Amazon Is Changing the Future of Online Shopping

The biggest online retailer's website redesign will change the way we shop

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Your online shopping experience is about to change dramatically, and for the better. Before, web shopping's advantages--mainly, providing purchasing power without leaving your home--came with a big drawback: waiting. Three- to five-day shipping replaced the instant gratification that came with going to a bookstore and picking up a new novel. Now online retailer giant,, is about to change that with the redesign of its website, as The Wall Street Journal's Stu Woo reports. "The new site emphasizes Amazon's digital goods over its physical ones. On the old site, a column of buttons leads users to both electronic content and physical goods, such as toys, clothing and sporting gear. On the new site, a single row of buttons advertises only digital books, music, video and software." Instead of focusing on the physical, Amazon is pushing buying to the digital, meaning less waiting and more instant stuff.

Amazon's redesign will change the goods you buy and how you buy them. Before you bought a DVD to stick in your computer. But soon you will purchase a movie to stream on your Amazon tablet. Of course you can still get a physical DVD from Amazon, but the site will entice you toward the digital product. "That's just what this redesign does--it puts those features front and center," David Selinger, a former Amazon manager and current chief executive of RichRelevance told Woo. "As shoppers migrate to smaller, more interactive screens such as tablets, making the content dynamic and personalized to each individual consumer becomes overwhelmingly important."

Beyond creating a store that focuses on non-tactile objects, Amazon's anticipated tablet aims to make you forget you ever wanted anything but digital content. The store will work alongside the new device, writes Woo. "Customers will be able to easily purchase and view such digital content on the retailer's tablet, people familiar with the device have said." Of course other tablets, especially Apple's iPad, operate on a digital model, but Amazon's tablet in tandem with the new site will have a particularly big pull, argues The Guardian's Charles Aruther. "Two simple reasons: Amazon is a conduit to lots of content; and, just as importantly, it already has a way for you to buy content from it. Like Apple, it is one of the 10 biggest merchant holders of credit card numbers in the world (along with companies such as eBay, PayPal, Sony through the PlayStation Network and Microsoft through its Xbox Live system)."

It will also cost a mere $250, reports TechCrunch's MG Siegler, making it much more accessible to the masses than Apple's $500 iPad. As Amazon's tablet makes more people reliant on digital content, its store will conveniently be right there for those in need.

Of course, a digital store isn't a novel idea: That's exactly how Apple's iTunes operates, but having a retail monster switch its focus will have a massive impact. "Amazon is the world's biggest Internet store by far, with revenue of $34 billion in 2010," explains Woo. Changing the way that many people shop will both influence buyers and sellers. Considering "Amazon is a conduit to lots of content," as The Guardian's Charles Arthur points out, after an adjustment period, people will eventually change their habits. Once other retailers see that the way people shop has changed, they will follow continues Woo. "And other online stores will be watching how the new site fares because of Amazon's success in boosting sales via its Web design and product-recommendation tools."

Of course, Amazon's redesign could flop, and as Woo explains, may require some getting used to. "Amazon's conversion rate--a statistic that indicates how many purchases there are per visitor, among other things--may drop in the first 30 to 45 days as people adjust to the new site." But the general consensus is that people will get over the change, and before you know it we will laugh at a time when we paid for "premium" shipping.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.