Sunday, May 25, 2014

Online shopping, part I: how almost all my shopping now begins and ends on

If I were a regular retailer - say, Target, or Walmart - I'd be running scared. Judging by myself, regular retailers have been loosing market share to Amazon in a big way. I used to go to the local Target about once a week, but now I go only rarely - maybe once a month. And it's very close to us, about a 5 minute drive. Sure, it's close, but Amazon is even closer - right at my fingertips, along with mind-boggling choice and reviews that make me more comfortable with my choice.

In the past 6 months, I've placed 43 orders (I know because of the handy order reporting on Amazon), for items such as a new set of bedroom furniture, a hummingbird feeder, a roll of self adhesive window film, luggage, an egg slicer, magnetic push pins, shoe goo, an exercise mat, a mini vacuum, tennis racquet, some jewelry, etc. And...oh yes, a few books. I could go on, but my point is, almost everything that I previously bought at Target or some other local retailer, I'm now buying on Amazon.

Why is this?'s just so much more convenient. It's rare that I need something right this minute - most of the items I buy are wants instead of needs, and so the 2 day free delivery (we're Prime members) is fine for me. Then it's delivered to my front door, hassle free. Now, when I look at the selection of items available at the local Target, it seems kind of skimpy. And sometimes I think to myself, when looking at an item at Target - I'd really like to know what people who own this actually think of it. In other words, I want reviews!

Yes, the reviews - that's another huge reason that I'd just rather buy it on Amazon. The reviews are a big draw. It used to be that I would look up books on Amazon, read the reviews, decide whether or not I liked it, and then get it at the local library. I actually felt a tiny bit guilty about this.

But now the first step of shopping for anything - not just books - is to look at the reviews on Amazon. They're not uniformly helpful - I've found that too frequently, they're overly positive, and that the negative reviews are actually more accurate. It's as thought people take the saying "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" to heart. But they're still by far the best reviews online. It's just such a robust system - you can comment on reviews, you can mark them as helpful, you can of course actually write reviews. Reviews on the websites of other retails just seem to be tacked on as an afterthought, and not at all central to the experience.

So, where are other retailers planning on doing to fight the rise of Amazon? It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years.


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