I have to confess, I’ve been an Amazon user for over a decade now. Yup you got that math right. Even before Amazon set up shop in India, I used to trapse down to a local bookstore and get the owner to order books, Kindles and select stationery items from the US through Amazon and with the little help of his relatives abroad. So, an Amazon user by proxy. When America’s most loved or hated e-commerce giant set up shop in India, I was actually slow to jump onto the bandwagon until I relocated to Madurai from Mumbai. Amazon went from being a place to get difficult to come by items to my go-too gift shop since 2014. And this it stayed for years till the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Like for many people, the pandemic added a powerful impetus to my e-commerce purchases like never before. Things that I couldn’t get from shut corner shops were winging their way from across the country to my doorstep. With India still battling the clutches of Covid, I’ve come to rely on Amazon for daily essentials and more.
Scouring Amazon has become a family pastime when you can’t window shop at malls. Combined with the number of usability courses that I’ve been doin of late, it has really made me relook at the entire shopping user experience and make me wonder why Amazon doesn’t provide certain essential features that could make it even more… amazing.
1. Location based sorting:
Yes there are certain items for which Amazon offers two day delivery during normal times. There was also an initiative setup for local shops. Yet for all its beautiful background computing, Amazon seems to be unable to match me to the closest retailer selling whatever item I want to procure to my search query. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we had a “Sort by distance” filter in the right-hand side dropdown?
My mother always jokes how certain things that are probably available closer to home come from the far corner of the country. She isn’t wrong. Sure, I understand that there are multiple retailers, but shouldn’t we default to the closest retailer in a product listing. Wouldn’t that save Amazon a tidy little sum on its transportation costs for its Prime members? Why can’t product listings also tell us the originating state of the retailer?
2. A computer builder:
Amazon is an excellent place to scour for parts for your next computer build. But alas it doesn’t have a computer builder. What is that? Well, a functionality that allows you to build a list of computer parts, tally up how much the total would be and additionally, check if the parts are compatible with each other. Now the last feature is what makes online computer builders on PC hardware stores in the US standout. I don’t expect Amazon India would be able to match this on day one. But what they should deliver asap is a way to save a configuration for later. The only way to do this right now is to add everything to your shopping cart, jot down the final amount. Then save each of these items for later, moving them to a separate wish list for each. It is painful I can tell you. Because the next time you want to compare configurations you need to manually reload everything into your shopping cart to check. Kind of ridiculous. Also it would be superb if Amazon could collect all the parts and ship all of them together. So that you can test the parts in one shot and return faulty ones during the return window and not have to wait on tenterhooks for parts that are “on its way”.
3. Sub folders in wish lists:
This seems like a no-brainer. Amazon should allow sub-folders or nested lists under their wish lists features. Just two levels deep. This would help us to de-clutter the top level of our wishlists and provide us with organising super powers.
4. Highlighting delivering to multiple addresses:
For a long time, the only way to get orders delivered to different addresses, was to manually create different orders. Amazon finally provided us with the feature to deliver to multiple addresses. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you happened to miss this feature when you try to check out. They should highlight this more boldly.
What if you could pick the address you want to deliver too while you place the item in the cart? You already have an address menu on the top band. Also, based on repeat deliveries to different addresses, I would think Amazon’s recommendation engine would understand that these deliveries are usually to a relative or a friend. Amazon could then recommend products based on these addresses. Instead of mixing up those recommendations with my general observations.
5. A recommendation engine built around purchasing products by purpose.
Amazon has a tendency to suggest more of the same to you based on your search behaviour. It can extrapolate a bit based on your interests. But how about clubbing related / complementary items together? Taking a leaf out of the IKEA approach to curating rooms – Amazon too could curate purposes. Like say you are interested in hiking and are looking for a sleeping bag. Amazon should be able to recognise the purpose of the product and then suggest complementary items related to this in a user experience that clubs these together. This is what e-commerce should aspire to be. Yes it does do this to a certain sense, but nothing like an IKEA catalogue does.
One last thought
Lastly – I would love to have more control over my Amazon homepage. A lot of the boxed content that is showcased isn’t relevant to me. While I do value the ability to discover new products – the website’s real-estate isn’t really optimised to my interests. If it can’t do it automatically, it should allow me to do it manually. Let me pick product categories that I want to watch or brands. Make suggestions based on these and by past purchases.
All in all, Amazon has become the backbone of organised retail in India and has been an invaluable support during these testing times. And while fake discounts aren’t fooling anyone who tracks product prices consistently, I do have to say a big thank you to the Amazon team for their service.