20
Nov
09

A Tail of E-tail (Conclusion)

[November 20, 2009]

While nowhere as subtly branded as the IKEA site I explored in my previous post, the innovative marketer,Amazon.com gives the experience of shopping online a bit more dimension.

Once users select a product from the site’s visually unappealing display, they gain access, indirectly, to a community of shoppers with similar interests. Through user’s comments, and Amazon’s data-driven advisories, visitors learn what others think of a product and what other related products others have most often purchased.

Of course, this sense of community is limited. Users can’t build networks of friends on the site and conversation is confined to the “call and response” rhythms of post and counter post.

And yet, the effect is a lot the same. Book buyers, in particular, benefit from this expanded shopping experience, since it seems people who read more also write more. Don’t quote me on that, because I’d hate to be tagged as a spreader of incriminating rumors in a world moving uncomfortably close to Fahrenheit 451.

Heaven sakes alive, these people actually relish ideas. They think and feel deeply about abstractions and eventually come to understand the difference between ideas and idiots.

Amazon, river of data…
A typical page from Amazon’s extensive book-mart is a microsite, offering the book in every available format, including, naturally, the Kindle edition. You may also find a video feature on the author. And in true Web 2.0 spirit, user reviews jockey for position with “Editorial Reviews” from professional critics. But wait, there’s more. You can even sign up to receive personalized recommendations.

Short of having Jeffrey P. Bezos read the book to you himself, I doubt you could ask more from a retailer. The site’s blockbuster success shows that someone has thought very deeply about what shoppers need to feel confident about a purchase.

Sure, Amazon.com, could use a facelift, as could Facebook for that matter. I mean, there has to be more to life than staring at row upon row of thumbnail images against a white background. But both sites work, despite appearances, because they’re based on a real insight about what motivates people to act.

…spawning a more interactive world.
And that spells opportunity for the next generation of e-merchandisers. As bandwidth increases and real-time data updates approach the speed of light, e-merchandisers ought to be able to extend their reach to the offline world. As comically alluded to in the now ancient sci-fi film, Minority Report, some kind of online/offline continuum can’t be far off. Of course, mobile marketing already bleeps its coupon deals direct-to-consumer, but that’s not quite the same thing.

What we may be looking at is a redefinition of “store” itself, to something closer to “product interface center.” Combined with enough Artifical Intelligence, your neighborhood Best Buy would then be well on it’s way to becoming your best buddy.


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Mark Laporta

Writer, Creative Consultant
New York, NY

m.laporta@verizon.net
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