This was Amazon's home page in 1995.
By '98, it had adopted the "catalog" look:
The ubiquitous format for most online shops today, one that few have veered from.
The Web has changed since '98
Clearly the Web has changed even more dramatically from 1998 to 2014. It’s accessed by many different mobile “pieces of glass” like smartphones and tablets, each with their own dimensions across both portrait and landscape orientation.
The way users interact with these devices have changed. UX professionals now must account for touch screens and gestures. Mobile apps have the ability to tap deep into the features of an OS such as voice and camera, geolocation and push notifications. Designers can tailor mobile apps specifically to the mobile user experience.
Even the desktop experience has evolved. The ability to personalize the experience based on what you know about a customer has advanced thanks to readily available analytics and segmentation/targeting tools. Machine learning and natural language processing applied to merchandising and search still holds much unleveraged potential.
Web design has excelled, supporting interactive and engaging rich media and content from product video to product finders and parallax scrolling.
APIs bring social functionality to web pages and export content to social networks, as well as enable customers to contribute their own reviews and pictures to websites. Twitter and Facebook are experimenting with Buy buttons embedded inside posts, supporting transactions outside of retailers’ sites. And there are countless opportunities to “merchandise beyond the storefront” where consumers hang out online.
If it ain't broke?
In 2014 and beyond, we have to ask ourselves how long the “online catalog” experience will be the “best” way to sell across digital touchpoints. Or, is it time to break the catalog and reinvent the digital commerce experience altogether?
At this year’s Shop.org Annual Summit, I and Kevin Lindsay from Adobe will be presenting Breaking Bag: Reinventing the Customer Experience at Every Touchpoint, a 30-minute dialog on the state and future of ecommerce in the age of mobile, social and in-store tech. Join us Tuesday, September 30 at 11:45-12:15 in the Expo Hall. (Details here)