CAMPAIGN INTERACTIVE: PRIVATE SURF WITH ALASTAIR DUNCAN

I guess none of you reading this will get much time to shop in the run-up to Christmas (roll on Posh Spice to switch on the Oxford Street lights), so let’s nip up the virtual high street to see what shopping online is all about. Talking of Posh, my first port of call is Liberty (www.liberty-of-london.com).

I guess none of you reading this will get much time to shop in the

run-up to Christmas (roll on Posh Spice to switch on the Oxford Street

lights), so let’s nip up the virtual high street to see what shopping

online is all about. Talking of Posh, my first port of call is Liberty

(www.liberty-of-london.com).



The experience begins with tiny animations telling me I can Discover the

Company, Explore the London Store, or Go Shopping. But I don’t have much

luck following these instructions. To start with, this very purple site

appears to have been designed on an Apple Mac by someone who doesn’t

realise most people don’t use them, so I have to keep scrolling up, down

and sideways on my Compaq palmtop to find my way around.



I’m hoping to get some sense of the interesting and innovative designs

you can buy in Liberty, but the site doesn’t really stack up to that

expectation of the brand at all. What’s for sale is very limited, if not

a little odd, and while the ordering process is OK, overall the site is

tacky rather than sticky. Despite the ’exciting new six-minute video

coming soon’.



Go to the real store.



Next up is Shops on the Net, (www.sotn.co.uk), where they promise ’to

make your shopping experience with SOTN the most stress-free and

relaxing shoppng experience you’ve ever had’. It is the season of

goodwill, so I’ll ignore the spelling mistake, but I can’t say the site

is successful in achieving anything close to making me feel relaxed.

Quite the opposite, in fact, with more than 3,000 shops to be confused

by. The site graphics are very reminiscent of the listings site, Scene

One. The best I can do is refer you to Portia P, the site’s own

shopaholic, who’s clearly an idiot. I quote: ’Not being a technically

minded girl, I headed straight for this thing called a ’portal’ which

lists all the best shopping sites on the ’net’ so you never have to

remember any of those funny addresses.



I got a divine Burberry dog carrier from www.pets-pajamas.co.uk which I

found through www.sotn.co.uk for only pounds 49.99 which will be perfect

for me to tuck Clarence the Chihuahua into when I go to the launch party

for ’Pets for Peace’ at the Metropolitan next week.’ No thanks dear.



The good news is available from www.shoppingunlimited.co.uk. I like The

Guardian and I like The Guardian’s digital brand too. Good clean

design.



Quick to load. Reasonably good coverage that will, no doubt, grow over

time. The news and reviews about shopping online are trustworthy, unlike

dear Portia above. Well done to them for working out that it’s about

making things easier, not more difficult.



By now I’m hungry, so let’s see how going to the supermarket works out

at www.sainsburys.co.uk. No evidence of the increasing paranoia about

Wal-Mart’s plans here, but real evidence of major retailer paranoia

about online retail. Unless you live near Beckenham, Chase Lane,

Enfield, Fulham, Hayes, Kenton, Purley Way, St Clares or Watford Dome

Roundabout (I’ve spelled them out in case you do) this site isn’t much

use to you. You can leave an e-mail with your postcode, which I think I

did over a year ago and have yet to hear from them. The site has been

efficiently redesigned in a magazine style in Sainsbury’s new brand

livery, with a search facility for recipes too. (No query matches for

Dog’s Dinner, but 22 for Posh Spice.)



Last up is www.hotbox.co.uk. This site offers toys for boys, and if you

like that sort of thing, it’s quite good. Flat Eric makes an

appearance.



Every bachelor pad accessory you could possibly want, from optics to

telescopes to weird stuff like the phenominator, the daetrix, and mini

boules for desktop frog-bashing.



There is an element of the tacky creeping into this site, but simplicity

of execution and unpretentiousness saves it. The site works quite well,

with some serious thought in the design. It’s a safe site for shopping,

giving that ring of confidence that many of the shop sites lack. Free UK

delivery. Thirty-day money back guarantee. And you can order by fax,

post or phone. Not that I’m on commission or anything, unlike Posh

Spice. Happy shopping!