Yes… and it will exist till… catalogs exist. Exactly the “quick shop” functionality makes only sense when you know your item #. And how can you know the item #? Well, if you’re buying this teddy bear 18-th time you probably noticed the product number, say in xx-xxxxxxx format, which is very easy to remember


But the way it really works is via catalogs. People order catalogs and many companies still provide them. Catalogs is conceptually pretty controversial thing these days, especially in context of “quick shopping”. Natural question: why on earth would you use catalog for product discovery purposes when you have it all online these days. Eventually, why would you specifically separate things fr om each other in such a peculiar way: discovering the product in paper catalog and then buying it online where the catalog is equally replicated, moreover it has features that paper catalog doesn’t have: search, hierarchy and many other navigation benefits, personalized offers, user ratings and comments etc etc. Well, it’s the matter of a habit eventually. You used to receive those catalogs every month via snail mail, browse paper sheets, eventually people still buying paper books despite it’s so easy to have it in electronic form… It’s just different user experience, that keeps it existing. There’s certain things you can do with your catalog that you can’t actually do online, for instance bringing it to the beach with you. In fact very often when particular ecommerce business provides you with a catalog they also let you fulfilling your order via phone. So eventually your entire while user experience can go without getting online.

But let’s get back to our quick shopping functionality. It usually looks as simply a set of input controls wh ere you can enter your item number and immediately be referred to this item or add it to your shopping cart.

From the implementation standpoint this quick shop functionality isn’t any sort of complication, because it’s just different user interface for the same business logic – adding item to shopping cart by its unique number.

There’s lots of ebusinesses that don’t do catalogs. There are businesses that did catalogs for decades but those catalogs eventually got phased out in favor of their online substitutes. On the other hand there’re still businesses that do paper catalogs, even have their web site but don’t sustain online catalog. There also appeared to be services that help consumers out managing those catalogs (CatalogLink, CatalogChoice, ProQuo). The important thing to understand though, especially considering catalogs as business opportunity in its own, is that people don’t look for or desire or are willing to buy catalogs. Average consumer is looking for items, not catalogs.

And eventually, catalogs is paper. Wasted paper pretty often. Serious reason for many, many more than those that started thinking about how green the IT industry is per se…
Alex Yakima
Paul is a software architect for Luminis Technologies and the author of “Building Modular Cloud Apps With OSGi”. He believes that modularity and the cloud are the two main challenges we have to deal with to bring technology to the next level, and is working on making this possible for mainstream software development. Today he is working on educational software focussed on personalised learning for high school students in the Netherlands. Paul is an active contributor on open source projects such as Amdatu, Apache ACE and Bndtools.