Online shopping can be better than it is

The retail industry is unraveling

Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy protection today. This is only the latest in a grim, endless line of giants falling victim to the double peril of Amazon’s near monopoly, and SARS-CoV2. The retailer hopes to emerge from bankruptcy intact in some form, but whether they endure or not, countless others won’t. We’re reaching a period now where almost all purchasing is done online, and most of the time the experience is bland, distant, and mildly unpleasant.

As Sears, JC Penny and Macys crumble, what fills their gap is not smaller, more nimble competitors, but rather massive online operations like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. The novelty of opening a browser window and getting almost anything you could require delivered in a couple days had arrived, we all knew, at the cost of human interaction. This could sometimes be a benefit. What may have been less deliberately chosen: giving up so most of the context and beauty in our buying experience.

Where we find ourselves today

Look at these two images below. These are pictures of the beautiful Star Wars playing cards from luxury playing card manufacturer, Theory11. You can buy them directly from the manufacturer’s website for $9.95, or from Amazon. You’ll get the same cards at about the same price, but you certainly will not get the same experience:

Amazon Amazon
Theory 11 Theory 11

It’s obvious which of these two purchasing experiences is more fun and more beautiful, but it’s more than that. We have a much better sense of what we’re really getting from the Theory11 website. In addition to the gorgeous high resolution photos that I want to frame and put on my office wall, I can read more about the decks and the entire product is placed into context on their site. It works in much the same way a good retailer would surround their goods with supporting design elements and products. They may be the same price from two sources, but Amazon doesn’t give you nearly the same value for your time and money. I would argue that you’re actually less likely to enjoy and appreciate what you’ve bought if it’s come from an online warehouse.

Good craftsman are inspired by great craftsmanship

Third Law Studio will be shipping Magic Card very soon- monetized in part by linking to this website to sell our Svengali decks, Bicycle brand playing cards, or our instructional videos. For us, this is a bold experiment in alternate ways to generate revenue in the hyper competitive App Store. But researching how others have approached selling a deck of cards online has been quite an education.

As we build out our e-commerce project, we’ll do what we can to give it little of the spark of love and creativity so often missing from online sales. Challenge accepted. Now I really want those Star Wars cards….

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