When Amazon came into business over 20 years ago , no one could have predicted that we were dealing with a $900B+ company in the making. At the time, e-commerce was still in its formative years, but, Jeff Bezos obviously saw possibilities that most others didn’t.
From a humble little online bookstore, Amazon.com expanded it’s platform into a marketplace for third-party sellers to sell new and used products. En route to doing so, they introduced the ‘1-Click’ method that many considered revolutionary at the time, particularly for customer experience.
In fact, ‘1-Click’ was so significant that Amazon acquired the patent for it. Though, many questioned the patentability of the method and whether it met the bar for it to be awarded one.
‘1-Click’ involves using stored billing and shipping information including minor user preferences to streamline the shopping experience on Amazon.com. Members would need to enter their information only once and proceed to making purchases thereafter without having to repeat a relatively longer check-out process each time.
Now, if you are a millennial who used e-commerce portals during the 1990s and early 2000’s, you are immensely aware of how frustrating the process of completing a transaction was. Filling, re-filling and confirming multiple data fields was not an effortless task, particularly when a connection dropped or page crashed.
Why was the ‘1-Click’ method so significant?
Besides being a unique feature at the time in e-commerce, the ‘1-Click’ method essentially meant that Amazon could create and grow a database of customer information that would one day prove invaluable.
Aside from the patent, which incidentally expired in 2017, Amazon trademarked ‘1-Click’ as well. This way, any single-click system released by a competitor would require a different name. ‘1-Click’ being descriptive in itself had very obvious benefits.
In 1999, Amazon sued Barnes & Noble over patent infringement and in 2000, Apple began licensing the technology for use on its web properties. As the e-commerce world progressed, it’s hard to ascertain how long Amazon’s advantage remained. However, it did allow Amazon to somewhat solidify its position in the online market space.
‘1-Click’ in practice
Below are a few screenshots from the mobile version of Amazon.com. As is plainly evident, Amazon’s ‘1-Click’ feature delivers an immediate conclusion to a user’s buying journey. The button did exactly what it promised.
(Expectation = Reality) = Pos+ Experience
The feature is enabled by following a short sequence of clickthroughs – Menu > Your Account > 1-Click settings > Slider on/off. In addition, Amazon’s Information architecture was quite intuitive.
Activation sequence for 1-Click on Amazon mobile app
Transaction process on Amazon
Rival eBay’s checkout process by contrast
Although eBay displays a ‘Buy It Now’ button, users are still expected to confirm and pay after click-through. This additional step seems a little misleading when we consider the use of the word ‘Now’.
(Expectation ≠ Reality) = Neg- Experience
The extra step also offers users an opportunity to reconsider their purchase intent. It would be interesting to see eBay’s drop off rate at this stage in the funnel.
According to Baymard Institute, the average cart abandonment rate from over 40 different research studies was approximately 70%. Although there is no conversion data on hand as a result of Amazon’s implementation of ‘1-Click’, you have to simply appreciate the probable reduction in cart abandonment.
At the time of this article, I tried searching for an eBay equivalent of Amazon’s 1-Click feature considering the patent expired a few years ago, but came up with nothing conclusive. There does not seem to be a quicker route aside from the sequence displayed below.
Transaction process on eBay
Let’s talk Amazon customer experience (CX)
By reducing the amount of time and clicks it would ordinarily take for a user to go from adding an item to a cart, proceeding to check-out, running through payment, shipping and confirmation pages, ‘1-Click’ offered customers a frustration-free process, quicker conclusion and a positive experience that competitors hadn’t spotted yet.
In addition, mobile technology was beginning to take off. That meant as more and more users made purchases through their mobile devices, Amazon’s ‘1-Click’ feature became a godsend for smaller screen sizes in contrast to an otherwise cumbersome process experienced with other vendors. This was another plus point for Amazon’s customer experience. In no uncertain terms, Amazon was demonstrating the true convenience of online shopping.
Advantages 1-Click had for Amazon
- A database of customer information pertaining to shipping, billing & payment methods.
- Delivery preferences information
- Reduced funnel timeline
- Products & Categories that sell well with ‘1-Click’
- Purchase frequency information using ‘1-Click’
- Price points that perform well with ‘1-Click’
- Promotional offers / Coupons / Advertising Copy in conjunction with ‘1-Click’
- Impulse purchases
- Customer trust / sense of security or confidence index
- Extension of the buying method to other Amazon properties
- Any user interface/interaction testing alongside ‘1-Click’
Advantages for Amazon Customers
- Convenient online shopping experience
- Lower process frustration
- Quicker gratification
- Simple hassle-free checkout
Obviously, the ‘1-Click’ feature is not the sole driver of Amazon’s success but it does point to one of the many efforts Amazon has made over the years to simplify processes and ensure their online shopping experience is pleasurable and convenient.
E-commerce has to contend with the lack of senses traditional retail offers. So, the only way to stand out is to consistently deliver experiences that customers find valuable. By appealing to what motivates customers to use e-commerce, companies like Amazon have consistently developed innovative ways to blur the boundaries with retail.
What we learn from features like ‘1–Click’ is that it’s not always about how much you put into a customer journey, it’s also about how much you take out. Over-simplification does have merits.
In fact, Amazon Go, an offline property of Amazon, streamlined the process of grocery shopping. Customers merely walk into an Amazon Go store, grab products off the shelf and then leave. No queues, no wait-times, no cashiers, no cash, just an omission of what Amazon sees as non-productive elements in an otherwise traditional process.
As we continue to move forward, we can expect to see more innovative experiments and features from online & offline sellers. One thing is for sure, I can hardly wait for what comes next.