Home Amazon Is Finally Starting To Harness The Visual Web

Amazon Is Finally Starting To Harness The Visual Web

Amazon has launched a visually dominant storefront for showcasing exclusive products. Called Amazon Exclusives, this Pinterest-like image grid allows users to browse through products from paddleboards to patterned Mary Janes that are only for sale on Amazon.

“Amazon Exclusives is comprised of sellers that have chosen to sell their products only on the Amazon Marketplace and through their own websites and physical stores,” the company wrote, and other than that, the products have little in common. The grid display appears to have been chosen order to encourage browsing instead of searching behavior.

“We are using a unique product layout to better showcase the items to make the store visually appealing to customers and fun to navigate,” an Amazon spokesperson told me by email. 

You may recognize the image grid from Pinterest, of course, but also other visual shopping sites and apps like Wanelo, Polyvore, Wish, Etsy, and eBay’s iPad app overhaul. (Amazon has even tried this approach before with a Pinterest knockoff called Collections.) It’s a tried and true effort to acquire eyeballs by showing off potential objects of desire.

The Rise Of The Visual Web

From the days of cave paintings to the advent of emoji, human beings have always been very visual creatures. In the earlier days of the Web, limited bandwidth made use of multiple images impractical, leading us to develop a text-based infrastructure.

Now that quick-loading images and even video are a technological reality, Web companies have either gotten way more visual—or died off. Twitter and Facebook, once the bastions of text-based updates, provide simple image support. Google and Pinterest are both experimenting with true visual search, where users can search by one image to find similar ones.

See also: How The Visual Web Could Achieve Its Potential

The Visual Web, however, has had the biggest influence in users’ shopping habits. Companies are aiming to put fewer and fewer steps between the instant a user sees a product and their ability to buy it. It’s why Pinterest, the first to implement this grid-like display on a large scale, was able to drive more sales than more popular social media sites.

Ever since Pinterest caught the digital world by surprise, Amazon has been experimenting with increasingly Pinterest-like image grids. One notable one is Beautiful things, updated daily, a collection of sponsored products related to fashion, which can be categorized by looks for women or for men.

Both the fashion focus and the grid of large images invoke the Pinterest approach to the Visual Web. In addition to Collections, which is no longer on the site, Amazon also regularly displays some products—primarily clothing and shoes, but also some consumer electronics as well—in a grid format.

“Amazon Collections was a test,” the spokesperson said. “We learned a great deal and always look for ways to apply these lessons in the future as we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers.”

Whether the still-experimenting Amazon will adopt this kind of un-Amazonian design permanently isn’t yet clear. By implementing it for a group of products that aren’t available anywhere else, it ought to find out quickly how well it works. 

Photo of screen by Lauren Orsini

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