What Buy.com Needs to Learn from Amazon.com

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Buy.com. Now that is a perplexing online shopping website that has been around for years, with some dizzying highs and troubling lows. I was just using them recently and thought it would be great to review how they are currently doing, and compare them to the (in my opinion) online shopping industry leaders, Amazon.com.

Buy.com have gone very mainstream recently, particularly with the launch of their BuyTV brand, which is a glorified commerical for Buy.com, featuring videos of product news and reviews. Their website is very trendy, and has great use of video embedding, and AJAX and flash areas, and some cool use of product info popup boxes in particular. I also applaud their idea to put other competitors prices on products, similar in veign to the Progressive car insurance model. Makes it more of a portal, so you can find prices of every website, while they hope their’s is the lowest.

But those are the good things. Here are some of the main things that Buy.com need to improve, by learning from the experts, Amazon.com.

  1. Lose the adverts! The first immediately obvious thing is that Buy.com are now using adverts on their home page. This is forgivable, but not when they put relatively large adverts on product pages too. Not only does this make them look tacky, unprofessional and obsessed with trying to generate revenue from every angle possible, but it surely does nothing for sales conversion. Image seeing a great ad when you were ready to buy, click on it, never to return! Immediate lost revenue. Also the adverts they have make the rest of the buy.com promotional images lost in banner-blindness. So it weakens their own advertising too. Lose the adverts… Amazon can cope without major ad revenue, so should Buy.com!
  2. Lack of product reviews. One of the most important things for an online retailer to build trust and increase sales is to offer customer reviews/testimonials. Amazon obviously realize this and do a tremendous job of not only collecting the reviews, but also categorizing them. Amazon have recently improved their system, and now give more prominence to reviews that have been rated most useful by other visitors. And what do buy.com offer as an alternative? Not only do they offer very few reviews, but they hide them away on another tab section for each product. Even stranger is that now have a main navigation tab section at the top called ‘Reviews’ which seems more like a blog of new user reviews, and they aren’t even linked to the individual products, worst still, they link off to other blogs and websites! Very strange.
  3. Improve the search. So you click on a category, lets say music. Then you go to do a search to find a specific product that wasn’t listed immediately. You start typing, and realize that its going to search the whole of buy.com, not the music section. You actually have to change the drop down to only search music. Take a look at Amazon, and they do it right. Click on any section, and the search box changes to search only that section. Way better usability. In terms of the search results, I do like their rollovers, so you can see bigger versions. But they could easily improve their actual results. Firstly, they don’t show star ratings – Amazon does a great job of this, and really helps enforce in the users mind that they are buying a good product. Strange that neither Buy.com or Amazon.com offer the ability to resort by best reviewed – something I would find very useful. Another sign of Buy.com being revenue greedy is their inclusion of sponsored links high up on the search results. Again, looks tacky, and likely very bad for sales conversion.
  4. Make some recommendations! Come on, tell me what I might like to buy based on what I have bought before. Amazon do a really great job of this, and even place great emphasis on the home page showing their recommendations (when logged in), not just in category and product pages. I particurarly love Amazon’s option to improve recommendations – they show you lists of things which you rate your interest on. Great idea! Buy.com seems to offer no recommendations at all, not even when you login. Its the same store whether you are logged in or not, and whether you have bought 100 things or just 1 thing. Surely this is pretty bad for upselling existing clients? Come on Buy.com, let me know your recommendations… you might make some more money out of me!

So come on Buy.com. Stop living in your own online shopping world, and benchmark against other successful online stores, like I just did. You have a great ‘shell’, and offer some great deals, but in terms of a good user experience, no one really seems to be home… lets see some changes soon!

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