It's December 11th, and my wife and I are done with our Holiday shopping. A bit of a record for us, given that most years we're scrambling until we're running to the airport to go visit the family.
And while we've done most of our shopping online for almost a decade, online played a particularly important role in the timeliness of our shopping this year.
Having a ticking clock online reminding you to order before certain dates to get items shipped in time for the holidays definitely prodded us along.
Over the past two to three years, Amazon has rolled out small, but important shopping features that collectively have gotten them a bigger piece of our shopping budget. Let me go through the four biggies that particularly influenced our shopping this year:
1. Prime Shipping: I've been an early adopter of this feature since it was introduced a few years ago, whereby, you pay a yearly subscription fee of $79 to get "all-you-can eat" Express shipping on your orders through the year. This feature in particular has resulted in my shopping a lot more on Amazon throughout the year, not just for the holidays.
2. Amazon's selection: This has particularly been impressive this year, with it's wide range of affiliate retail partners large and small. It's gotten so that this holiday, we'd look up items found on other online stores, to see if they were available on Amazon. If the price was the same or better, we ordered it through Amazon, both for the prime shipping, and the next important feature.
3. Multiple shipping addresses: For a while for now Amazon's offered the ability to store scores of shipping addresses in your account. While many online shopping sites offer this, Amazon goes one better. They make it supremely easy to buy via 1-click, and ship an individual item to a particular address, with multiple options on shipping and gift wrapping right there at your finger-tips.
4. Gift Organizer: The last feature was particularly helpful when combined with the online shopping tickler available through the Gift Organizer, that allows you to build a list of friends and family on one's shopping list. We've been using that feature for a couple of years now. Also helpful here are the features to review your gift history with every person on the list (assuming your got the gifts via Amazon), and the ability to use Wish lists for friends and family.
To these four key features, add one of the best consumer review collections by product, to be found anywhere. Talk about social shopping. Amazon's had this one down cold before social anything was cool.
I also like the company's customer service features, both automated and human powered. In particular, they make it very easy to cancel orders, and send a prompt confirmation email after every cancellation.
The ability to navigate through all the products availalbe on Amazon, while still daunting, seems to get better every year. They've added Ajaxy software pop-ups in many places providing more product information, without having to click and navigate away from a page full of products. Also, the addition of video previews for many products is also a huge boon in product selection.
A lot of these features are not new, either to Amazon or to many other online retailers. But if one has cumulatively used these features via Amazon over the years, they collectively become more useful every year. Like a snowball going down a hill.
It's all hit a tipping point of sorts for us this year.
For all these reasons and more, I rate Amazon shopping a "Thriller" service this year. Should have done it far sooner.
The only problem at Amazon these days is not that they don't have cool features. It's that they have so many, that you really need to work to find most of them, and make them part of one's shopping routine.
It's a high-class problem, and one that Amazon will hopefully solve sooner than later.
Good luck on your holiday shopping, one and all.