I am currently on vacation. Last Tuesday, I needed a garment bag to hold some of my nicer clothes while traveling. So like millions of other people, I simply went to Amazon.
TLDR: The moment UPS scanned my return to Amazon, I got an email notifying me that my credit card had been issued a full credit. No anxiety, no waiting. Amazing UX. Many of us obsess over CSS styling and our web app’s front end, but neglect to think about the end-to-end experience. What are ways you can improve your full UX?
I saw two, fairly similar products. One was $40. One was $70. But the $70 one was Amazon Prime and would certainly arrive before the cheaper one — in time for my Friday afternoon flight. The cheaper one had “standard shipping” - yikes. Might not arrive soon enough.
So I bought both, thinking that I may keep them both if they’re equally good. I also may need to return one if it’s not what I’m looking for, confident that Amazon won’t hassle me. But this way I would definitely have one in time for travel. I would not have done this on most other online retail sites, especially the sites of these individual bag makers. No brand. No trust. But, in Amazon we trust.
Fast forward to Thursday. I get BOTH bags. I felt bad about my bet not paying off on the Prime bag arriving way before the other bag, but…first world problems.
So, long story short, I return the more expensive Prime bag. But with Amazon, returning the bag was easier than buying it. This is revolutionary. How, you ask?
Historically with brick-and-mortar, you have to 1) hold onto a receipt 2) decide in a 30 day or less timeframe and return an unopened item 3) visit the physical store.
Now, most online retailers get most of the steps right, but here’s where Amazon kills it:
The moment UPS came to my office and scanned my return package, I received an email notifying me that Amazon credited my account for the full purchase price of the bag.
WHAT?! With almost any other retailer, including Amazon of the past, the process goes something like request a return, get a return label, ship the package, pray that the package reaches a processing center, wait a week for some ‘assessment’ of the item, and then wait N more weeks for the credit to get on your card.
Opportunities for Anxiety When Returning An Item:
I worried whether the bag would even reach the return center: I have no actual proof of sending it back (printing out a return label doesn’t suffice). So what if I get screwed out of my seventy bucks? No recourse.
I worried whether the processing center would find some bullshit reason to not find my return valid.
I worried that there would be someone who dropped the ball between my return going through and my return credit being processed.
Admittedly, not every retailer can do what Amazon does. There is potential for fraud. I could have shipped back an empty box with nothing inside and kept the item I had ordered. And many more reasons exist why most retailers can’t do this. But more important than dwelling on this in some defensive manner is realizing that Amazon doesn’t HAVE to do this. No one in the market, especially with Prime and Zappos under their wings, competes with Amazon for customer service.
But yet they do it anyway. Because some day there will be more direct competition, and doing the small things politely and intelligently now is an investment in a more entrenched market-leading position. Perhaps Amazon will find more direct competition in the future for online retail. Say, Pinterest gets into the business, or Apple somehow steps up a broader retail strategy. One thing remains true: