So, how far along with your Christmas shopping are you? How about your Christmas party shopping?
If, like me, you are waiting to be struck by the hand of inspiration for one particularly tricky person – or you’re yet to decide what to wear on the day itself – then I may have the solution: Octer, a website and mobile app that allow you to browse over 200 of your favourite stores and to compare products in a single place.
Octer began life in December 2014 as a mobile app, but has since expanded to allow desktop shopping too. Whichever option you choose, the platform allows you to browse around 8,000 fashion, beauty, technology and homeware products at any one time by product category or by store – and, once you’ve found something you like, the “compare” option allows you to see alternatives from other retailers in a single place. You can then click through to the retailer in question to purchase that particular product.
Featured retailers include loads of your favourite, UK-based sites, all chosen for their reliability (something which, I assume, is pretty important when your job is to direct customers to other places!). In womenswear, that’s everyone from Oasis, Topshop and ASOS to Ted Baker, The Outnet and Boden – while homeware retailers include John Lewis, Amara and Anthropologie.
Now, as tempting as it was to spend my Sunday browsing through the fashion picks, I decided to do something a little more practical with the money Octer sent me to give the site a try. This year, I’ll be cooking and hosting Christmas dinner at home for the very first time: something which I am incredibly excited about, but which also made me look at the battered old plates we’ve been using for the past 10 years and decide it was time for an upgrade.
After 20 minutes on Octer – and talking myself out of a huge, French-inspired blue and white set, which had £70 off but seriously, there is no need or space for another mug in my house – I’d settled on a cute set of dinner and side plates plus bowls from Very. And a set of colourful kitchen knives in a knife block. Because I am an adult, and that seems like something I should have.
I’ve never bought anything from Very before – it’s just not a site I would ever have thought to look at, despite the best efforts of approximately nineteen thousand bus stop ads in the centre of Glasgow. That’s the joy of Octer as a platform: the selections on the app include products from the retailers that you love, and the ones that you didn’t realise were for you. Although it’s also a bit of a pain as it effectively means registering with two different sites – thankfully, Facebook login on the Octer app is a one-click process and you really only need it to store your favourite items for later.
Personally, I found the Octer app (for iPhone, although it’s available on Google Play too) easier to use than the desktop site – but I think that was partly because that kind of idle browsing for items you didn’t even know that you wanted feels more natural on mobile to me, with half an eye on something else. It took a long time for me to get used to the apparently haphazard way in which items were displayed: browsing “women’s fashion“, for example, shows you a fairly random selection of items, and you have to pick something in order to be able to compare. The focus is more on the joy of discovery, which is a very different experience from shopping with a single retailer – but if you have the time, it can be a much more rewarding experience.
It does fall down every so often though: with categorisation and the site’s search function clearly based to a certain extent on automated keywords, you can come across a few howlers. Outdoor lighting included a couple of outdoor furniture sets for some reason, and while I can see how a computer would group cutlery with crockery it’s not really a great comparison when you’re shopping for something specific.
These quibbles aside though, I’d definitely use Octer again – particularly when I’m not in a hurry. The broad categories make the app feel a little like hunting through the racks for that perfect find (only without the crowds) and the “compare” feature is great when it works – which it does far more effectively when you’re shopping for clothes. I particularly like the fact that you can choose only to browse through items on sale if you’re looking for a bargain – and, if you save something to your wishlist, you can come back and try a comparison at a later date even if the original retailer has since sold out.
Have you tried Octer before?
This is a sponsored post, but all views are my own and unbiased.