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 Outpost.com? 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.