- Registration before checkout
Making customers register before checkout is a proven barrier to purchase. This is widely understood for desktop sites, and many now have guest checkout options instead.
However, this best practice hasn't always transferred to mobile sites. Just seven of the retailers with mobile sites have made registration optional, though this is up from five last year.
- Form filling
Filling in checkout forms and entering payment details can be a fiddly process on a mobile phone. Speed is vital, and anything that makes the process quicker will mean more sales.
Mobile conversion rates are much lower than those on tablets and desktop sites, and smoother checkouts are one way to improve them.
Form filling should be kept to a minimum, as should page loads within the checkout process. Also, by adding shortcuts like postcode lookup and pre-populating billing addresses, you can speed it up.
- Contact details and security reassurances
Some people are still wary of the security of mobile transactions, so offering trustmarks and reassuring signs like clear contact numbers can help.
Also, if a customer gets stuck trying to make a purchase, a clear contact number may just save the sale.
- Alternative payments
Even with the smoothest checkout process, entering credit or debit card details can be a pain. Offering alternatives like PayPal can mean a faster process (generally just entering an email and password) and may also ease consumers' security worries.
With these criteria in mind, I've looked at 20 top retailers to see how they handle mobile checkout:
Amazon’s checkout hasn’t changed noticeably as far as I can tell. It does require registration before purchase, but Amazon gets away with this more than others might, as so many people have an account already.
Amazon also ensures that page sizes are kept to a minimum to speed the site up so it loads quickly even on a variable 3G connection.
However, it doesn't go in for security reassurances or contact numbers, nor does it offer alternative payment options.
When I initially wrote this post last May Argos had a mobile site but it wasn’t transactional. Instead customers were required to go to a desktop site, phone the call centre or use reserve and collect in-store.
In the intervening months it has upgraded its mobile site to allow customers to make a purchase and has done a great job of creating a short, user-friendly checkout process.
There are just three stages to purchase and it doesn’t force you to register an account. Furthermore it provides several user shortcuts, such as a postcode lookup tool and the ability to use the same address for billing and delivery.
Argos also informs you of the delivery costs upfront, uses large CTAs that are easy to click, and gives an excellent order summary that includes a nominated delivery date.
There are a couple of minor problems though, as the text fields are a bit small and fiddly, plus it doesn’t accept PayPal or offer to store your card details for future purchases.
Apple, the company responsible for the mobile revolution, still hasn’t bothered to create a mobile site.
Tesco forces you to create an account before you can even start shopping, which is a necessary step for grocery shopping but is also a major barrier to purchase in my opinion.
Aside from that, the process is relatively quick and easy but the pages are all incredibly long and require a lot of scrolling. Much of this information could probably be stripped out, which would greatly improve the usability.
This time last year Next definitely had a mobile optimised site, but since then it seems to have taken the backwards step of showing mobile users its desktop site.
Play.com still doesn’t have a mobile site.
M&S still requires you to create an account before making a purchase, plus it told me there was “a slight problem with my entries” before I’d even started inputting details.
It also forces you to enter the same information twice when registering an account and making a purchase. Another annoyance is the tick boxes. They are so small and close together it is difficult to work out what you are agreeing to.
Overall the checkout process is still far too long and I’m surprised M&S hasn’t done anything to shorten it since last year.
John Lewis launched a new ecommerce site earlier this year and it also appears to have made a few minor changes to its m-commerce site.
The CTAs are a different colour and slightly smaller and it also accepts PayPal. Overall though, it has retained the three-step process and only requires basic customer information.
As a result it’s still a really slick mobile checkout that’s quick and easy to use.
ASOS recently launched a new mobile site, however the checkout process has several usability issues.
Though it avoids asking you to create an account it requires you to enter an email and password twice, and also asks for your gender and date of birth.
Furthermore, though there are strict password criteria it doesn’t stipulate them in advance which can lead to you having to re-enter the same information twice.
On the plus side, it does offer a postcode lookup tool and allows you to set the same address for billing and delivery.
Also, it accepts nine different payment methods including PayPal, which is a great way of capturing mobile sales from people who aren’t keen on entering their credit card details on their phone.
Debenhams appears to have made a number of changes to its mobile checkout, which was already an extremely user-friendly process.
