Staying Fresh with eCommerce: A Review of Amazon.com

One of the routine things I do to keep on top of the ever-changing world of e-commerce is to keep tabs on the biggest players in the industry and see how they tweak, change, modify, and sometimes completely revamp their sites to stay ahead of the pack.  I thought I could turn this research into an opportunity to share and discuss these trends with you!

So I ask myself: How have some of the big players in the e-commerce world changed over the past year?  What are some of the things they’ve focused on?  What keeps them fresh?  Let’s examine some of these sites using the handy-dandy WayBack Machine from the Internet Archive (archive.org) and find out.

Naturally, the first subject should be the biggest and most influential e-commerce site out there: Amazon.com.  Let’s compare the January 1st snapshot with today’s side-by-side and see how it’s improved.

Amazon January 2013

Amazon Homepage – January 2013

Amazon January 2012

Amazon Homepage –  January 2012

Even with its minimalist design, Amazon.com has received a nice makeover.  The search bar and main navigation have been modernized with more neutral colors and cleaner (if it could get any more clean!) layout.  Previously the header had 3 separate areas of navigation which has been simplified and reduced to only two.

You may also notice that the “Shop All Departments” vertical navigation bar is missing from the new version of Amazon.  That’s because the new design has added small touches of responsiveness to the homepage.  At a wider screen size, that navigation bar pops back into existence.  This is done so that the marketing space, currently being used by the Kindle and the Amazon Shoe Store, keeps the focus.

Personally, I think that’s an interesting concept to include aspects of responsiveness to a site that in effect isn’t responsive (Amazon has a separate mobile site as well as a downloadable app).  I think this proves the attention to detail of the Amazon team.

Another big item to point out is the new focus on Amazon Prime account generation.  Amazon Prime, if you aren’t already aware, is an account tier offered for a subscription.  Not to toot their horn, but there are many benefits to being a member of Amazon Prime including free 2-day shipping on all orders and access to their “Prime Instant Video” service (a competitor to Netflix).

It’s obvious that this relatively new membership is working out quite well.  A “Join Prime” item has been added to the main navigation to make sure all shoppers are without excuse to be ignorant of this offering.  Also, there’s a fairly large heading just above the fold touting the Prime benefit of “Unlimited FREE Two-Day Shipping”.  And they’ve even shamelessly added a link in their logo!

I also think it’s worth mentioning that even though Amazon has a new look, it’s not foreign to Amazon shoppers.  The general shopping layout is still nearly identical to previous versions of the site.  In fact, I’d guess that most Amazon.com frequenters didn’t even notice much of a change, if any change at all.

When you have a successful online store, the single scariest thing you can do is redesign the site.  You risk losing many repeat customers by messing with all the things that are comfortable to them.  I mean, look what happened to Finish Line!   I’ve heard some people criticize Amazon for not changing the look of the site much in the last 10 years, but some things ring true for online money-makers: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

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