Mobile Phone E-Commerce Report Delivers Blow to Big Brands

Only outsider Expansys scores above 50% on overall experience for online shoppers

Britain’s biggest mobile phone brands are lagging behind relative outsider Expansys when it comes to the design and usability of their e-commerce sites, according to a new report from benchmarking specialists Syntagm ( Findings show that the majority of mobile sites suffer from poor navigation, lack of information and limited online support – failing consumers on some of the most basic services needed to buy a phone.

The benchmarking report compares user experience between 12 of the leading vendors (Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys,, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone), revealing some big surprises in the ratings – and an unprecedented overview of the market as a whole.

Specialist handheld reseller Expansys topped the results tables in eight of the 13 groups (including some tied scores) but its overall score was still only 62%. O2 was ranked in second place overall with a score of 50% and Argos scraped into third position with 47% for overall user experience.

Tesco may be marching further into the mobile market, but online it slows to a crawl: it received the lowest scores for trust and shopping basket design, and suffered from problematic navigation and an indiscriminate search facility. This combination of weak results earned Tesco the bottom position overall, with a user experience score of just 36%.

Many of the mobile providers were found guilty of prioritising style over substance: half of the sites scored 80% or above for visual design but only O2 had a respectable content score (83%), with the majority performing poorly in providing effective product information (three quarters achieved 60% or lower).

Online support was the weakest area across all sites, scoring just 2% overall. Expansys, O2 and Virgin received some marks for offering online support forums, but the other nine benchmarked sites received zero scores for only dealing with problems or questions through telephone help desks (often at national-rate charges).

With current levels of spam, phishing attacks and credit card fraud, consumers have every right to be suspicious of e- commerce sites. Yet very few of the benchmarked sites provided adequate levels of reassurance. Clicking the ‘Internet shopping is safe’ logo on the Orange checkout page produced a certificate error.

A surprisingly poor performance came in the area of persuasion (trying to sell services), which only averaged 11% in its benchmarked group. And, where accessories or upgrades were offered they were often irrelevant to the phone selected. The most commonly offered additional service was handset insurance, despite this already being included in many home contents policies.

“Having spent seven years benchmarking and offering design advice on intranets we’re now turning our attention to e-commerce sites, starting with mobile phones. The overall results were unexpected and disappointing, but we hope that the companies in the survey will find the information useful,” said William Hudson, Syntagm’s CEO.

“At a time of intense competition between the main mobile traders they can’t afford to lose customers due to confusing content, shocking customer service and missed sale opportunities. Expansys may not be a mainstream mobile phone site, but the user experience it offers puts many of its bigger competitors to shame.”


Notes for editors
About Syntagm:
Syntagm is a small consultancy based in Oxford. Established in 1985, it specialises in design for usability (user-centred design and user experience) and people development. It has worked more than 100 blue chip organisations across Europe and North America.

About the benchmarking report:
The benchmarking took place in late May and early June 2009, comparing the user experience between 12 of the leading UK vendors: Argos, Carphone Warehouse, Expansys,, O2, Orange, phones4u, Tesco, T-Mobile, Three, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone.

Syntagm compared the sites across 13 categories: content, visual design, navigation, engagement, accessibility, trust, persuasion, shopping basket, search, selection, checkout, account management, and online support.

Each category received a numerical score and written observations. The numerical scores make it possible to see clearly where strengths and weaknesses lie for each of the mobile e-commerce organisations concerned, and improved scores can be used as targets for future development.

Additional sites can be benchmarked on request. Syntagm and its staff have no financial interests in any of the organisations benchmarked.

For further details or to purchase the report visit


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