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Shopping comparison and review site Ciao announced a new and improved mobile site last week, which aims to capitalise on the increased usage of smartphones.
Ciao has experienced a 200% rise in mobile visitors over the last 15 months, so it makes sense to cater for this growing mobile audience.
Having a mobile website rather than an app means that it can appeal to the broadest possible audience, but at the moment it does mean that some of the richer functionality of an app is missing.
So, while on apps like Sccope, mobile comparison is made easier as users can simply scan the barcode of a product to generate instant price comparison results, while Amazon's app does the same with product photos.
On the Ciao mobile site though, it is necessary to either type in a search term, or browse through the various product categories, which is a slower process.
If Ciao's mobile audience is split over several different mobile devices, then the mobile web approach is probably the best one to take. If, however, one or two mobile devices stand out, then it may be worth developing a dedicated app.
Once you have entered a search term, the app could use some options for filtering and refining results. If you enter a specific product and model number, this is not such a problem, but for broad terms like 'Xbox', there are lots of results and no way of sorting them for relevance:
Once you find the product pages, there is some product information, as well as an overview of the review scores and the pros and cons of the product:
The reviews on Ciao are probably the most useful resource for people using their mobiles for offline shopping. Reviews are detailed, the information has been laid out clearly, and there a plenty of them:
However, the price comparison side of the site was disappointing. It is unclear which link takes you to the price comparison information. This can be accessed by clicking on the price underneath the product title, but it isn't obvious.
The wording of the link should make it clearer, something like 'compare prices' would make it much easier for users.
The site isn't really set up to make it easy for customers to buy products, and this is something Ciao may want to improve in future. For example, the site shows products from Amazon and links to the retailer, yet it takes you to the desktop version of the site.
Amazon has a mobile-optimised site that customers can buy from relatively easily, so why not link to that version?
Other problems include selecting links on touch screen phones. Some of the links, such as the product categories in the screenshot below, are so close together that it is too easy to click the wrong one.
Shoppers are increasingly using their mobiles to access product and price information while they are shopping offline, so it makes sense for Ciao to improve its mobile offering.
It is a useful resource, especially for finding user product reviews, but in common with some other mobile comparison services, there is still room for improvement.