Entries in Amazon (3)


My favorite websites for self discovery; still looking for the integration

I love recommendation engines. My 2009 purchase history was notable in that I *nearly* managed to do all of my Christmas shopping online and that a large number of sites got to "know me" extremely well over the year, becoming near friends in their accuracy of what I would surely like to purchase. My favorites:

Pandora's Music Genome Project causes me to discover and purchase more music than traditional radio or MTV videos ever could. I have 39 fairly well-refined stations, about half of which were born from the initial artists that I chose.

Etsy's "handpicked items" while not at all reflective of my past purchases or browsing habits, still send me down a path of discovery of new artists that could amuse me for hours and nearly always ends in a purchase.

Amazon's "Recommendations for You" is always my first stop for new books to purchase.

Last.fm makes me understand crazy facts about my own music collection, such as the fact that my most played song of all time is one that was introduced to me 3 months ago (too much "repeat" clearly) and that my music tastes have evolved considerably in the past few years (with some embarrasing legacy artists still in my most played).

iTunes's Genius Recommendations make me buy almost as much music as Pandora, mainly because of the convenience.

Bluefly's recommendations on designer handbags lead me effectively from one that is not quite right to the perfect bag that I am more likely to buy.

Facebook's network effects let me type in the name "Greg G" for example and in the top few hits I will see the Greg whose last name I forgot, but who I was looking for.

Mint's My Financial Summary and pie charts make me far more self-aware of little expenses (ATM fees) and large ones (vast fortunes spent at Whole Foods).

Bandsintown scans my Pandora tastes to find the best upcoming concerts in the area for me.

My6Sense I'm just beginning to experience, but I am impressed so far at how it filters content to determine what is most valuable to me.

Now I have sites that know me inside and out in so many domains: music, crafts, books, designer bags, friends, concerts, financial transactions, blogs. I'm still looking for a good recommendation site for restaurants (don't say Urban Spoon; it's too random and while I love Yelp to check out restaurants, it doesn't recommend well). So far the best substitute is Tyler Cowen's Ethnic Dining Guide, especially because we share the same favorite Korean restaurant (Seoul Gool Dae Gee (Honey Pig Restaurant)). 

But most of all, I lament that I can't take my well-refined music preferences honed on Pandora over to Amazon to recommend cross-domain purchases. What additional factors could my eventual universal ID recognize that would make the connection between my recent purchases of the Horse Feathers collection on iTunes; Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanisi on Amazon; a handmade alligator skin wallet on Etsy; and a designer leather hobo on Bluefly?

I'm looking at you, MyType.


Amazon's Incredible Growth

This is the coolest chart I've seen in a while. Why is Amazon's growth so explosive when many e-commerce sites (e.g., Ebay) are down?

I choose Amazon as my primary e-commerce destination (Etsy is second) for several reasons:

  1. Amazing recommendation engine
  2. Trustworthy payment system
  3. Reliable delivery
  4. Helpful community of reviewers
  5. Free shipping (they always convince me to spend $25)

Other explanations?


Credit: Business Insider


What REALLY killed eBay?

Keith Rabois of Slide thinks that social networking sites killed Ebay. His premise is that eBay was visited more for its entertainment value than its e-commerce purpose.

eBay certainly is in bad shape, as we've discussed before. But why? Perhaps the thrill of competing in auctions had something to due with its popularity and now consumers are finding that excitement elsewhere, as Rabois suggests, but there is clearly something else going on.

eBay is good for two types of transactions: the rare and the cheap. You go there for things that just need to have but can't find anywhere else or to find steals on things that you easily can get elsewhere. The latter portion is what has killed the site for me. Being on the site just feels so cheap. 50% off!! signs are everywhere and I feel like I'm in a massive budget warehouse. The site is just unpleasant to peruse. Rather than the warm fuzzies of Etsy or the simple transaction of Amazon, eBay combines the worst of both to create a fake "community" where sellers are mostly "merchants" or "powersellers" rather than individuals, buyers don't even need to list their full names, and especially with the recent rule changes, sellers are treated like criminals. The whole place feels untrustworthy.

eBay is failing at becoming another Amazon. "Buy it Now" sales now compose half of all eBay transactions, but I am looking for a new camera or a bestseller book that has a clear current price, eBay is just about the last place that I would go. Sitting around in an auction is a waste of time for something that has a clear market value and even if it is "Buy It Now" the user experience on eBay is not nearly as good as it is elsewhere. On the other hand, if I am looking for a rare 60s-era Persian rug or a hard-to-find vinyl, eBay is great. The rare item that I'm looking for is likely there and I'm willing to put in the effort of the auction to get it and I'll take my chances on the seller.

CEO John Donahue is committed to transforming Ebay's business model away from auctions and towards fixed price sales of mainstream items. This is the wrong direction. Ebay used to be the best known e-commerce company, but with so many niche companies filling certain consumer demands (Zappos for shoes, Etsy for vintage jewelry, etc...), it will never regain its prominence.

Better to stick with what it does best: connecting buyers and sellers in auctions for items that are unique, rare, ultra-niche, hard-to-price or just hard-to-find. Leave the mass e-commerce to Amazon. It does it so much better.