Why retailers should stop copying Amazon.com

4 min. read | Last updated: December 12th, 2017

Amazon.com is a popular reference in the e-commerce industry, and for a good reason. Amazon tests every change on its site and never settles for anything less than high converting design and UX.

I love Amazon for driving awareness and curiosity around A/B testing. However, I’m sometimes frustrated when Amazon lures my clients into thinking that everything it does should be implemented on their own website.

A few days ago, a client of WiderFunnel’s wanted to increase the size of the cart in their header. Why? Because Amazon does it.

It might be a valid hypothesis. If there is one website to mirror, the typical thinking goes, Amazon is probably your best bet given that every element on the site has very likely been tested and optimized at some point.

But, Amazon’s tactics won’t always win for your website

Here are three things to keep in mind:

First, what works for Amazon may not work for you. Most e-commerce websites have more differences than similarities to Amazon. Even if you sell the same products, your value proposition is hopefully different. If not, you will just be a replica of a giant who is very likely to eat you up alive.

Second, your audience is probably different than Amazon’s. Every target audience is unique, influenced by brand, product mix, pricing strategy, etc.

Third, the component you currently see on Amazon and want to copy may be part of a live A/B test that ends up losing. If you implement it without testing, you could lose thousands of dollars before you realize it.

Sure, you can get ideas from Amazon but make sure these ideas are relevant to your business, audience and goals. But don’t stop there. You should test that!

Rather than assuming that Amazon represents best practices for retailers, you should turn their “best practices” into your own “tested practices.”

I’ll show you a real life example.

An Amazon-like experiment

Last month, we ran a test for one of WiderFunnel’s major e-commerce retailer clients. This particular test included several variations of their site-wide search bar.

The client was very determined to run this particular experiment because.. you guessed it.. Amazon does it. Visitors who used the search bar were converting 2 times more than visitors who did not, so this experiment was a pretty big deal.

Fortunately, as a WiderFunnel client, they’re committed to testing ideas rather than just copying and assuming. And, this test proved why that’s wise.

Here’s how this test worked.


The original search bar in the control was placed to the very left of the top navigation. Of course, we included this variation in the A/B/n test.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 3.33.04 PM

Control – Header

We tested 2 different variations against that control header:

Variation A

Variation A, a.k.a. “The Amazon Version”, where the search bar was positioned in the middle of the top navigation, just after the menu “Products”.


Variation A – Header

This idea was “borrowed” from the amazon search bar placement:
Amazon – Header

Variation B

Variation B, a.k.a. “The Best Practice Version”, where the search bar was positioned to the right of the top navigation, a common place for retailer search bars.

Variation B – Header

Which one do you think won?

At WiderFunnel, we like to vote on which variation we think will win.

Even though we know best practices don’t work until they’re tested, Variation B got the most votes within the team.

And the winner is…

The experiment ran for 2 weeks and… surprise, surprise, none of the variations won.

Nope, the Amazon Version did not win. In fact it hurt conversions by 6% while Variation B hurt conversions by 9%.


Now, you might think this is a disappointing result. But, it’s not. There are never losing tests if they’re used to generate insights.

Yes, this test didn’t directly produce a conversion rate lift but, even though the test result was not positive, we learned that there is some sensitivity around the search bar, which encouraged us to dig deeper.

We followed up with another experiment in the same area that gave an 11.5% lift in the sales conversion rate. And now, we’re continuing with more follow-up tests that build on those insights.

What does it mean for you?

When trying to implement improvements to your website, it is always a good idea to run tests.  Best practices often don’t work (and I’m sure you already know that if you have been reading our blog for some time).  And, as you been shown above copying a successful design from a successful competitor or industry leader, like Amazon, won’t guarantee positive results.

The road to success starts with understanding what makes you unique and what works best for your customers. At WiderFunnel we help our clients understand the intricacies of their business, during the Discovery stage of the The Kaizen Planning process. Every change is an opportunity to showcase what makes you different and delight your customers. You should start now!

Do you think Amazon should be copied?

Have you found their tactics work on your website? Where do you get your best ideas from? Add your comments below.


Claire Vignon Keser

Senior Data Scientist at InVision

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