Amazon Slipping...

Is it just me, or is Amazon becoming more and more like eBay?  (Or maybe it's eBay becoming more and more like Amazon.)  In any event, Amazon -- from an end-user point of view -- is slipping a bit in my book.  First, while just browsing around for electronics and similar accessories, I was surprised by some of the very high prices.  I thought that was the big reason online stores couldn't be beat, but if I can get many items cheaper in a brick and mortar store, the incentive is purely convenience. 

Now, I went to buy a few items and two "emotional" things happened that I didn't like (emotional being a reference to the emotion of the customer experience that I blogged about earlier).  For starters, I had to enter my credit card before I could see shipping prices and a confirmation of order totals.  I really don't like this approach, because my shopping and browsing should be completely anonymous until I'm ready to pay.  I should be able to confirm everything before having to enter any other information.

I think I understand the marketing behind this decision -- I've seen it before as I've worked on many retail systems.  If people bail during checkout, it's usually on the payment details page, followed by the shipping details page.  I'm sure Amazon ran a number of tests and concluded that if they prompt for a credit card first, there's fewer abandoned orders, so conversions go up. 

Except, I don't like it. 

The next thing that bothered me was having me pay extra shipping charges.  Notice the second radio button text, specifically the "additional cost" part. 

They are basically telling me that I need to pay individual shipping if they don't have items in stock and ready to go.  Considering I'm paying retail (on the items I was looking at, anyway) they should offer one shipping price.  Whether or not they are available in the same warehouse or whatever is not something I'm concerned with.   I was buying 2 items, and so I checked the "I want them faster" button and even though both were in stock, my shipping charges doubled.  Why?  That's ridiculous.

The fact is, many companies actually lose money (or break even) on shipping costs.  You wouldn't know it based on how consumers (like me) react to the high shipping costs, but it's true.  Still, offering a simple shipping structure even if it means a small loss is a way to motivate consumers to buy more often.   (Remember the original  Free overnight shipping on everything!  That wasn't meant to last, but it was a great way to get the orders in.)

So, c'mon Amazon -- think about things from the customer's perspective.  Go watch Lou's talk I reference above and don't become the next HoJo's.

Comments (2) -

Michael K. Campbell
Michael K. Campbell
9/25/2007 11:23:15 AM #


About a year ago or so I really really just despised Amazon. But then i decided to throw $80 at them for 'all you can eat shipping' after I heard that it really changes the customer experience.

It did. If I buy something I don't have to worry about shipping. As long as it's 'Prime' I know that it will ship in 2 days for 'free' or I can pay a bit extra to get it over-nighted. That, and there's no fee to get stuff shipped as it becomes available - but I've still got the option to bundle it if I want.

That, and my packages typically tend to get fulfilled very quickly. Prior to becoming a Prime member my stuff would take quite a bit longer than the 'usually ships in 24 hours' lie that they put in front of non-prime members. Now my stuff ships quite quickly.

I guess there are two ways to look at it: 1) paying $80 to get treated like a valuable customer sucks or 2) $80 to all of a sudden be treated like a valuable customer and be able to make out like a bandit on shipping is a good option. (I'm on my second year of 'Prime' now and I've easily made up shipping costs within the first month or two for each year. There's a reason amazon loses MILLIONS/year on shipping - and I'm one of those reasons *grin*)

9/25/2007 11:03:13 PM #


Good point, that's interesting.   It seems like they've adopted the model, but with an $80/year subscription model!  I didn't mention it in my post but during checkout, I was prompted to enroll in the Amazon Prime program, and I declined.  It's a chicken and egg thing -- I may very well buy more if I had it, or without it, I'd buy less.  In either case I can justify!

You know what would be _really_ killer?  Make you pay shipping on all the stuff you buy, up to $80.  After that, shipping for the rest of the year is free.   It may still work -- It would still prompt people to buy more.

Now, even though they are losing a lot on shipping, we both of course know that's a cost of doing business, and a very minor one at that.  Brick and mortar stores have shipping costs to the stores, and the operating expenses of the store itself.  Warehousing/distro centers are so much cheaper.  But because their prices are really not that competitive (nor are they _terrible_) I imagine the loss in shipping is an easy justification.

I still object to the way this is done.  But, hey, maybe I'll try Prime at some point.  I'm hoping it's not as annoying as frequent flier mileage Smile

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