Next stop, the mall
March 15, 2011 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Is there a way to shop at multiple sites (e.g. Amazon, SwimOutlet, Otterbox, ThinkGeek) simultaneously using a single externally located shopping cart?

I've rewritten this question half a dozen times & it's still not as clear as I want it to be, so apologies for the murkitude.

Let's say there's a shopping service out there that procures a variety of items for each client. The client has neither time nor inclination to procure the items themself.

Instead of the shopper going to each store site, there a way for the client to drag & drop the item they want into a cart on the shopping service site?

As for examples, there's one here that sort of does what I'm after, but from a single store.

Then there's something like Trunk Club, but the client doesn't pick individual items (at least not as far as I can tell - I didn't join & explore the full site mechanics).

Maybe what I'm asking is if there anything like Sampleboard where you can collect a bunch of products you like, & instead of going separately to each site to buy them, you can dump them into a single file & then order them?
posted by yoga to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Amazon is probably the closest. Any vendor can become a merchant on the 'zon, and many do.

Most other merchants who are not the 'zon are too worried about competition to allow something like that.
posted by kindall at 11:58 AM on March 15, 2011

The problem you'll run into is that not all online stores are designed the same. So special considerations will need to be met to "interface" with each store's online ordering system. This would also take into account impersonating the secure sessions you'd acquire if logging in manually. Another issue is maintainability. Unless you have some kind of agreement worked out with all the stores, they won't know that when they change the design of their site they will also end up breaking the functionality of a custom one-cart system.

So the alternative, like the sites you linked, is to have some kind of agreement with all the stores to get their pricing, and then act as broker for placing the order (where the order is actually handled by this 3rd party, who then places the actual order with each company (many times manually) with each company on the list.

Another way this is done is like how Amazon and Google checkout works, where the companies essentially "sign up" for the online cart services. They send Google or Amazon their stock and quantities, and Amazon or Google takes care of the ordering process, kicking off a message to the companies as items are requested. This is working on a copy of their inventory (or who knows, perhaps a live xml feed according to Google or Amazon's specifications). The key point here is tho, the company selling the product has to do a bit of the leg work to be listed.

I hope that's clear, it's how I understand how this stuff works.
posted by samsara at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2011

Aside from the technical hurdles that samsara mentions, things like collecting tax, accounting, payment verification, fraud prevention, and other aspects of running an online store make a single store difficult to implement. Everybody has different payment methods, an idea of what's required for an account, or what an account even is. (And depending on the audience or the store, you can get very different answers.)

There is a concept in some ecommerce platforms of a "punchout" store (companies like Ariba specialize in this, where you can host another site's cart and checkout on your own site. However, this requires a lot of work on the vendor's end to implement, and more work on a webteam to get everything working correctly.

I suspect that many merchants would balk at opening their stores to join in with others for implementation and security reasons, in addition to their own self-interest. Stores want you to just spend your money on their site. It's hard to capture leads and sell as it is, they won't want to risk their conversion rate by sharing technology with their competitors.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:42 PM on March 15, 2011

Thanks everyone.
posted by yoga at 6:07 PM on March 15, 2011

I'm not sure if this is helpful, but at least for collecting a shopping list that spans multiple sites, one can use Amazon's Universal Wishlist. That doesn't simplify the actual buying process, though.
posted by mvd at 3:46 AM on March 17, 2011

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