Over the past few weeks online retailers have begun unveiling tools aimed at inspiring shoppers as they search for Christmas gift ideas.

I’m unconvinced as to whether these features have any impact on sales as they often appear a bit gimmicky, but judging by their popularity among retailers they presumably achieve some kind of ROI.

I’ve already reviewed Argos’ rather quirky Gift Finder which offers a unique browsing experience at the expense of usability, so in the interest of fairness thought it would be interesting to take a look at how other brands are catering to Christmas shoppers.

Here’s what I came up with…

Walmart

Walmart has created a very simple ‘Inspiration’ page to help overwhelmed shoppers, offering broad ideas such as ‘Cooking tools’ and ‘Pets’.

It’s really just a slightly more visual way of using the normal site navigation.

Selfridges

Department store Selfridges offers shoppers ‘Elf Help’ that’s accessible through a pink tab that appears on the right of the screen.

There are four categories of gift ideas (male, female, kids and homeware), but each only includes 12 different options so there’s not a great deal of choice.

However Selridges’ secret weapon is the addition of ‘Elfridges’, which is the seasonal name for the retailer’s team of personal shoppers. 

Customers can book a free appointment with the elves at their local store, which is a clever way of joining up the online and offline shopping experience to help drive up those Christmas sales.

Macy’s

The Macy’s Holiday Gift Guide offers similar categories to Selfridges (For Him, For Her, For The Home) however each one then has several sub-groups so there’s a far bigger range of ideas.

Each category also has a ‘Top 10’ list of the most popular gifts and there’s a ‘Star Gifts’ section which includes pricier gifts from several premium brands.

Macy’s has added a few neat touches that make its gift finder stand out above the competition. Users can ‘love’ each product by clicking a heart icon, which presumably informs the top 10 lists, and also add items to their own personal gift list.

Furthermore, Macy’s has added a ‘Pin it’ button to the product category pages which makes it incredibly simple for shoppers to share items through Pinterest.

John Lewis

John Lewis has included a Christmas section within its top navigation bar, which has proved to be a common tactic among department stores.

It includes a huge range of categories based on the recipient or their interests, including ‘Budding Baristas’, ‘Cosy Nights’ and ‘Little Ones’.

John Lewis’s Christmas section is very easy to use as it follows the same structure as the existing ecommerce site, it’s just an additional section within the navigation options.

This is probably a more sensible strategy than creating an entirely new interface as it doesn’t require the customers to work as hard.

Marks and Spencer

M&S has gone down the same route as John Lewis, integrating a new Christmas shopping section into its existing site structure.

However the execution is slightly different as the product category pages don’t include the name or cost of each item so the shopper is left slightly in the dark as to the precise details.

This helps to make it feel like a unique shopping experience and means people won’t immediately be put off by high price tags, but it also reduces the impact as it’s difficult to be inspired when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking at.

House of Fraser

House of Fraser’s ‘Christmas Emporium’ is the most prominent option within its top navigation menu.

It includes a range of different product categories that follow the same template as the existing ecommerce site. There are also a number of instructional videos to teach people how to wrap a present or decorate a tree.

It includes a huge range of gift ideas and useful content, making it one of the most useful Christmas shopping sections I’ve seen among the major retailers.

Harrods

Harrods’ Gift Guide is given pride of place on the homepage alongside a wallpaper that depicts a festive scene of two people on the type of train that only exists in fiction.

The Christmas section follows the existing site structure and includes a decent range of reassuringly expensive gifts.

It’s a straightforward add-on to Harrod’s ecommerce site, which is perfect for the type of customer who is likely to peruse this site.