Shopping on the go

I’ve complained before about the eyeball-assaulting mess of Amazon.com’s entry page, and now it’s time to go a little deeper into that rant.

A noisy site like Amazon.com can work well enough on desktop displays, but not so much on mobile devices.  Given that the mobile internet is rapidly becoming the default mode, fixing this soon is an urgent must.

Stripped-down touchscreen apps aren’t the solution, either.  They’re great for simple use but for people who require the full experience on-the-go, replicating that complete desktop functionality is a requirement.  The trick is how to do so effectively on a 3.5 inch screen.

Somewhere in the middle between dumbed-down apps and a wasteful web page lies web shopper nirvana. 

If You Could Read My Mind, Love

Amazon.com is very adept at anticipating your needs based on past history, wishlist content, and other contexts.  Combine that with a wizard-type approach to the mobile shopping experience and we’re getting somewhere.  The term web service is overused these days but that’s exactly what were looking for here: treat a site like Amazon.com as a “purchasing engine” that can be wrapped up in any sort of user experience (UX).  Only expose those portions that the user needs to see at a given time.

One way to achieve this is by taking the anticipation functions further.  I don’t know if Amazon can do this yet, but imagine attaching time-bound attributes to perishable goods.  One example is guitar strings.  They have a typical life expectancy depending on nature and use, and need to be changed on that basis.  So in an ideal world I would order a set of strings, and by the time I needed another set my dealer of choice would be ready.  Upon logging in I could get a reminder: “it’s been X number of months since you last bought guitar strings; ready to buy another set?”  Even better: proactively send me a secure email with a one-click-and-done repurchase link just before my current strings reach their expected limit.

It’s exactly this sort of functionality (combined with the usual tools like Search) that allows us to hide the main site and still get at what we want.  Take it even further and pull in your social circle.  Your best friend buys a new big-screen TV, and his social network is automatically crawled.  The shopping engine notes that it’s football season, and your wishlist and/or purchasing history contain(s) related items.  The season schedule is checked for game times, and your friend is asked if he would like to invite anyone in his circle to any or all of the showings.  You get an invitation along with a list of recommended items to purchase and bring (or have shipped directly to your friend’s house at the proper time).  A calendar object to update your mobile device would be a nice bonus.

It’s a rich service experience like this that sticks customers.  I’m sure readers can think of many, many more.  For one, throw in location awareness and it’s a whole new game.

The Times They Are A-changin’

Ultimately full websites as we know them today may cease to exist.  Mobile predominance will drive significant UX change, and online shopping will be one of the most affected activities.  Service providers and UI designers who are getting that now are going to be ahead of the curve when we awaken to the new mobile reality.  Get coding!  And think mobile.

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7 responses to “Shopping on the go

  1. I do buy stuff on-line, but not enough to care about the look or feel of these sites – They just need to be functional.

    You touched off on another point though with your thoughts here…it’s not just shopping sites that need to find that sweet spot for mobile.

    Service sites too need to find this spot, so there is no need for a dumbed-down application or even a really top notch one!

    I think the pendulum is going to head back towards sites over applications, just hope it is soon. :)

    …still haven’t read your e-mail response. :D

  2. For several years now, Amazon has been automatically adding any items you purchase from their Health & Personal Care, Beauty, Grocery, and Gourmet Food sections to “Your Shopping List”. Additional items from these and other sections may be added via the button below “Add to Wish List” on individual item pages.

    From the shopping list, frequently purchased items are a matter of:
    – tick a box (or boxes)
    – “Add selected items to Shopping Cart”
    – check out
    Automated reminders based upon purchase history don’t appear (to me) as though they’d be difficult to add.

    I don’t think there’s any means by which I could hit the “disable” button on those fast and hard enough to give me satisfaction though.

    • Take THAT a step further: factor in typical usage rate and volume of consumable goods (like shampoo) and highlight those on the suggested list when their expected refill time is due. :D

      • Subscribe & Save, no?

        I have three S&S orders through Amazon..I decided when I want them automatically shipped, I get an e-mail before they are shipped and can even ship them ahead of time without interrupting the schedule!!

        Isn’t that close to the same thing? :)

      • Close, Inacurate, but could still use a bit more intelligence ;)

      • You want a step further? FINE!

        Smart Containers.

        You buy said container from Amazon, which is specially made to house your selected product, we will say shampoo for example. The container comes empty so you can ensure it is cleaned thoroughly, and you add in your desired shampoo to the “filled” mark.

        At first as you use the product in the Smart Container, it tracks your usage, extrapolates expected usage based on past history and gives you an estimate refill date and reports the date along with your usage statistics back to Amazon through a wifi chip in the Smart Container. We can call this the “Getting To Know You stage, where you help teach it your usage habits and have input on refill dates. Amazon will automatically calculate when your product needs to ship to ensure you have it in hand with a use or two left.

        As time goes on, the Smart Container will of course record your usage history and be able to really refine the refill date without your assistance or input, barring any unusual extra usage or say, vacations, where you can override the automatic options and ship more/hold as necessary.

        In addition to this Smart Container, Amazon will also offer you the SmartBot as a stand alone accessory. It will be equipped to accept delivery of your product on your behalf and automatically refill the Smart Container with said product, all so you don’t ever need to worry!

        Call now and when you order a Smart Container, you can get the SmartBot for half-off!! We will also throw in a years supply of the batteries (CR2032) needed to run the Smart Container, for free!

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