Amazon.ca Fails at Basic Usability – Amazon.com Passes

Amazon holiday logoAmazon is often touted as the usability darling of e-commerce. Number one on Internet Retailer’s Top 500 List last year, the mega-store is usually way ahead of other retailers in so many ways. That’s why my experience on Amazon this weekend was so surprising. Shopping on Amazon.ca, I experienced search failure more than once — and also discovered that my problems wouldn’t have happened on Amazon.com.

Exhibit A – Can’t Handle A Typo

This is what happened when I made a spelling error for “Web Analytics: An Hour A Day” on Amazon.ca:

Amazon.ca Search Fail

And this is the same search on Amazon.com:

Amazon Search Pass

Exhibit B – Can’t Handle Stemmings

For a site that’s so eager to make recommendations, I was surprised that I got a “zero results” page when searching for a book about “landing pages”:

Amazon.ca Fails Search

“Oh, did you mean landing page? So sorry, why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

Landing Page Search

Amazon.com figured it out, and delivered more than one result:

Amazon.com Passes Landing Pages Search

Exhibit C – Design

You’ll notice from the screenshots that Amazon.ca is still using the tombstone navigation that was abandoned by the Amazon.com redesign a couple months ago. Fair enough, it may not be as simple as flicking a switch for Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk to get the fresh look and Amazon decided to roll the new design out in stages. But the new layout was designed for better usability and sales – so I’m wondering what’s the hold up. Certainly Amazon should be concerned with providing the optimal holiday shopping experience?

The Canadian site is also missing an important holiday usability reminder – shipping deadlines:

Amazon.com Right Hand Corner

Amazon.com lets you know right up front how many days you have to cash in on super saver shipping.

Amazon.ca Right Hand Corner

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12 Responses to “Amazon.ca Fails at Basic Usability – Amazon.com Passes”

  1. I don’t get it……doesn’t Amazon use the same recommendation engine for all domains?

  2. eCopt says:

    Very interesting, nice eye Linda, but who would use Canadian search engines anyway? ;)

    I think they are using the .com to test on at the moment. Certain technology or design implementations may not be rolled out on their subversions. To me, that’s the only thing that makes sense, but think how much business they are missing out on by doing that? You’d think the things you pointed out would be a no brainer for Amazon, I would understand if it were some of the smaller sellers, but not Amazon.

  3. @eCopt,

    Now that our loonie’s going back down, we’re all crawling back to our Canadian ecommerce sites :D

    Fuzzy logic has been around for a long time, I’d be surprised if Amazon’s just experimenting with that now. I know I’m being a bit hard on Ammy, and it didn’t cause them to lose the sale, I just tried my searches again until they worked ;-)

    Being a marketer and not a developer, I do appreciate the genius that is put into search functionality tweaking, and it’s probably harder than I think – I was just stunned that the 2 sites were using different engines, and that I ran into speedbumps twice in the same shopping session. Usually my experience with Amazon is much sharper.

    Hopefully Amazon will notice in their internal search logs the issue and will fix this soon (on a case-by-case basis). I’ll run a search on the same query in a month and see if they’ve fixed it for these terms (or if they read our blog, LOL).

  4. I just whipped over to B&N, AbeBooks, Chapters/Indigo and Alibris and they all failed the typo test.

    For “landing pages” Chapters.indigo.ca passed (Go Canucks Go), and AbeBooks delivered somewhat relevant search (Search Marketing for Dummies). Barnes and Noble and Alibris had nothin’.

  5. What a timely post! I looked up some CDs for my mother for Christmas on Amazon.com – easy as pie. I love Amazon.com. Useable, interactive and highly useful. Unfortunately, they couldn’t ship before Christmas unless I paid the highest shipping fee.

    I jumped over to Amazon.ca, which I hadn’t visited in years. Nothing’s changed – I feel like I arrived in 1998. No suggestions, abysmal search, no reviews – didn’t feel like anything in the Amazon family.

    I’ve always felt that Canadian versions of US sites are very poor cousins to their American counterparts – nothing reinforced this opinion like Amazon.ca. Very, very disappointed.

  6. Hi Dave,

    Yep, we Canadians are getting the “cold shoulder.” Amazon.com’s got tagging, video, blogs etc. and we have bilingual buttons, tombstones and bizarre recommendations…example:

    Amazon “personally” recommends tome Michael Buble’s Christmas album. I click on “Why is this recommended for you?” – and the reason is because I bought a Hannah Montana CD for my niece last year. I don’t see how the recommendation relates at all to this purchase, unless parents buying H.M. “also bought” Michael Buble at the same time.

  7. amazon germany has no results for “Web Analytics: An Hour A Da” but I was successful with the search term “landing pages” … strange.

  8. I do totally agree. I use Amazon.com as a good design example very often in blog. Unfortunately, I can not say the same about Amazon.de (I live in Germany right now), the German version is like a trip to the 90′s.

  9. Dr. Pete says:

    Interesting; I’m surprised the Canadian site uses a different engine. That seems unusual for a big, international presence like Amazon.

    I guess I managed to find Avinash’s book, though, as I’m reading it right now :)

  10. LOL, yep I eventually found it too, looking forward to its arrival :D

  11. Neil Mudde says:

    I received a $50.00 amazon.ca gift certificate and decided to purchases a mp3 player. The certificate clearly states “amazon.ca” will only redeem my certificate.
    I did the sign up thing, then started to place the order either “quick click” or proceed to check out to no avail, I once ended up with 9x the item at check out, I have 6 of my same addresses listed when clicking on ‘shipping to” nothing happens, I sent a note to amazon.ca who told me to contact amazon.com? even though my certificate states it is “ca” so has anyone had this experience and what did you do to finally get your stuff?
    Would appreciate your comments, help
    Neil neilm_to@yahoo.com

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