I've been reading a mobile commerce benchmark study from eDigital which, based on a mystery shopper survey puts Play.com as the best mobile commerce website. 

The results are interesting, as it suggests that some users would prefer to view a company's standard website on a mobile, rather than a mobile version which is meant to be more user-friendly. It also seems that shoppers want the same experience, regardless of the platform. 

The eDigital Research M-commerce Benchmark study used 20 'mystery shoppers' to try out the websites of 15 retailers on their smartphones,mainly iPhones, but with some HTC and Nokia devices too. 

Surveyors simply accessed the websites on their mobiles, so there are a mixture of mobile optimised and standard desktop versions of e-commerce sites. 

Opinion seems to be divided among users on what makes a good mobile site, with some preferring the stripped down simplicity of a mobile-optimised site, while others wanted the full functionality of the main website. 

With an overall score of 89.6%, Play.com gained first place in the survey. This is perhaps surprising, since this isn't a mobile optimised site.


Here's the Play.com homepage viewed on an iPhone: 


It does look fairly cluttered on a small mobile screen, but users found it visually appealing and were impressed by the clear navigation bar and promotional elements.

I think the fact that Play.com is a usable site which users would be familiar with helps, but to navigate around the site, viewing products and making a purchase requires a lot of pinching and scrolling, and therefore much more work for users. 

The checkout process on Play.com is not well suited to mobiles, yet it still scored well in the survey. Users have to register first, then fill in relatively long forms. A properly optimised mobile checkout would be far easier for users. 


The next three websites on the list are mobile optimised websites, and customers appreciated the ease of search and navigation and the purchase process on sites like Amazon and M&S. 


While I think a site that has been optimised for mobile users is the best way to drive sales through mobiles, there are a few points for retailer to consider, based on the results of this survey: 

Consumers expect a similar user experience with both mobile and internet websites

If customers are familiar with a brand's website, then the mobile experience should be as close to this as possible. Even on a simplified mobile site, customers still want to see special offers, and full details on products. 

They also want to be able to buy from the site, not just reserve items for in store collection. This is partly the reason for the low score given to the Comet mobile site. While it is easy to use, customers cannot make purchases from the site, and have to hunt around for the link to the main site if they want to. 


Product availability should be the same on mobile and websites

If customers are shopping from the app, they want the same range as they would get on the main site. 

Retailers should constantly review and adopt mobile commerce best practice

While the overall scores in this survey weren't awful in most cases, the usability of websites on mobiles still lags behind that of desktop e-commerce sites.

One issue here is that 10 of the 15 sites surveyed had not been optimised for mobile at all, and retailers hoping to drive significant sales via mobiles should be thinking about launching dedicated sites and apps. 

Better multichannel integration is needed

Mobile can be a valuable tool for multichannel retailers, allowing customers to research items and check prices and reviews while shopping offline, or else can be used to drive customers into stores with reserve and collect options and store locator tools. 

Very few of the retailers in this list are actually doing that, only M&S and Comet had any kind of mobile optimised store locator tool for instance. 

Checkouts should be optimised for mobile

While Play.com does well in this survey, this is probably due to the fact that it is a usable and easy to navigate site anyway, but the checkout process is a pain.

Some stats suggest that conversion rates for mobile users on web checkouts are 70-80% lower than on desktop sites, so if retailers are serious about driving sales via mobile, then they have to make the purchase process as smooth as possible.

Graham Charlton

Published 1 October, 2010 by Graham Charlton

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

2565 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (6)

Save or Cancel

Tim Dunn

"Interesting article".

I think we'd have to have a close look at the make-up of the user base on this research! Clearly neither Play nor Next (to name but two) even have mobile-enabled sites, so the idea that any seriously representative base would give a favourable response is pretty laughable.

Perhaps a comparable exercise would be to ask the eCommerce heads which of these sites are generating most revenue from mobile, and then see which is best...

almost 8 years ago

Daniel Clutterbuck

Daniel Clutterbuck, Director/ Co-Founder at Webtise Ltd

We've recently launched a few Mobile Commerce sites for clients and we're seeing great results. Minimizing the pinching and finger running on the iPhone was the goal. With some stores it can be frustrating when incorrect links are clicked. I'm sure some without are very profitable but I'm definitely agree that conversions would increase with bigger buttons and device specific design. Webtise.

almost 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Tim I agree, the fact that Play.com is number one baffles me. 

almost 8 years ago

Douglas McDonald

Douglas McDonald, Director of Mobile and Connected Consumer at TMW

It would also be intersting to see what range phones they tested on. I can't concieve of a situation whereby Play.com would come top if feature phones (even quite good ones) were the majority of users (as in real life). Without that info and the nature of the sample (broad or younger male geeks?) it is, as Tim says merely "interesting".

almost 8 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Hi Douglas, only smartphones were used in the study. 

I'm told that the majority of phones used by the 20 testers were iPhones, but that the following smartphone models were also used: 

HTC Desire

HTC Touch 2

Nokia E72

Nokia N97

HTC Hero

Blackberry Bold 9700

Sony Ericsson Vivaz

Feature phone users would surely have struggled to use the Play.com site, and I find it hard to understand how people found the Play.com site more usable then either the M&S or Amazon mobile sites, even on a smartphone. 

almost 8 years ago



Personally I found the Play site too cluttered. Pinching and scrolled is slow and tedious. I prefer to perform more clicking than scolling on my mobile device.

about 6 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.