People using Amazon have noticed that the site is becoming increasingly cluttered and difficult to use. In 2023, writer John Herrman published an in-depth look at the changes to the Amazon shopping experience (The Junkification of Amazon: Why does it feel like the company is making itself worse? New York Magazine, Jan. 30, 2023). While the term ‘junkification’ of eCommerce isn’t widely recognized, it is fast gaining attention outside marketing teams.

The term itself is less important than the concept, which Hermann puts down to eCommerce platforms recognizing that their profits are driven by selling ad space, not selling the products that they showcase. This is why the Amazon site is less focused on the product guide and displays large ads that dominate the catalog. The knock-on effect has been noted by customers.

Low-Quality Products

The proliferation of low-quality or ‘junk’ advertised on eCommerce platforms has increased. This could happen due to the ease of setting up online stores and the lack of stringent quality control measures by some platforms.

Overwhelming Product Choices

The overwhelming number of product choices available to consumers on eCommerce platforms can lead to decision fatigue and dissatisfaction. Large ads placed in the middle of the screen tend to drive customers’ decisions, and brands are willing to pay a premium for that visual space.

Aggressive Marketing Tactics

Some eCommerce businesses are using aggressive marketing tactics, bombarding customers with ads, emails, and pop-ups. While this can create a sense of clutter and annoyance, it can push customers to make purchases based on brand identity. The constant reminder to make a purchase can drive sales.

Should you adopt junking on your website?

Absolutely not. Regardless of the interpretation, ‘junkification’ implies a negative aspect of eCommerce – either in terms of product quality, user experience, or marketing ethics. Building a successful eCommerce business requires focusing on providing value to customers, offering quality products, ensuring a smooth user experience, and employing ethical marketing practices.

Adopting any technique that contributes to the ‘junkification’ of eCommerce is likely to harm your reputation and drive away customers in the long run. Instead, focus on delivering quality products, optimizing the user experience, and engaging in ethical marketing to build a sustainable and successful eCommerce business.

Amazon has faced criticism for various practices that are perceived as contributing to a less-than-optimal user experience on its platform. Amazon’s decisions are typically driven by data that indicates how they can maximize revenue. According to online marketing experts, the presentation of products on Amazon has been a choice based on driving revenue.

If you are looking to Amazon as an eCommerce leader that sets the tone for other platforms, it is important to understand what they do to attract customers and what could be turning them away or at least frustrating them.

Product Variety

Amazon offers an extensive range of products, which some users might perceive as overwhelming. However, variety is supposed to provide choice. Many customers use reviews to help them make decisions, while others will be swayed by ads. (To learn more about this, the article by Hermann provides an in-depth look at suspected reasons for Amazon’s choices.)

Third-Party Sellers

Amazon allows third-party sellers to list products on its platform, which can lead to inconsistencies in product quality and customer experience. While this increases the diversity of products available, it also means that customers need to navigate through different sellers and listings. At one point, Amazon was producing and branding its own products, pushing third-party sales down. They have been accused of attempting to create a monopoly, and it seems the business has pulled back on this approach.

Promotions and Ads

Amazon employs various marketing tactics, including sponsored product placements and recommendations, to drive sales. While these tactics can enhance discoverability for sellers and provide customers with personalized recommendations, they might also contribute to a perception of clutter or excessive advertising.

How could junkification benefit customers?

Choice

A vast selection of products allows customers to find exactly what they’re looking for, even niche items that might be challenging to find elsewhere.

Competitive Pricing

The presence of numerous sellers on an eCommerce site often leads to competitive pricing, benefiting customers by offering them lower prices and better deals.

Convenience

Despite potential clutter, the user interface and recommendation algorithms aim to make the shopping experience as convenient as possible, helping customers quickly find products they want to purchase.

Ultimately, whether the junkification approach benefits customers depends on individual preferences and priorities. Some customers appreciate the vast selection and competitive pricing, while others might find the clutter overwhelming. ECommerce businesses need to continually adjust their platforms based on user feedback and data to strike the right balance between choice, convenience, and user experience.