This one is for Brian

Ok, since I indiscriminately deleted my last blog and an interesting thread that materialized, I am going to repost the gist of it and see if it sparks the same conversation.

I started with a post on a Universal Shopping Cart - the ability to add items from multiple sources and checkout in a single, streamlined process instead of checking out at each individual source.

Brian Erst augmented that concept with an even better idea - have the cart have enough intelligence to find the best deals (based on the consumer criteria, such as availability, price, and delivery) out there. In other words, invert the traditional workflow from a) find place to buy something b) add item to cart from that place. What a great concept to get fledgling retailers an opportunity to compete with the big boys by meeting an untapped consumer need.

It would not be too hard for Google Checkout to provide the bare bones of this service. Between Google Checkout and Froogle (or even Google Base) they have the foundation tools to do this from a pricing and availability angle. The catch is that they would have to get other retailers to use Google Checkout when consumers are away from google.com, and consumers would need to become familiar with a new universal cart paradigm - not always easy, as witnessed by the number of paper checks still written today at retail stores (don't get me started on that one).

I would like to advance this a step further. Such a universal cart as Brian paints becomes even more useful to me if it integrates seamlessly with local shopping experiences. More and more, I find the need for items that I need sooner than online retailers can provide - yes, things I need now. But, where to find them locally? Which big box retailer carries said product? Are there businesses closer that carry it? What if I am in my car, on my way home from work? Integrate that into the workflow, and I'm a happy customer. And retailers collect higher margins from me, as I am willing to pay more to get something now vs. waiting for it.

1 comment:

Brian Erst said...

I absolutely agree that meat-space retail needs to be better integrated into cyberspace retail. The big downsides of online shopping are time-to-delivery (even overnight is too late in some cases) and an inability to interact with an unfamiliar product. If I'm buying a $1500 LCD TV (like I just recently did), I would prefer to be able to see the product. Reviews are useful, but in-the-flesh interaction is often crucial - especially in the garment arena, but even in areas that are prime online fodder (like books). Unless I have a "Look Inside" option, I'm a little reluctant to plonk down $50 on a technical book without at least having a chance to skim a chapter.

That said, it would also be nice if there could be some sort of remuneration between online and real-world markets in those scenarios. How many times have you ducked into a BestBuy or Barnes and Noble, looked at something and then ended up purchasing it online? Amazon already provides referral fees via its Associates program, but that only currently works in cyberspace only. If Amazon had a "where did you see this item" tag that listed some of its Marketplace partners (or an expanded Affiliates program), I could at least send a few pennies to the original store to salve my conscience.

I don't know how the customer experience of that might work (it could be a major PITA unless designed right), but, barring a chain of "Amazon Showplaces" (stores that displayed, but didn't sell, items so you can get around the tax liabilities), it's about the best thing I can think of right now.

Oh, and finally - use the corporate email system to remind your corporate masters to provide a filter to queries that restrict them to only those that are eligible for Prime. Good god it's annoying!