Mike Golden

What ShopRunner needs to learn from Amazon

October 6, 2010: 3:35 PM ET

The new e-commerce alliance is miles away from matching Amazon's consumer-shopping experience.

Yesterday, GSI Commerce, along with several dozen participating online stores -- including Toys "R" Us, Barnes & Noble (BKS), and Radio Shack (RSH) -- launched ShopRunner, a cooperative counteroffensive against Amazon (AMZN), with the intention of directly competing with Amazon's $79 loyalty program, which was launched back in 2005. Similar to Prime, ShopRunner includes a $79 annual fee, free two-day shipping, and an aggregate search engine dubbed Marketplace, but it also tosses in free returns and $10 rewards for friend referrals.

It's a great concept: "some of the biggest stores" offering up a unified experience intended to streamline the shopping experience -- and in the meantime hitting Amazon where it hurts. But in practice, ShopRunner, still in beta, has a long way to go before it matches Amazon's general ease of use.

To see for myself, I signed up for ShopRunner's convenient 30-day trial. (At the end of the trial you pay the annual $79 fee, just like Amazon Prime.) After digging around for several hours for everything from DVDs to, say, flowers, here are my observations: More

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