Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Solution for Online Shopping

By Penny Wang

You must have heard that Amazon now offers same-day delivery in some areas and that Google just rolled out their magical buy button. Blogs and newspapers praise these new inventions that make online shopping seamless. But are they really?

Amazon’s new shipping policy now makes it possible for people in 14 cities to get their orders on the same day. But you have to be a Prime user or order a minimum of $35. Otherwise you’ll still have to pay. (Or if you live in Chicago like me…) 

Google buy button is another beast that will allegedly revolutionize the shopping experience. Soon, Google Wallet users will be able to buy within search results making buying a much more impulsive behavior than ever. 

All major players are getting ready to step-up their game in the online shopping realm. Pinterest announced their “buy pin” is coming soon. Instagram is also cooking something up.  

Can we really say online shopping is just this wonderful thing in our lives that we just have to buy more stuff more frequently now? 

I have been working on an online shopping tool with a small group of students here at Northwestern University. What we hear way too often is that people are overwhelmed by options and deals that it takes them some 40 tabs and a few good hours to figure out whether they should just click the button or push it off till later. 

Yes, people are anxious about getting their packages sooner than later. Yes, people want fewer payment barriers between them and the products they are looking at. Online retailers compete for more customers in every way possible: rebate programs, personalized ads following you everywhere, social media, etc. But what do people really want?

A blog post we saw a few weeks back had an interesting comparison between online shopping and grocery store shopping. When you shop in a store, everything is organized and shoppers can compare different options side by side, wrote Sarah Doody (@sarahdoody) on Medium. When shopping online, we do not have the option to compare things on Amazon with similar products on eBay.  Yet. 

My team, Breadcrumbs/ (, is building a Chrome extension that breaks online retailer boundaries. This tool gathers products on different websites you’ve looked at and puts them into categories. It is still very basic, but this is exactly what online shoppers want to see when they are trying to decide what to buy. Keeping tabs open or copying links to a document should have been made illegal. Because to solve this problem is simple, something like our Chrome extension would do.

It’s just no one is doing it. 

Not Amazon. Not Google. Even though they have way more resources to do it really well in a day than the four of us trying to make it happen while juggling a million other class assignments.

We just hope consumers will have the technology that enables them to make simple decisions.

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