Online retailers are forever trying to think up ways to tempt us into heading over to their stores and parting with increasing amounts of cash and in this ever more nasty credit crunch/global financial oblivion/Christmas run-up their motivation has never been stronger. So could this be the best attempt yet...?
Leaping into the future by returning to the past (it'll become clear, trust me) Amazon has today unveiled 'WindowShop' a remarkably impressive Flash based 3D err, window shopping-esque experience, which allows users to scroll around new music, bestselling video games, movies, TV shows, new books and audiobooks, the highest ranked material ever on Amazon and staff recommended content in categories such as 'Music Artists We Think You Should Hear'.
On the surface of course it all sounds rather gimmicky and to an extent it is. On the other hand the execution is flawless with near instant loading times, fast streaming of audio and video as you browse and silky smooth scrolling that would put iTunes Cover Flow to shame. Perhaps even more importantly, I found the process engrossing and certainly spent more time browsing than I should expected compared to clicking on each link, loading each page and streaming content as I would on a traditional online store.
In true Last FM/Pandora style, WindowShop will even happily scroll about in the background playing clips from the latest content if you let it and that alone has just seen me become rather excited about the Shins' latest album 'Wincing the Night Away' (2007) - which I didn't even realise was out... the shame!
Naturally the UI has its limitations and WindowShop won't help you find specific content - there isn't even a search engine - but for those looking to explore the latest and most recommended content it offers a surprisingly immersive experience.
Could this be the start of a revolution in the online shopping experience? Maybe, maybe not - but for a first beta Amazon WindowShop is a remarkable step in the right direction...