In last week’s blog post, we kicked off Part I of our Microwave Mission, in which Diana and I took advantage of the fact that I needed a new microwave to test the plethora of options available to consumers looking to make a purchase online.
In addition to using Wize Commerce® sites like Nextag, Price Machine, and Wize, we tested the "Big Two" – Amazon and Google – as well as a number of sites run by traditional brick and mortar retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot.
But, before I get to the winner, there’s one more factor to consider. No analysis of the online shopping experience is complete without comparing it to the in-store experience, given that this is still how the vast majority of people make their purchases.
The In-Store Experience
Diana executed this part of the mission, and she found the in-store shopping experience helpful for making her smarter about the various functions of a microwave – for example, if you care about cooking quality you really want a microwave with "inverter technology" – and to get a better feel for sizes and cosmetic polish.
She also found that none of the retailer apps were uniquely helpful in the store. Target did a good job of helping you locate the proper store aisle, and Best Buy’s store map was similarly useful, but in the store it’s still about feet, eyes, touch, and hoping to speak with a skilled store associate. Simply put, Home Depot had them and Target did not.
The takeaway is two-fold: First, apps have a long way to go before they’ll truly be enhancing the in-store shopping experience. Comparison shopping is just easier to do from your chair and with a big monitor or tablet.
And second, there are definite advantages to shopping in-store, but the experience can obviously vary widely depending not only on what retailer you’re visiting, but what specific store you’re in.
So, who won?
First, a disclaimer: Admittedly, we’re biased, but we tried to conduct our analysis as impartially as we could, and our determination was made only based on the results we generated from our comprehensive approach to the online shopping experience.
Diana felt that the Wize Commerce sites were the clear winner. In particular, Price Machine’s unbiased results and massive product catalog really stood out.
For me, Wize worked wonderfully: I needed a reasonable way to filter hundreds of various kinds of sizes, finishes, brands, price ranges, and merchant choices into a few good choices. I found the Wize score and the ability to zoom in and quickly survey reviews, price history, and popularity very helpful. It’s also elegant, has a slick design, and is simple to use. It helped me quickly make a good, informed decision.
Overall, it’s fair to say that we learned a lot through this exercise. By searching on a number of sites I was able to zero in on brands, price ranges, technical specifications, and merchants that would make my "buy" list. There’s no denying that both Amazon and Google will continue to be in the arsenal of most online shoppers – they are fast and well-designed experiences.
But while Google and Amazon may be a good place to start the purchasing process, I think most "comparison shoppers" will get at-best a high-level portion of their requirements from those sites (good though they are) as long as Google continues to favor its ad-oriented business model and as long as Amazon continues to focus on being America’s favorite retailer.
With that in mind, I truly think that all of the Wize Commerce family of sites came out as winners in this experiment. They represent good choices for different classes of shoppers who want to compare and be smarter before they buy. There is little doubt that all of our sites are better for comparison shoppers than retail, and I think we can make sure our site experience evolves to a point where most consumers leave our sites and apps happy, satisfied, and ready to buy – ultimately that is good for the consumer, and good for the thousands of merchants we serve as the largest independent comparison shopping platform company.
Oh, and by the way, we ended up purchasing the Panasonic Genius using Price Machine for just under $177.