SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Visual shopping
Re: [Sigia-l] Visual shopping
On Mar 4, 2007, at 10:55 PM, Ziya Oz wrote:
> Paola Kathuria:
>> They need to know:
>> a) where they are (in context / by category)
>> b) how much they've seen
>> c) how much more there is left to do/browse/examine
>> d) they haven't wandered off somewhere else inadvertently
Although these are all core needs to complete the shopping task,
there are few a missing components here - cognitive style, mental
mapping of the 'shopping space' , and sub-task ordering within the
For example, my wife's preferred shopping method is something like
Phase 1 - "Preshopping"
- Browse all her preferred shopping venues on a semi-regular basis
- Maintain a mental inventory of who has what, including best prices
- Determine possible matches/synergies between different offerings at
The key feature here is that Judy wants to get a close look at all
the potentially interesting items and stow away her assessments of
those items for later use. A secondary feature is that while Judy is
building a mental inventory of all the potential purchases, she is
also building a detailed mental map of where those items are located.
I'll also note that Judy is continually doing a sort of pruning and
re-optimization of the problem space.
When I first saw the BrowseGoods example, I thought it might be
useful for someone with Judy's shopping style, since it offers quick
visual access to a broad range of items, but I've since come to the
conclusion that there's no easy way to get back to the correct spot
on the treemap, no guarantee that each item will remain in the same
place over time, or even that the same item in the treemap will
ultimately be from the same store.
Phase 2 - "Arranging/Budgeting"
- Make a decision that some specific need must be filled
- Make sure enough money is available
- Arrange shopping at likely venues for that set of products
Once a particular set of potential purchases has been constructed,
Judy can readily construct a ranked list of shopping venues,
including a reasonably optimal path between them.
Phase 3 - "Shop & Side-shop"
- While getting a final look at each item on her shopping list,
Judy also repeats the tasks in Phase 1, adjusting for any likely
matches with her upcoming purchases.
- While doing final product evaluation, she also takes the
opportunity to 'preshop' for future purchases.
- If all potential purchases are rejected on final inspection and the
need for a product in that category is great, she re-assesses the
problem space, essentially by dumping her former mental map of the
available products, and going back to the remapping the goods and
venues available. (I have learned to take an interesting book along
when accompanying Judy on a shopping trip. It keeps me from acting
My shopping style is very different -- and much cruder -- than
Judy's. Although I have a mental list of shopping venues that I
consider both convenient and overall reasonably priced, I don't 'pre-
shop' to maintain my mental map of location, offerings and prices.
When a need arises, I do a quick bout of ad-hoc product research,
almost always online, to find a best match to the need. Once I've
identified a 'good-enough' match on features and price, I do a
superficial check for the item using my list of 'known-good'
suppliers. If the item is available from one of those shops and I
have a good idea of the general retail price, I stop comparing
offerings and buy the item. Once I find a good match, convenience and
vendor loyalty cuts off any further search for best price. (I'll
point out that Judy is the great bargain finder in our family. The
cat and I are tied for second place, except for dry cat food, where I
am apparently in third place.)
Another difference between our styles is that Judy insists on doing
detailed in-person product evaluations of _many_ potential purchase
candidates during the "preshop" phase, while I only do a close, in-
person check on the _final_ one or two candidates.
> I have an utterly blind spot for shopping. Either it takes me
> months to get
> something or just a few minutes and I'm done. Anything in between
> is torture
> for me; often I get woozy at malls, for example, and I can't
> believe I'm the
> only one who's not properly wired for the western shopping process.
As I described above, there is no single 'western shopping
experience'. You should play the ethnographer during your next
several shopping expeditions with friends and family. At the very
least, it'll keep you from getting bored or dizzy.
> So I don't know if there's something peculiar about the experience of
> shopping that involves physical or virtual navigation, parsing,
> etc, that may be different than document or data navigation, for
I think the key here is an assessment of each individual's search
behavior, the number of factors that come into play in their mental
map of the 'shopping space', and the underlying infrastructure of
that space. Judy has a high-resolution multi-dimensional shopping map
overlaid on dozens of physical spaces scattered over about 200 square
miles, interacting with traffic maps. I have a short node-list of
favorite shopping URLs interacting with news sources and search
engines, plus about 8 favorite physical shopping locations.
> We can make some observations: Yahoo's directories lost to Google's
> architecture to the tune of $138 billion. People apparently prefer
> non-hierarchical navigation to highly structured and exposed
> navigation. It
> may or may not be less efficient, but it doesn't seem to deter
> hundreds of
> millions of people using it without too much of a problem. (Yes,
> I'm aware
> that Google is not perfect :-)
Never forget that online shopping is a sideshow for most people.
Understand their real-space shopping habits first, then find out how
the online offering match up to those habits.
> The absence of navigational cues may in fact be problematic, just
> as you
> say, but then again it may not matter as much if navigation is task/
> (and not browsing) based.
For items where the visual appearance of the purchase candidate is a
strong component of the owner experience, visual navigation of
products is going to provide important information, but my intuition
is that most users organize their shopping map in terms of preferred
The BrowseGoods shop short-circuits mapping of items to vendors by
hiding the potential vendors of any given item, instead forcing a
best-price ordering on the user. While I might consider buying Item X
from Shops X, Y, or Z at a given price, I'm probably going to reject
a much larger set of potential vendors at the same or even lower
prices because I don't trust them.
> Frankly, I am in awe of people (often ladies) who can be let loose
> in what's
> otherwise a bewildering maze to me, like a mall, and come back in
> an hour
> with a perfectly suitable choice, if not a great one.
Sufficiently advanced shopping resembles magic. Insufficiently
observed shopping also resembles magic. Next time, bring a notebook
and an unobtrusive camera.
206-783-1943 (home office)
"The only people who value your specialist knowledge are the ones who
already have it." - William Tozier
IA Summit 2007: Enriching IA
Rich Information, Rich Interaction, Rich Relationships
March 22-26, 2007, Las Vegas, NV
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: Mon Mar 05 2007 - 16:00:56 EST