After 10 years, m-commerce sites should be easy to use. If you think they are, find a nearby octogenarian and try online shopping with them…

Have you ever stopped to think about what it might be like to be over 80 and trying to use the internet?

Maybe you ARE an octogenarian. And therefore you are now using the internet. In which case, well done.

But I’d bet you’re some way shy of 80, so you instinctively know what a cursor is and what a hot link is and what URL stands for and what ‘save’ means and – well, I could go on.

The reason I mention this is that my 83 year old mum has just come out of hospital. She’s extraordinarily youthful in her outlook and pretty healthy too, but she’s been advised to slow down while she recovers. So she asked me if I could set up online supermarket shopping for her.

I feared the worst. And I was right to.

My mum has an iPad which she uses for two things only: YouTube comedy (she likes a bit of French and Saunders) and email. She doesn’t ‘get’ Google and she has little conception (allied to sheer naked fear) of shopping online.

But in my naivety, I thought I could set her up and she could just do the occasional grocery shop from her living room.

    I hope a new approach will shake up the status quo. Tinder blew up online dating with its genius UI of swipe left and right. Why can’t there be something similar for sausage rolls?

This is what I found out from my short and nightmarish attempt to join

  1. It’s not obvious when you sign up that you are registering for the web site or for the loyalty scheme
  2. You have to book a delivery time before shopping, but this is not made clear
  3. If you want to add and item to a shopping list, you have to click on it – you can’t just do it from the main menu
  4. It’s not clear what the difference is between a favourite and a list
  5. The web site is overcrowded and in tiny font, even though it’s apparently been modified for tablets

All of this was annoying to me. It was utterly unfathomable for her.

I could see there was absolutely no way she could go it alone. Even if I wrote down a set of instructions on paper for her, an accidental screen touch somewhere would leave her lost and bewildered. Finally, we agreed I would set up a shopping list and she would phone me when she wanted a delivery.

In a sense that makes me Waitrose.

Now, you could say that 83 year olds are a tiny demographic. And if they can’t comprehend the online world, well that’s sad but inevitable. But then comes a study by Parker Software this month, which says that the average conversion rate for e-commerce sales could be as low as two per cent.


That’s 98 in 100 shoppers giving up and going home. Or perhaps I should say going out. To the shops. And it’s just as bad on mobile.

tim-greenTim Green

Features Editor

MEF Minute

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It seems that even after 20 years of e-commerce, and 10 years of m-commerce, most sites are unintuitive, badly designed and presume a certain amount of web savvy from their visitors.

I hope a new approach will shake up the status quo. Tinder blew up online dating with its genius UI of swipe left and right. Why can’t there be something similar for sausage rolls?

Maybe message bots are the answer. It would be quick and safe for my mum to text Waitrose ‘please send my weekly shop’. I can easily imagine her doing that.

As soon as she learns how to text.

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