With predictions of further growth for mobile commerce this Christmas, it's more important than ever that retailers tailor the user experience for smartphones. 

IMRG predicts that UK consumers will spend about £4.6bn online in the two weeks up to December 17, and that £920m of that is expected to go through smartphones and tablets. 

This example, from Cath Kidston, shows how a poor mobile experience will lose sales for retailers during the Christmas shopping season and beyond...

Site has not been optimised for mobile users

Simply load the site up on a mobile, and you can see the problem. Menus are hard to read, and some serious zooming is required to actually click on anything. 

At this stage, many mobile users will bail to save themselves the hassle. 

Error messages

Online shoppers don't want to see error messages. It erodes trust. If there is a big error message across the site, why would they risk entering their credit card details? 

It says something like 'sorry, there's an error on the xml package. Please contact your technical support...'. A definite conversion killer. 

Dodgy drop-down menus

The drop-downs work well enough on the desktop site, but here they won't go away, meaning that they obsure the first few products. 

Site search doesn't work

I have no idea why, but I just cannot use Cath Kidson's site search on mobile. It just won't let me enter any text. 

As site search is a valuable shortcut for users, and even more important on mobile to save time, this is a serious usability flaw

Poor product page images

On the desktop site, Cath Kidston has a useful zoom tool which allows you to see details of products and patterns: 

No such luck on mobile. There's no zoom tool, or alternate images, so it's hard to get a feel for the product. Also, text on delivery charges, size guides etc is hard to read without zooming in. 

No guest checkout option

Customers don't like having to register before checkout. A recent Econsultancy study found that a quarter of online consumers would abandon a purchase if they were forced to register first. 

It's a major barrier to purchase on mobile as it means more work for the shopper and, especially on a non-mobile site, more fiddly zooming in and out to fill in forms. 

Terrible password reset process

A common problem with forced registration is that you may have shopped on a site before and therefore have an account linked to your email address, yet you have forgotten the password. 

This is an issue which a guest checkout option would solve. As it is, Cath Kidston compounds the problem with a fidlly password reset process. 

First of all, you enter email address and try to guess the password. Perhaps it's the one you use for all of your online shopping? 

If not, then you're in for some pain. First of all, it deletes the one you just entered with the wrong password, meaning you have to type it all over again: 

Then, you have to open up your email and wait for the reset password. It's a jumble of letters and symbols which you couldn't possibly remember, so let's hope your phone has copy and paste:

Then, just to add another (unnecessary) step to the process, you need to change your password again as soon as you have entered the one you were sent. 

This means entering the gobbledygook password again, then the new one twice.

If your password reset process looks like this, you'd better hope your customers are really keen to buy. 

Checkout process

On desktop, regsitration issues aside, it isn't a badly designed checkout process. However, on mobile its hard to read, which means more work for the shopper. Throw in the pain of Verified by Visa, and it's a real challenge. 

Yes, you do need a mobile optimised site

There are so many potential pitfalls for the mobile shopper on this site, that I'd be amazed if many smartphone users actually manage to buy anything. 

This was pointed out to me by my wife, who made it through so far thanks to some lovely pyjamas, but finally ran out of patience when trying to rest her password. 

Let's recap: it's hard to navigate, there are big error messages on the homepage, you have to register to checkout, and the password reset process is nuts. 

Perhaps Cath Kidston feels it has no need for a mobile site, but I find that hard to accept. It's a well-known brand, one which probably attracts a slightly wealthier demographic who are likely to use smartphones. 

Of course, it'll be easy enough to check analytics to get an idea of the number of mobile visitors, as well as the average conversion rate for these users, which I can't imagine is very high. 

This should make the case for a mobile site. It doesn't have to cost much, and even a basic, stopgap site would be better than this. 

Mobile commerce is growing, and will continue to grow. Some even predict it will be bigger than desktop by 2015. 

If you don't have a mobile optimised website, and your mobile user experience looks that Cath Kidston's then you are missing out on sales. 

Graham Charlton

Published 29 November, 2012 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (12)

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Victoria Chapman

Wow - it's just one issue after another after another. I'm not surprised your wife gave up. It's hard to imagine why such a popular brand such as Cath Kidston wouldn't have addressed their mobile presence.

