Friday, April 21, 2006

The Amazon Effect

Using Amazon as a product research tool...

"In recent user tests, we’ve noticed something very peculiar. Something I call the Amazon Effect.

As we do in many of our studies, we allow our test participants to create their own tasks. This way, they’re much more likely to be shopping for something they’re truly interested in, as opposed to going through the motions for testing purposes. We also give users real money, which makes the incentive to purchase very strong. If someone is truly motivated to purchase, then any problems we uncover that prevent purchasing directly affect the bottom line.

Despite the freedom we give test participants to create their own tasks, we have to be more strict about which sites they visit. The reason is straight-forward: we’re testing the effectiveness of particular sites for a particular purpose. In order to see what works and what doesn’t, we need to watch several people on the same site (especially the site of our client). Otherwise, we wouldn’t have a large enough population to be sure that we weren’t just seeing outlying issues that only affect one or two people.

Amazon.com, however, can make this difficult. When we test sites that sell similar products as Amazon does, (a list that is always growing, as Amazon seems to sell everything nowadays), we always get testers who want to go to Amazon before they go to the site we ask them to go to. “Can I just check out Amazon first?”, they ask. Because we’ve already included Amazon in the testing, we must remind them that we are also interested in learning about other sites, and that they may or may not be asked to visit Amazon later in the test. “OK”, they say reluctantly.

I call this the Amazon Effect. Amazon is so strongly rooted in people’s minds that it overrides their desire to try out other sites, even if it’s during a test! And it was funny at first, when we would have to say things like “well, we may or may not ask you to test Amazon today, but either way, you can go there on your own after the test”. This always seems to make folks feel better."   continued ...   (Via UIE)

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