The other day I tried to make my first Amazon purchase but failed. The process of ordering was nothing but smooth and straight. I even struggled to figure out the price of the product I wanted which makes me wonder, am I a total weirdo? If I that have extensive Internet experience and have setup my own webshop, worked with usability and seen the most on the web have problem ordering then how many others are not in the same position with less experience. Amazon is one of the highest converting shopping sites out there making tons of cash but I wonder if this is not due to their strong brand recognition and other services.

The other day I heard they are selling 73 items per second and they have a conversion rate somewhere between 5-7% which is extremely high for an e-retailer which usually is around the 2% mark. Amazon though is really good at expanding their business model into areas that they will make money. For example today they announced that they would start selling movies on demand competing directly with Netflix.

To be honest I have always wondered why their site looks like 1999 in a time where we have extensive tools for web analytics, usability and AB testing. I know they have a good web analytics team and they do a lot of testing but from my point of view their pages are so cluttered that as a user I have big problems understanding what I should do next, which in all known cases is a conversion killer.

What I think is wrong and what they should do to change it

On the product page first of all I had a hard time finding the price. It is cluttered around text which is trying to convince you by reinforcing the good things. The add to basket button is far away from the price. I would like to see the price much clearer and closer to add to the basket button.

The up selling part on the page is a very clever element. I guess they get a bit more money from this.

Clicking the next button I get a page which trys uppselling again, athough the page is very cluttered and the next step is not that clear.

The payment page is a bit clearer but still not as clear s it could be.

All in all I think there could be some improvments but the question is why have they not done it? Or have they and not managed to improve conversion. All my experience tells me though that a better usability will increase conversion.


Why have they not tried a better usability/design?

Here are my my five cents on the above question:

  • Why change a model that works. The problem with this is that you don’t know your conversion roof, how high can it be?
  • Changing one page design might require you to change all other pages.
  • This might sound silly but the cluttered pages might make up selling easier.
  • Internal politics.

What they are world class in

So, all in all I think Amazon most likely knows their stuff very well but the issues I raised above are more or less best practice according to my opinion. Having that said let me give you my opinion on what they are world class at:

  • Up selling. In several steps they try to up sell items.
  • Understanding what users are looking at and getting more of that i.e. user reviews.
  • Behavioral targeting – displaying products based on your history.
  • Getting promotions to the right people.



2 Responses

  1. My first thoughts exactly.


    Whenever I am involved in designing a website I make sure the search function is placed in the top right. The contact form is on the right in the main menu, the footer contains all data about all mediums how my customer can be contacted. But in the end; the average user does not use the contact form, does not use the site wide search etc.

    I, as a seasoned internet user who makes a living of internet expect all those standard functions to be on such standard locations on a website. My father, who is 73 and quite often on the net, does not have my usability expectations. He will probably search each time for the search box all over the website. Maybe he begins at the top right, but he will not trip nor notice if it isn’t there. We as a seasoned interrnet user will already feel some frustration coming up. It should be there, right there on the top right!!

    So in the end I think Amazon will probably have made a mix of user expectation for the seasoned user versus what their A/B conversation rate experiments tells them. And I expect that those AB experiments will sometimes result in other outcomes than we, self proclaimed internet experts, predict or think is logical.

    Off course it would be really interesting if you and I could do our own AB tests with the Amazon website.

    • Hi Arthur.

      Thanks for the comment.

      You are totally right. I there are various segments based on user experience. Although all my experience points towards the fact that the easier a website is to use the higher the conversion in the end.
      Amazon has their own team of optimization people and web analysts so I think they know what they are doing, but I still think that they would have higher conversion for newbies, people that are not familiar with the brand .

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