Like you say - they attract a slightly more wealthier audience, and these are the people with smart phones and the impatience that goes with being a busy parent/spouse/career person. Also I imagine not everyone has a Cath Kidston shop near them, so the reliance on online shopping has to be quite high for these guys. Surely making sure your site is mobile friendly would be a major priority?

over 5 years ago

Andrew McGarry

Andrew McGarry, Managing Director at McGarry Fashion


Data so far suggests, as expected, that smartphone shoppers are buying in record numbers.

No excuse in December 2012 not to be optimised for mobile. Although it's arguably cheaper to hire a developer or three than pay agency rates.

CK's primary concern right now may be store expansion but you have to wonder how much money they'll lose this holiday season due to poor mobile UX.

over 5 years ago


Robert McWhirter

Absolutely agree. With such a high proportion of users accessing the web from mobile devices nowadays, there is no excuse to have a site that isn't easy to use on any device!

Much of the web is still incompatible or at least fairly difficult to use on mobile devices. However, getting your site to look great on a mobile device doesn't necessarily mean forking out on a site that is exclusively for mobile.

There are a range of avenues worth investigating, but using a 'responsive' site is worth a look. A responsive site will automatically adapt to the device that its on, so no need for separate apps or mobile sites.

Find out a bit more about it all here: http://www.browserlondon.com/one-web/

over 5 years ago


Cath Kidston Ltd., Cath Kidston Ltd.

We are in the process of optimising our site to make it easier for smartphone users to browse and shop. This new site will be live in 2013.

over 5 years ago

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

So many shops are in this situation at the moment but it's good to see the company on here and taking steps towards improving this. I've done a lot of Christmas shopping on my phone and iPad this year, it's been good for the most part but I don't venture to many shops in case the checkout process is too much hard work!

over 5 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Cath Kidston Hi - appreciate you taking the time to reply. I don't just want to single you out (though obviously that's exactly what I did) - there are plenty of other retailers who are also late to the party as far as mobile is concerned.

Good to hear a solution is on the way - are you going for a mobile site or looking into responsive design?

over 5 years ago


Ian Vaughan

I agree mobile commerce is growing at an alarming rate. And it's great that such a cool brand such as Kath Kidston is planning a mobile site.

I have purchased many items myself on the move. One such occasion it was a discounted Apple iPad when I was at the checkout in Marks and Spencer!

However usability is key, I have used many mobile optimised/responsive sites and although they are designed to work on mobile I feel they are too restrictive or the user experience is not the same as their web version. As a result I have switched back to the full version to complete the transaction.

One company that has perfected the mobile commerce / mobi shopping experience is Amazon. It is a pleasure to use their mobile site, its quick and easy. This should be the benchmark for other retailers to follow.

over 5 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Good to hear a solution on the way too. I tried using it on my iPhone the other day, wanted to use the search function and it wouldn't even let me type anything.

This has got me thinking, has 2012 really been the year of Mobile? So far the last few years have supposed to have been the 'year of mobile' but 2012 has been the best year so far for mobile, but reviews like this one for Cath Kidston show we are not there yet with Mobile?? Every mainstream high street brand should have a decent mobile website by now.

over 5 years ago

Steve Genders

Steve Genders, Head of On-Line at SessionCam

We (I work at SessionCam.com) have a number of mobiles site clients that have signed up with SessionCam so that the owners can actually see what their mobile customers are experiencing. They may initially think they have a great mobile site, but replaying all the sessions could make disturbing watching.
Watching desktop/laptop optimised sites being accessed via a smart phone can also be make for pretty worrying viewing.
On the other hand there are some mobile sites that are brilliant and watching the playback with SessionCam is a real pleasure. Needless to say they are the busy sites!

over 5 years ago


Rich Johnson

I checked out the link to the e-commerce platform that the Cath Kidston site uses. It appears their own SSL certificate has expired.

It would be really interesting to see the analytics for the site leading up to Christmas. Mobile bounce rates must be though the roof.

over 5 years ago


Coris Leachman

My wife'll be a very happy lady when Cath Kidston get a mobile site, but i'll be a much poorer man...For the love of god, may their mobile site remain unusable!

over 5 years ago


Jim Hudson

Having a site broken down into bits and pieces like you did with this one really puts it all into perspective. You did a really good job of showing how important it is, especially for a big retailer, to have an optimized mobile website. I would definitely not bother with trying to purchase at a site with the mobile site problems they have!

over 5 years ago

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