It offers guest checkout and reassures people that they’ll only need to enter their address and payment details.
Debenhams also offers a postcode finder, assumes the same address for billing and delivery, and has excellent CTAs. Plus its pages are short and quick to load.
Overall, Debenhams offers one of the slicker checkout processes I've seen.
Thomson still doesn’t have a mobile site.
While Expedia does have a mobile site, it doesn't offer comparable products to many of the other retailers in this list.
For example, to book a hotel room Expedia just needs your name, phone number and email, then a credit card and billing address. It’s all done on one page and is extremely easy, but isn’t comparable to other e-tailers.
EasyJet is another business that has launched a mobile site in the past year and it’s done a decent job of creating a user-friendly checkout process.
Obviously it doesn’t offer the same product range as the other retailers on this list, but even so it makes booking a flight incredibly easy.
You don’t have to register an account and there are just four short screens in the checkout process – passenger names, seat selection, address and payment – though it loses points for not offering a postcode lookup tool.
Overall though, EasyJet has managed to create a very simple, quick checkout process, which I wasn’t expecting at all.
Late last year Currys became one of the first major retailers to launch a responsive site, which is certainly something I applaud.
Unfortunately the checkout it suffers from one or two design flaws that mean it’s also quite long and difficult to use.
You’re forced to register an account, plus the dropdown menus don’t have arrows beside them so it’s not immediately apparent that you’re supposed to click them.
But the main problem is that at the final payment screen it reverted to a desktop site, which totally undermines the user experience.
Tesco’s mobile checkout actually seems to have got worse since last year. In order to make a purchase I had to first create an account, which required a great deal of form filling, then wait for Tesco to email me to confirm my address before I could carry on and make a purchase.
Unfortunately I lost interest by that point so didn’t get to see the rest of the checkout.
Thomas Cook has launched a new mobile site recently, however I found it to be incredibly slow and unresponsive.
Also, when it actually comes to making a booking it directs you to a desktop site. Overall, it’s a pretty poor effort.
Still no mobile site.
Topshop’s mobile site appears to be unchanged, meaning it still provides a decent user experience.
It allows guest registration, plus the checkout is extremely fast and only requires delivery address and card details. It also offers the option to save your details if you subsequently choose to create an account.
Pages are extremely short and quick to load, it pulls up a numerical keypad for entering your phone number, and Topshop accepts PayPal.
Overall it remains one of the best mobile checkouts on this list.
B&Q’s site has remained unchanged since last year. It offers a guest checkout option and the pages load quickly, but there’s still quite a bit of form filling and it doesn’t offer any user shortcuts.
Furthermore, there isn’t a progress bar so you’re in the dark as to how many stages are left in the checkout process.
Overall it’s a usable site, but could easily be improved by shortening the pages and adding a few user shortcuts.
New Look hasn’t updated its mobile checkout in the past year, so it still has a short two-step process - one for personal and delivery information and one for payments details, meaning fewer page loads.
It also accepts PayPal, offers guest checkout and includes several user shortcuts to make the process extremely quick and easy.
Unfortunately the forms are also quite small so it can be a bit fiddly to enter information.
In the past year six of the top 20 retailers have either upgraded their mobile checkout or launched an entirely new mobile platform.
Currys is the only site that has implemented responsive designed, but EasyJet has also created a user-friendly mobile site from scratch.
Unfortunately Curry’s is severely let down by the fact that it reverts to a desktop site during the checkout process.
Argos, ASOS, John Lewis and Debenhams have all either revamped or made changes to their checkout design, however in the case of ASOS it hasn't greatly improved the UX.
On the flip side, Next has bizarrely made the decision to scrap its mobile site, which could possibly be a precursor to a move to responsive design – or an admission that its mobile site needed an overhaul.
Overall then, the same positives and negatives are present within major m-commerce sites. Too many of them force you to register an account and only four of the retailers accept PayPal.
Those that don’t require registration have noticeably faster checkout processes, with John Lewis, Debenhams and EasyJet among the easiest to use.
In general though, most of the retailers have done a decent job designing their mobile sites (except Thomas Cook) and it remains a surprise that Apple, Play.com, Thomson and LoveFilm are still lagging behind the times.