Mystery Shopper: Online Mac special

This month's star store was Argos
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For our Apple special, this month we tasked our mystery shopper with finding an 11-inch MacBook Air online, with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB HDD. The catch? It must cost the same or less than from Apple direct (£749). Here’s how they got on…

AMAZON 8/10

With Amazon being possibly the most popular online retailer at the moment, I thought this would be a great place to start my search.

While I was pleased to see that there were a few options for an 11-inch MacBook Air, I had to dismiss half of them after finding out that they were used instead of brand new. There was only one product sold by Amazon itself that was new but, unfortunately, it was a higher spec than what I was looking for.

After dismissing a few more that were listed slightly higher than Apple’s £749 price tag, I found one MacBook Air with the right specs and in new condition in the marketplace section.

It was £604 – quite a saving. As well as this, it was sold by GB Buddy, which had a 97 per cent positive rating plus free delivery. But it took a while to find.

As with all Amazon purchases, it was incredibly easy to buy the product through its 1-click ordering system. It was also eligible for free delivery.

JOHN LEWIS 9/10

It was very easy to find what I was looking for using the search bar at the top of the John Lewis website. I was happy to find that the retailer had the right device with my required specs for the same price as Apple. While there wasn’t quite the saving that there was from Amazon, there was an awful lot of specs and information on the product for me to sift through.

The John Lewis website is clean and very easy to navigate, my only issues with it is the odd zoom function, which gets a bit annoying after a while. Unlike most sites, where the zoomed image appears over the current one, this one pops up over other parts of the page...

Despite that, I had a lot of buying and delivery options to chose from. I could Click and Collect from John Lewis or Waitrose the next day for free, or wait five working days for free standard UK delivery.

There was even an option to collect my MacBook from a local shop for just £3.50 – something a lot of other etailers don’t offer.

ARGOS 10/10 STAR STORE

I managed to find an 11-inch MacBook Air with the right specs for £749, and also with free delivery.

As well as all the usual specs and product details, the Argos website made a point of drawing my attention to a number of special offers, which seemed to be tailor-made to work with the particular laptop that I was planning to purchase.

These offers ranged from £20 gift vouchers if ordered before a certain date, to getting money off software packages such antivirus software or Microsoft Office 365.

Argos also clearly displayed its customer support options on the page, which was a nice touch. When clicked, the customer support page opened in a new window, which meant I didn’t lose my page.

With options to buy or reserve from a store, as well as getting the product delivered for free straight to my door within two days, it was very hard to find a fault with Argos’ e-commerce offering.

PC WORLD 9/10

The homepage of PC World’s website was full of offers and deals. There was even a MacBook Pro on there. Although this wasn’t the model I was after, I clicked on it anyway, hoping that I would be able to easily find my way to my desired product.

I was right. I found the model I was looking for in the related products section.

I was a little put off by the pop up windows asking for my feedback before I even had a chance to spend much time on the site, but after closing them, I found that not only did the MacBook Air match Apple’s £749 price tag, but there was also a 10 per cent cashback offer – reducing the price to £674.

After having to close another pop-up asking if I wanted to live chat with someone, I was pleased to see that I could get the MacBook delivered for free (and I could also choose to collect it from a local store within an hour).

While the price was very good at PC World, I did feel that I was a bit bombarded with pop-up windows.

LAPTOPS DIRECT 7/10

In what was proving to be a very successful mystery shop, I once again managed to find an 11-inch MacBook Air with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB hard drive. This time it was available for a very reasonable price of £694.97.

Of all the websites I visited during this mystery shop, Laptops Direct definitely had the most product information available.

There was also an abundance of images as well as package deals, tech specs, extras, customer reviews and a Q&A section.

Once I clicked through to buy the product, Laptops Direct sneakily added on a set up and system check for £30. Luckily I noticed it just in time before buying the MacBook Air.

Laptops Direct was also the only website I visited that charged for delivery, with the cheapest being £4.96 for standard delivery, which I was told would take up to five working days. Unfortunately, there didn’t seem to be a free delivery option, unlike the other websites featured in this mystery shop.

EBUYER.COM 7/10

While Ebuyer.com is probably the best looking website that I visited, it took me a little longer to find the product I was after.

Once I managed to find a MacBook Air, I failed to find one with the right specs. There were none with 128GB HDDs. My only choice was one with 254GB, which had a price tag of £906.35. It had free delivery though.

Aside from the fact that Ebuyer didn’t have the exact product that I was after, it did provide free delivery and displayed a wide range of specs and product information.

One nice touch I noticed was that as you scroll down the page, there is a banner at the top of the page displaying the product you are currently looking at, how long you have left to buy it to get next day delivery, and a very big ‘add to basket’ button.

These are all very nice touches which I felt encouraged me to complete my order without feeling like I’m being pressured into purchasing something.

SUMMARY

This was a particularly tricky mystery shopper. Not because I couldn’t find the product I was after, but because there is a lot less scope for competitive pricing when it comes to buying a specific product from Apple.

Saying that, I did still manage to find some good offers, especially from PC World, which had it for £674, and Amazon, which offered up a MacBook Air for a very impressive £604.

Although Ebuyer.com was the best looking website, unfortunately it was the only site that I couldn’t actually find an 11-inch MacBook Air with the right specs.

I have to give Laptops Direct a special mention for the sheer volume of additional specs and product information it had.

While PC World and John Lewis both had great delivery options, my star store this month has to be Argos.

Not only did Argos have the right product at the right price, but it also had some really great add on offers and bundles, as well as handy options when it came to asking for help –without being too invasive.

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