REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 2, 1999 — Never one to procrastinate, Elinor is contemplating a Christmas gift for her 9-year-old grandson. She knows he loves the latest gadgets — after all, he’s the one who talked her into getting a PC and e-mail — and she wants something fun for him to play with. But she could sure use some good ideas, and she dreads the hassle of trekking through 16 toy stores at the local mall.
Brian, on the other hand, has a pretty fair idea of what he’s looking for: a digital camera for his free-lance photography business. He wants to make a smart choice, which means understanding the features of digital cameras, comparing brands, maybe reading some objective reviews, and finding a sales source knowledgeable enough to answer some pointed questions. Plus, it would be great to know which store in his neighborhood offered the best selection.
And then there’s Crystal. A speed demon on the slopes, she just eyeballed an ad for a set of ultra-hot red-and-black Rossignol Rebels, with alloy bindings and power poles. She looks at the clock. It’s 10:30 p.m. Is there any hope of ordering her dream skis and getting them in time for opening weekend at Tahoe?
Three kinds of shoppers. Three distinct sets of shopping needs. But chances are, they can all find what they’re looking for at MSN eShop, an end-to-end shopping solution that launches today at http://eshop.MSN.com.
A one-stop shopping site, MSN eShop offers consumers an easy way to locate the items they want and need, potentially saving them time, money and effort. Consumers can use MSN eShop to search for products and services at their convenience or to check out what’s available and compare. The MSN eShop service also helps shoppers complete their ideal purchase, whether they choose to buy from an online merchant on MSN eShop, to purchase from another individual or small business in MSN Auctions, or to use the information they’ve gleaned at MSN eShop to locate just the right
“brick and mortar”
Microsoft has brought together a comprehensive array of resources at MSN eShop to provide a satisfying online shopping experience. Visiting MSN eShop is intended to be easy, secure and fun, both for consumers who want to zero in on a specific item at a good price, and for virtual window-shoppers who prefer to browse or seek inspiration.
In addition to MSN eShop’s built-in shopping resources, the site is fully integrated into MSN, the network of Internet products and services at http://MSN.com. That means shoppers can use tools such as the auctions section of MSN eShop to locate popular, hard-to-find merchandise, e-mail their wish lists to friends and relatives using Hotmail, or do a quick reality check with a spouse through an instant message before making a purchase for the kids. Relevant shopping links integrated throughout MSN also empower consumers to get more done while anchored at one online destination.
“People use the Web in many different ways today, and they’re typically looking to buy multiple items,”
says Yusuf Mehdi, director of marketing for the Consumer and Commerce Group at Microsoft.
“At MSN, we’re using the entire network to make sure people can find what they want to buy, when they want to buy it.”
MSN is Linchpin of Microsoft’s Everyday Web Strategy
Microsoft’s objective with MSN eShop — and the other compelling services available through the MSN portal — is to bring about its vision of
“The Everyday Web.”
Microsoft envisions the Web becoming so easy to use that people will make it a constant in their day-to-day lives. Today, the typical person spends about 60 minutes on the Web every 13 days. Microsoft hopes that using the Web’s vast resources will soon become second nature. To help usher in this dynamic next-generation Internet, Microsoft is spearheading activities in three key areas.
First, Microsoft is building a rich set of software and services designed to assure a better online experience for users. The company focuses on making improvements in the most popular and frequently used services on the Web today: search; shopping and personal finance; and communications. MSN Search, Microsoft’s enhanced searching service, and MSN eShop indicate the direction that Microsoft is taking in this area.
Second, Microsoft is working in unison with other industry players to instill greater ease of use in various aspects of the Web. For example, Microsoft is extending MSN through a new breed of Megaservices that third parties can provide to their customers. Examples include Microsoft Passport, an e-commerce service designed to make online shopping more secure and convenient; and MSN Messenger Service, Microsoft’s instant messaging technology. Microsoft is also forging strategic alliances that simplify and enrich the online user experience. The CarPoint TM joint venture — which lets people order custom-built vehicles from a Web browser — illustrates how industry collaboration can lead to breakthrough solutions. Microsoft has taken a similar collaborative approach with MSN eShop.
As the third arm of its Everyday Web strategy, Microsoft is developing the means for people to connect to the Internet anytime, anywhere and with any device. Microsoft will act on this aspect of its vision by continuing to deliver innovative wireless solutions in the same vein as MSN Mobile. In an effort to steer the Web toward being more of an interactive forum, Microsoft plans to extend the reach of MSN to non-PC devices, such as cellular phones and personal digital assistants. Other efforts along this line include WebTV, MSN Web Companion and MSN Internet Access, the most reliable way to connect to the Internet.
Shopping Within the Everyday Web
Online shopping is on a steep trajectory today in terms of both traffic and dollar volume. Shopping is already the fourth most-popular Web activity, surpassed only by e-mail, search and news. In 1999 alone, the hustle and bustle of online shopping is expected to generate $20 billion-$30 billion in sales.
Although more and more consumers turn to the Web for holiday shopping, the experience is still not what they expect. Many report that finding the right e-commerce site is a cumbersome process. And, during the 1998 holiday season,
“hard to find the exact product”
was the No. 2 reason consumers didn’t shop online (Zona Research, 1999). Complaints like those, coupled with the relative newness of e-commerce, help explain why online purchasing today is confined mostly to books, videos, CDs, software and similar commodity products.
Microsoft is convinced that this will change as consumers grow more comfortable with using the Web to support their buying process. Shopping on the Web is also likely to expand as online services deliver better solutions, including better data and tools for comparison, more comprehensive product category selections, broader merchant listings (both online and offline), better
technologies and so forth.
MSN eShop is meant to take a substantive step in this direction. Microsoft designed the MSN eShop service to address consumers’ needs for a secure, convenient and comprehensive shopping solution, within a framework that’s a natural extension of the way they already shop.
“To deliver on the Everyday Web vision, we have to adapt the Web to consumers’ behavior, rather than expecting consumers to change the way they do things,”
“We do this by bringing technology and services together to radically improve the consumer experience.”
Mehdi adds that MSN eShop is a distinctly different kind of shopping service from what’s currently available on the Web. MSN eShop improves the consumer shopping experience by combining buying guides, yellow pages, objective reviews, editorial content, merchandising, an extensive network of merchant partners and leading-edge Microsoft technologies such as MSN Search and Passport. This broad spectrum of resources offers consumers a top-to-bottom shopping solution, integrated with all the relevant network services that MSN provides.