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Aug 2, 2010 | 3 minute read

mCommerce: What You Can Learn From Amazon

written by Linda Bustos

You may have heard the recent news that Amazon has topped $1 Billion in mobile commerce sales over the last 12 months. Though this figure may be highly exaggerated because it includes digital goods purchased for the uber-popular Kindle device, the announcement gets us hyped up on the potential of mobile commerce again.

Judging by retweets and backlinks, Get Elastic readers enjoyed our recent posts on why you shouldn't blindly copy Amazon, and 5 things Amazon does that everyone should consider doing. So in light of this news, today's post examines 3 areas where Amazon excels in m-commerce.


Amazon's famous for personalizing the shopping experience of registered and non-registered users alike on the Web. If you've signed in in a previous session, it welcomes you back with your name and populates your home page with items you've looked at and that you might like based on your on-site behavior, purchase history and now even connects with Facebook.

Amazon's mobile experience is no different. Once you've signed on through your mobile, Amazon remembers and delivers a modified personal experience.

A recent study found there is a strong desire for a personalized mobile experience, with "recommended for you" statements converting 74% of mobile consumers.

Keeping customers signed in across mobile sessions allows them to access saved shopping cart and wishlists. Accessing private account information is simpler as the email address is pre-populated in the sign in field - less to type.

The quicker and easier it is to access personal account items, the less abandonment and the more useful the mobile channel will be to your returning customers.


Amazon chooses to merchandise its mobile home page with product images, in contrast to many other retailers who have opted for a simple search/menu format, such as Barnes and Noble.

I'm not advocating one approach or the other. The rationale behind bare-bones mobile home pages that focus simply on search and menus is the belief that shoppers only use mobile devices to "hunt," not "browse." That is, visitors already know exactly what they're looking for, and they only need to search or navigate directly to the product. That may or may not be true in general or for a specific site. To find out what's right for you, it's a good idea to survey your own customers, run usability focus groups or use A/B split testing tools that don't require Javascript tagging, like SiteSpect.

In my opinion, rather than taking up screen space, Amazon's personalized home page product features are relevant and enhance, rather than detract from the mobile user experience. Sites that don't use personalization could merchandise their home pages with top sellers, highest rated or newest items for customers who do want to browse.

Amazon carries a lot of product - even it's categories can have thousands of products in them. Allowing users to search within the category, or sort results by bestsellers or newest items helps mobile shoppers find "better" results first.

Sort by price and star rating would also useful options.

Amazon's product pages are done well as they are both easy to scan, are short scrolling, and have options to zoom in on details like product image (very important on small screens), descriptions and review content.

Image zoom:

Descriptions can be expanded and collapsed with "plus" and "minus" boxes:


Even on a larger screen like the iPad, checking out is tedious on mobile devices because they require multiple screens (usually) and input into form fields. Touch screens are far more prone to errors than desktop and laptop keyboards, and page load speed can be slower, which means fixing errors is even more of a headache. Amazon pre-fills as many fields as possible, like the email address in the first step of the checkout, and even pre-filling the cardholder name if you opt to enter a new credit card.

The mobile site also eases customers' security fears with a point of action assurance - a text link "Why using a credit card is safe."

Remember, just because Amazon does something, doesn't mean you should copy it. But there's nothing wrong with using the 'Zon as a source for inspiration.

If you're looking for more mobile design and usability tips, check out last summer's series:

Part 1: Home Pages and Navigation
Part 2: Search and Category Pages
Part 3: Product Pages and Cart Summary
Part 4: Forms and Checkout