Chris Kranky

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What we missed with Amazon Mayday

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

s9781616088736_p0_v1_s260x420I’m walking thru the downtown San Francisco Westfield Mall. It’s prime real estate with 9 floors and ~ 1.2 million square feet of space and would sell for a cool $600m as a starting price. I’d urge you to wait though, WebRTC is likely another paper cut in the slow death of all things retail.

This mall needs to be heated & cooled, inventory must be truckedĀ in (and never anything in my size it would seem), determining staffing must be a nightmare and nearly always inaccurate (too much or too little and definitely too much turnover) and let’s not forget the unsavory lot who wander about in the building (the SFO Westfield Mall is the #1 crime scene in the city for shop lifting). In short – the Westfield Mall is a highly inefficient business model, a place were the gears of technology can easily grind away. WebRTC will play a part in it’s death.

To get there, we need to think of Amazon as an early day Sears Roebuck catalog. It’s static 2-dimensional view, the click n’ wait, little photo icons, busy page layout all will look horribly outmoded in 10 years. Amazon is indeed is great if you know what you’re looking for. But it’s not a shopping experience and the next game afoot is about bringing a shopping experience to the web. A place to browser, linger, get consultation and be sold. is a new Javascript framework which incorporates a physics engine. It’s goal to create a fluid like experience for the web. The demos are early, the concept compelling and the complexity huge. The notion of point n’ click and pages disappear and morph into something I can’t yet fully describe. Check out some of their demos for an early taste.

In this new web, WebRTC will be there, as a way to link me to another live person, combined with a modernized version of co-browsing, 3-D imagery and an effortless way to move the intimacy of communications from remote to highly personal and back away again. WebRTC is simply one ingredient in this cake.

Amazon clearly realizes this and Mayday is an early trial. There is complexity or learning’s to be had on the user experience and some real challenges with how to operate and scale a live back end. Simply adapting elderly call center technology is not the answer. Having a mere talking head is no longer novel. It’s all about the integration.

With so many technology challenges, it wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon simply didn’t offer their own unique browser, one designed exclusively for shopping with all the needed technology embedded with no arguments on codecs and signaling and offer answer and the other sundry discussions that bog progress down.

For those starting a new venture, your best success is to steal from others. Google didn’t invent advertising, they just move the dollars from someone else to themselves. Amazon as well. Uber. Netflix. All example of huge businesses who didn’t try and create a market place, they provided a better experience at a lessor price.

Today, online retail sales are a mere 6.6% (in the US) of all retail. Where do you think this is trending? Up. But to move that needle upwards, the online retail experience will have to morph and WebRTC or it’s future cousins will be a factor in that changing experience.

It’s time to think beyond the talk head chat demos and start talking about money.