Amazon.com's Paul Ryder talks about selling cell phones online

Paul Ryder Amazon

with Amazon.com's Paul Ryder

Amazon.com is the world's largest online retailer, racking up a whopping 56.6 million visitors in March, according to Nielsen Online. The business recently launched major new effort to sell mobile phones and service via a new, dedicated website: AmazonWireless.com. The site, currently in testing, offers more than 100 phones from AT&T Mobility and Verizon Wireless, and the company promises to expand in the future.

FierceWireless managing editor Mike Dano recently talked with Paul Ryder, vice president of Amazon.com's consumer electronics and wireless businesses, to discuss the new effort and its position in the wireless retailing scene.

FierceWireless: How was Amazon.com selling phones before the launch of AmazonWireless, and how has that changed with the introduction of the new site?

Ryder: For many years we've been selling cell phones with plans on Amazon.com, but it was somewhat limited--especially in the transactions of trying to manipulate a plan that you already had, which these days is just about everyone. And so we kind of took a step back before deciding how we were going to address helping customers that already had a cell phone and already have a plan, and were either trying to add a line, or upgrade to a new phone but keep their plan, or do something else. We really wanted to just look at the total transaction, in how complex it's gotten over time, and start with a clean sheet of paper. That's what we did in creating AmazonWireless.com.

We did some usability studies with consumers. We brought them in and we had them walk through the stages of discovery and buying a cell phone and trying to upgrade a cell phone, and we used those learnings to create the new experience.

FierceWireless: So this is a site that is intended for managing your current phones and contracts, not just buying new ones?

Ryder: You'll be able to do it all. If you wanted to change carriers and start from scratch with a new contract, you'll be able to do that, as well as if you're already happy with your carrier and you just want a new phone, you'll be able to do that. And if you're on a family plan and you want to add another member of your family to your plan--a new teenager with their first phone--you'll be able to do that. All in a very clean and simplified way.

FierceWireless: How does AmazonWireless stand out from competitors like Best Buy Mobile and Wirefly?

Ryder: I think first and foremost, it's the customer experience in terms of a very simplified and clean purchasing process. We really think that there's some features built in to this website that are unique--that shopping cart that follows you along the way, it keeps you apprised as you're picking your phone and your plan and your options: how much is it going to cost you today? How much is it going to cost you with the carrier in an ongoing basis? Bringing in some of the things that we're most well-known for: customer reviews, recommendations based on things you're looking at. That brings the Amazon flavor into this new site directly. And ultimately, as we get the other carriers on, it'll be very easy to look across the different carrier offerings, both from the phones they're offering and the plans that they're offering, and try to sift through what is the best phone and plan for you, across carriers...Continued.

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