As anyone who follows me on Pinterest will have noticed, I’ve been spending a truly sick amount of time looking at sandals over the past few weeks. That’s not (just) because online shoe shopping is my new favourite way of switching off my brain, but because it’s pretty hard to find summer sandals that work for orthotics…and come in size 11.
Zappos (among other sites) tries to help by letting me narrow my search by heel height. Amazon misses that option, but instead offers a “shop by shape” feature which, in principle, is kind of nice. But it misses the key criterion for me — is the shoe closed enough to hold an orthotic? — and I’m guessing that there are other shoppers who have highly specific search criteria that aren’t captured by the shape options Amazon offers.
Why should our searches be limited to the criteria someone else anticipates? What I’d really like is a shopping engine that lets me draw the shape I’m looking for — whether it’s a shoe, a shirt or a dress — and then searches the site for items that appear to match my shape. And while you’re at it, let me specify my colour choice and tolerance (do I want to search for a specific grey, or anything between light black and almost-white?), my heel incline (i.e. let me subtract the height of a hefty platform from the heel height) and whether I want to shop based on the item’s original price or its sale price (annoyingly, if you tell Amazon to show you items that are 50% off and under $200 dollars, you won’t see items that used to be $300 and are now $150).
In other words, let me define the criteria for my search, instead of sticking to your narrow little boxes. Yes, it’s a big tech challenge, and it is way easier to set up a search tool (and categorize inventory) if you define the criteria for me.
But tough tech challenges are what make for game-changing tech innovations. Nobody needs another Amazon. What we need is the shopping site that does what Amazon can’t.