Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Improving Amazon?

I want to surface a new comment thread on improving online shopping from one of my old posts. I would enjoy hearing other thoughts on it, so please comment if you have anything to add.

Chris Zaharias asked:
Where you think Amazon still has opportunities to improve their game?
I said:
Looking at the bigger picture, I think it is hard to say that Amazon is anywhere close to done. The experience of shopping at Amazon is hardly effortless, full of discovery, or even all that pleasant.

Going to Amazon should be like walking into your favorite store, the nearest shelves piled high with things you like, everything you don't need fading into the background.

When you walk up to an item, everything you need to quickly evaluate it and decide whether to buy it should float to your attention.

Buying should be effortless, a couple clicks at most, with no unpleasant surprises (such as hidden shipping charges, delays, or belated out of stock e-mails).

Amazon has taken some steps toward that vision, but is a long way from there.
What do you think? How do you think online shopping be improved? Are there things Amazon should be doing that they are not?


David said...

In recent Amazon shopping I have been shocked by how many items are sitting in the wrong categories (sometimes multiple listings for identical items also occurs). I think Amazon Marketplace is mostly to blame…is as if swap meet booths have been set up between the racks on the sales floor of a department store.

I think that Amazon is working on a strategy to replace itself (leaving Amazon.com to become the swap meet). They recently launched Endless.com with a great interface for shopping for shoes (and handbags, but I've only shopped for shoes). On Endless I can select my shoe size to only see styles that are available to me (a real plus for a man with shoe size > 13). The shoes are neatly categorized (and cross listed as appropriate) to make it simple to find the kind of shoes one is looking for. On the product page several views of the shoe are available for each color and a zoomed in view instantly pops up when mousing over the image so the details can be inspected. Endless.com provided a premier online shopping experience (and still had great prices).

Anonymous said...

One thing I really don't like is Amazon showing me stuff I can't get. I am a non-US customer but they keep telling me about free shipping deals that are US only and ads for electronics, Credit cards and other stuff that they won't actually sell to me where I live.

Considering I'm paying around $5 per book for shipping flashing the "free shipping" ads at the top is a bit of a slap in the face sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Amazon has got to get control of all the wretched third-party sellers! Remove third-party pages that have insufficient information. Only allow third-party sellers who use Amazon logistics (which will solve the problems of inaccurate online inventory, slow shipping, and failure to offer UPS/FedEx/DHL). If you ONLY buy items "sold by and shipped from Amazon.com" you have no trouble; but all the third-party merchants are terrible, and their pages don't have bold health warnings on them.

Anonymous said...

Their search leaves a lot to be desired: I often prefer searching directly with Google inside the Amazon site. If you search for something they don't have, you get a lot of useless results.

Greg Linden said...

The third party sellers do seem like a real problem, I agree. The shipping charges are hidden and often high, the delivery times often long.

It is hard to see how Amazon can make the shopping experience pleasant while heavily promoting third party sellers. Too much is out of their control.

In general, Amazon seems torn between being Nordstorm's, Wal-mart, or eBay. Does Amazon represent a great shopping experience, big inventory at low prices, or a flea market?

They seem to be trying to do all three at the moment, but excelling at none.

Backing up for a second, perhaps I have a mistaken assumption here, that Amazon even wants to be a retailer.

For many years, Amazon seems to have been trying to position itself as a software platform for other retailers and web sites and deemphasizing their own retail operations.

They have not yet done so successfully -- their revenue and earnings are dominated by retail -- but perhaps Amazon views its future opportunities as somewhere other than improving the online shopping experience.

Anonymous said...

Until shopping sites like Amazon get clear on the fact that they are depressing sales by throwing their entire store inventory at the user on their home page, they won't reach their potential.

Scores of direct marketing studies show that multiple-choice offers pull less orders than single-shot offers.

They should have an entire zero-base review of their landing page concept.

Greg said...

I wrote up all the ideas I could come up with on how Amazon and others might utilize collaborative filtering in the future - I can see huge potential for them in that direction.