Price Alerts Don’t Promote Shopping Or Browsing

    June 1, 2005

I had a talk with my brother-in-law [who lives in Birmingham, Alabama] after he read my post on Oodle yesterday.

He said that he thought Oodle was a good service but that it’s a service geared towards men or anyone who knows exactly what they’re looking for. But it’s not a good tool for most shoppers. I was like, huh?!

He said that alerts are fantastic when you know exactly what you’re looking for but Oodle doesn’t allow you to browse and peruse general subjects and get emotionally involved in the online shopping experience. In general, people like to browse through a store and love stumbling on something they just can’t live without. Especially when they had no idea what they were looking for but that they had a store in mind they wanted to visit. The online shopping experience is the same, you need to be able to browse the general areas of interest and then drill down into the specific items of interest but sometimes you may not know a specific item interests you [or even exists] if you hadn’t done the browsing first. He then gave me an example:

He was on eBay looking for a bicycle frame because he wants to build a new mountain bike. He didn’t want to look at any brands because he was more interested in seeing what was out there and didn’t want to exclude some manufacturer or one-off frame he’d never heard of if it was the one he fell in love with. After 20 minutes or so he found a frame he couldn’t live without, and get this. It was from a manufacturer he had never heard of and never would’ve even known to search for if he hadn’t gone through the process of browsing.

My Thoughts On Browsing & Shopping
Browsing is a critical piece of the shopping experience and every shopping related application and site needs to keep that in mind. If you think about the bigger picture here you’ll soon realize that browsing is usually enabled through categorization of products or services. This can be accomplished through a directory structure like dmoz or any large shopping web site where you can browse items in different categories or within blogs it’s done with categories or tags. Now I’m not a huge fan of tags because they’re a poor man’s hierarchical categorization structure and promote spam but I’m willing to look beyond that for a minute. Search is an important piece of web technology but categorization of related items and services is more important to the browsing / shopping experience.

So all of you who think search is the end all be all for every vertical market need to think again. Search has it’s place and there are many ways search hasn’t even been implemented yet that will make a place for it in our lives. But, shopping and ecommerce are more than just search and we shouldn’t forget what shopping is all about, having fun, finding great things, discovery, learning, and spending money. If we break it down into cold hard facts then we take out the emotion. I think alerts are great but my brother-in-law has a good point, shopping also needs to be emotional cause that’s what makes it fun.

My Personal Emotional Purchases
If I had been in my normal frame of mind on the days I bought my wife her first Kate Spade purse or her first Louis Vuitton purse, I never would’ve bought them cause it was way too much money to spend on a purse. But because I was emotionally enthralled by how happy these purchases would make my wife and how I knew she wanted them so badly I went ahead and bought them. If I had been receiving alerts on the prices of Louis Vuitton bags from eBay I would’ve never bought her either of those purses because my business acumen would’ve stepped in and emotion would have had no part in the purchases.

To this day I don’t regret spending the money on those two purses. Even though I know I paid a ridiculous amount of money on them. Why? Because it felt so good buying something for Shannon that I knew she’d never buy for herself because she knows I’d throw a hissy fit about the value of a dollar. Would you want to deny your significant other a moment of joy because you allowed logic and reason to dictate every purchase you ever made? I didn’t think so, me either.

Reader Comments

Jason Dowdell is a technology entrepreneur and operates the Marketing Shift blog.