Tuesday Thoughts- Christmas Shopping: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Due to the logistical nightmare that is getting Christmas presents to all the relevant places when I don’t have a car, I’ve finished my shopping. Like many of us, I took advantage of some of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals and went through my list like a woman on a mission. I say list, it was a joint Google Sheet with my husband, because that’s just how we roll.

During my Christmas online shopping, I saw some eCommerce experiences that were wonderful, and I saw some downright horror shows. Settle in folks, we’re going to go through my experiences. Note- these are my personal Christmas shopping experiences in the last few weeks, and do not necessarily represent any views of my clients, past, present or future. (Definitely a Scrooge joke to be had there).

The Good

Let’s start with some of the wonderful eCommerce experiences I’ve had in the last few weeks.

  1. Origin Africa

In case you haven’t spotted, I’ve gone on a bit of an eco-warrior vegan hippy vibe recently. Blame freelancing. Anyway, part of my new conscious consumerism led me to purchase a jumper from this not-for-profit. I know I said Christmas shopping, this was an early Christmas gift for myself.

Why was it good?

The checkout process was nice and smooth, the delivery updates were good, but the two stand out things are the brand voice and the customer service. Origin Africa’s tone of voice is on point across all marketing channels, giving greater consistency and strength to its branding, with a clear mission and ethos. Better still, when I received my jumper I had a hand written note from the founder, along with a little goody bag of eco-friendly sample products. While this may be more difficult to do at scale, personalisation is critical to a great connection with your customer.

2. Biscuiteers

If you’re a client of mine, you get biscuits at Christmas. I’m nice like that. I ordered them from Biscuiteers, an icing cafe cum lifestyle brand that make the cutest, coolest gifts.

What made it good?

The checkout process is absolutely seamless. They let me send each item in my basket to a different address, when each one is in a different country, easily. The loyalty scheme is great, you collect ‘pressie points’ with purchase, and it has a reminder service for your important dates.

Worldwide delivery, 7 days a week, including letterbox delivery, is pretty darn impressive for a company making personalised, customisable, very breakable products. The community building via Instagram integration is great, as was the delivery update service. I knew what was arriving, when, to clients all over the world- and I could do nominated day delivery for my clients who work from home certain days of the week. Very, very impressive.

3. Tesco

I’m going to give my weekly supermarket shop a shoutout here. I get a grocery delivery every week, supplemented by a fortnightly veg box from Riverford Organics (another great brand).

Tesco struggled a little bit on Black Friday, with site crashes due to the heavy traffic load of releasing Christmas delivery slots at the same time as heavy discounts on electrical products. Capacity planning, people.

However, I’m a fan of their recent trick of including Christmas ‘food-to-order’ brochures in with every delivery, and their commitment to reducing plastic and introducing more vegan options. Also, my delivery driver is really nice.

The Bad

Here we go…

  1. Boots

In general, I like Boots. Heritage brand, great selection, fan of an Advantage card bonus, etc. But good grief, their text messages are awful. Ordered a Christmas present for my sister, got an extremely helpful: “Great news, your order 123456789 has left our warehouse. Your order will be delivered by the date given when you placed your order”.


You have a customer’s phone number. Can you jazz up that copy a little bit? Also, I can’t remember what the date given was when I placed my order, I was on a Christmas shopping mission. You can remind me. I’m lucky in that I live in an apartment block with a reception, but if I didn’t have a parcel safe place I would be extremely frustrated by this message from Boots.

Also the eCommerce experience… The checkout page doesn’t look like a basket page, because they don’t hide the top nav. It’s so cluttered it hurts my eyes and I can’t work out where my call to action is. How do I actually checkout? Why are you asking for my feedback before I’ve finished? Why are you showing me suggested items, but no way for me to ‘add to basket’?

Oh, and don’t get me started on no option for Guest checkout. Boots, please do better, I like you.

2. John Lewis

Ok, I’m a loyal JLP fan. I love John Lewis. It fits my aspirational bouji lifestyle. They’ve invested a lot in eCommerce, and are definitely head and shoulders above the rest of the department stores.

However, every single package I ordered from John Lewis during my Christmas shopping spree was delivered in broken packaging, some of which was internal packaging and so affected the gifts.

They also seemed to have some stock issues. I noticed a lot of Out of Stock items, and although I like the toggle on and off, perhaps it should be default on? Overall, little tweaks at John Lewis would make a big difference.

The Ugly

  1. Cath Kidston

I feel bad putting Cath in this category, but honestly, this is unforgiveable. The website loads so slowly that the ‘add to basket’ button doesn’t work. You have to refresh the website to pull it from the cache to get it to work properly. There’s no option for free delivery, it’s really expensive, and they try to get me to turn push notifications on. Push notifications?! Really?

It took a really long time for my stuff to arrive. Luckily it’s perfect, because they don’t offer in-store refunds for items ordered online, and I’d have to go and find my own packaging and pay for a return and faff about with everything anyway. Bah, humbug.

2. Debenhams

Please excuse this photograph, I saw it on a retail journalist’s twitter account. But you get the idea…queue systems on Black Friday. I don’t think I need to expand on this one. Queue systems= Lost sales. Capacity plan. Ensure your servers can take the load. Work with your marketing teams, distribution teams, hell, just talk to each other and don’t do this to your customers. As a side note, I don’t order from Debenhams because trying to understand their categories or use the search function is hell on earth.

Here’s a fun fact. I worked in Debenhams for 5 years when I was doing my A Levels/University etc. I’d really like to see them make a comeback and invest in getting this experience right.

Anyway, that’s it for today! Let me know if you’ve had any rant or rave-worthy experiences while you’ve been doing your Christmas shopping. Oh, and in the spirit of sharing good content, if you liked this post, you’ll like this one from eConsultancy.



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