Starting my 12 days of #ChristmasShopping “convert me” #ecommerce #mcommerce challenge! Expecting to be disappointed, delighted, surprised …

This year, I took the challenge—I Christmas shopped. Those of you who follow me on Twitter saw my progress under #christmasshopping as I wove through the veritable e-commerce mazes, trying to become the ultimate consumer convert. I clicked. I compared. I delighted in the good and questioned the bad as I made my list, checked it twice, and shopped—weeks after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday crush, I might add, and all in the name of research, of course.

#christmasshopping day one: #googled “what to make a 12 year old boy for Christmas”—old @FoxNews article top result

Day one—my 12-year-old son. A simple Google search to start, and I’m immediately sidetracked by this Fox News article from 2006. After catching her then 12-year-old son unwrapping a Nintendo Game Boy Advance Grandma had bought him, Mom called the cops and had her son arrested for petty larceny.

My takeaway? My family’s Christmas is already off to a better start than theirs. Back to shopping …

One of the clear winners of holiday 2013? Shopping apps. RetailMeNot took brick-and-click to a new level, with a search-and-seize approach to deal hunting that extends across in-store and online sales. View deals by retailer, by what’s trending, or based on your location—the app delivers the best and most relevant. Save deals and have the cashier scan your phone, or look for top online-only promotions.

At the end of day one I found what I needed and no one got arrested. I say #success.

#christmasshopping day two: nice @amazon email thanks for @amazonprime membshp $50 off @KindleFire offer: click. redeem. $ off in cart. cool.

On day two of my shopping adventure, an email from Amazon popped up in my inbox offering $50 off a Kindle Fire, just for being a Prime member. In seconds I’m on Amazon, snagging one before they’re gone. Act surprised, unsuspecting member of the Lindsay household.

More than the incredible deal, though, Amazon hooked me with just how easy it was. The email was simple, targeted, and when I clicked through, it took me straight to the purchase page. It couldn’t have been more seamless.

The right place/right time approach isn’t new. But Amazon’s ability to cut through the clutter during the holidays—when my inbox is already overloaded and the deals keep coming—is impressive. For the next few days, it’s essential that retailers connect the dots from a messaging and optimization perspective. Whether it’s perfectly curated, highly targeted, or too personalized to resist, the message has to be just right. And what’s more, when people do click through, the conversion experience needs to be a cohesive no-brainer. The less they have to do to make the purchase, the better. Another #success, Amazon.

#christmasshopping day 3: shopped on the @REI app. “5 days, 5 brands” deals are great … Best way to engage on first screen. #mcommerce

We’re an outdoor family, so REI is always a must. This year, the company’s “5 Days, 5 Brands” promotion topped my list. Prominently positioned on the homepage, it’s the perfect way to engage on the first screen. The deal? Every Thursday through December 23, the brand’s top five partners are serving up substantial discounts on popular gifts. It’s a good lesson in simple engagement and a #success for REI.

Despite my penchant for online shopping, though, I truly love their stores. REI has blurred the lines between brick and click, creating a true omnichannel experience. From free in-store Wi-Fi that encourages shoppers to straddle digital and in-store, to a geo-based app that gets me exactly what I need, to a consistent brand identity that extends across each pillar, REI proves that going omnichannel matters—and that it doesn’t mean redefining the essence of the brand.

Never mind my #christmasshopping shop for ME here: Your 2013 Productivity Gift Guide by @drake_baer via @FastCompany

If you’re still looking for something to get me you’ll find it in Drake Baer’s productivity gift guide. From music that maximizes concentration to a virtual assistant, the “Cadillac of Notebooks,” and even a treadmill desk, I’ll happily take one of each. It’s the ultimate coming together of functional and fun, delivering gifts that keep on giving through better focus, fitness, and form and, of course, ensuring that everyone will be jealous of the new office setup. What could be better?

This engaging gift guide is a testament to the power of content marketing, showing brands how to leverage existing channels to engage and convert. It’s your content on your site, but there’s immeasurable value when it’s done right. Think a well-curated gift guide for the diehard or for those buying for the diehard, or the top 10 products ranked by consumer ratings. Or maybe now is the perfect time to pull together a list of last-minute gift ideas that look anything but? I’m still shopping. Many of your target customers probably are, too.

So, what gets a “bah humbug” rating? Sites that don’t autofill correctly. I can’t tell you how many autofill online forms have me living in France. By the time I realize the error, information I’ve entered is gone and I’ve got to start over. Do it right and be sure you’re checking forms before pushing them live.

On that note, checkouts overall seem to be a major pitfall for many e-commerce sites, leading to cart abandonment. Demanding sign in and registration before the purchase is a good example. Can’t remember your password? We’ll send it to you. Haven’t shopped here before? Answer 10 questions, create a login, and only then can you buy. Another checkout peeve? Waiting until the final screen to give shipping costs. That’s a one-way ticket to cart abandonment.

I also say bah humbug to retailers who don’t offer PayPal for payments. I’ve left countless sites because they mandate a credit card. With frequent security breaches, PayPal just makes sense, and what’s more, a strong PayPal presence is a conversion booster. Just remember, when integrating PayPal, take shoppers to the site instantly and then bring them back just as readily into the checkout process. Don’t make it hard or put me and my fellow PayPal-ers at a disadvantage, and we’ll likely keep coming back.

From the brilliant to the bah humbug, I’m actively navigating through the post-Cyber Monday e-commerce landscape. But I’m not done yet. Check back in a few days and I’ll let you know how my 12 days of shopping are going. If you’re still shopping you can still come out ahead. Likewise, if you’re a retailer looking to take full advantage of the next few days, keep testing and keep optimizing because a lot of stockings still need stuffing.