nicolas leroy

Commodity shopping, entertainment shopping and CSEs

June 14, 2010

On TechCrunch, an interesting article entitled “Did Amazon miss the social commerce boat?”:

Few will dispute Amazon’s role as current king of the e-commerce space, but this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference raised an interesting question: Did Amazon miss the boat on social commerce? […] All of the panelists seemed to agree that Amazon will continue to reign supreme in “commodity commerce” but will not be able to lead social commerce. Kalin [Etsy CEO] stated, “I think Amazon is doing a good job monopolizing the boring way of shopping.” Caplan agreed, saying that “Amazon will own commodity commerce. They won’t lead the way to relationship commerce and more and more people are craving relationships in shopping.”

Commodity shopping vs. entertainment shopping… CSEs could easily be classified as tools to help commodity shopping; while private sales, group buying, deal of the day sites (and maybe coupons and cashback sites?) would surely fit in the entertainment shopping category. The article ends by saying the focus of Amazon on commodity shopping may be shortsighted… While this article has been criticized by SocialCommerceToday who rightfully explained that Amazon didn’t miss but did invent social commerce, I think it really makes sense when you replace Amazon by CSEs.

First of all, I don’t think commodity shopping is solved. I have written many articles that explain my views regarding the improvements CSEs have to fulfill in order to solve commodity shopping… However, these days, entertainment shopping cannot be missed, the difficulty being how to blend those different shopping experiences while keeping a consistent customer proposition.

The Yahoo! Deals site (including Deal of the Day section powered by Woot!) vs. the Yahoo! Shopping main site ; the Kelkoo Cashback site vs the Kelkoo main site… Those are examples where CSEs innovated and tried to foray into new ways to shop but failed to offer an integrated customer proposition due to technical or business reasons.

Should CSEs launch their own Deal of the Day or Groupon clone?

For me, the mission of CSEs is to make customers aware of available products and help them for their purchase decisions… As such, CSEs should start aggregating the various offers from the deal of the day / group buying sites, and through personalization (geography, center of interest…) tailor the experience for each customer. A new shopping site called SaleCamel.com is experimenting in that direction on the US market: it lists offers from deal of the day sites through a somehow classic results list + faceted navigation.

SaleCamel.com homepage

Should CSEs launch their own Deal of the Day or Groupon clone? Having direct relationships with retailers and looking to have more engaged users, that could be a tempting idea; and it would surely be a nice addition to the the aggregation of offers from other sites. But from my point of view, this cannot replace aggregation from other sites, as the risk is to blur the value proposition of the CSE: how to explain that classic lead-generation business is not biased while proposing a limited and self offer for deal of the day / group buying?

Make it attractive

When I browse Groupon, the leading group buying site these days, or Keynoir, a recently launched private sales / group buying site in the UK, I appreciate how attractive the image and product description are… When I look at CSEs, I can only appreciate that those sites are mostly boring… Going to the path of entertainement shopping could also force CSEs to rethink their visual identity.

Groupon, the leading group buying site these days:

Groupon deal page

Keynoir, a recently launched private sales / group buying site in the UK:

Keynoir homepage

Conclusion

Blur the lines between commodity and entertainment shopping, deliver an integrated customer proposition, make it fun to use a shopping engine again… Nice challenges, but mostly needed.

This article is part of a series discussing what could be the perfect CSE for 2010 with a focus on user experience. So far this series have discussed how the core business of shopping engines could be improved (product search, product discovery, where to buy) and social interactions on CSEs…


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