A2. Organizing Principles

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Assignment 2: Organizing Principles (Andronico’s
vs. Amazon)

The constructs of Andronico’s and Amazon offer
a perspective on organizing systems. As we know an organizing system is defined
as “an intentionally arranged collection of resources and the interactions they
support”. Simplistic organizing systems choose an objective model, which uses taxonomies to build structures. Hybrid organizing models are those that
follow a more task-oriented or topical approach. With this background
in mind, we can analyze the organizing principles that govern these two

Andronico’s Organizing System

The key principle being used here is to stock
items in a way that drives purchase and footfalls. For e.g. the self-serve
meats are placed directly in front of the aisle ending with firewood and
charcoal. A customer who picks up meats is likely to also require firewood /
charcoal for their barbecue. Similarly baking needs, flour & sugar, and
houseware (where one could presumably get the baking dishes, measuring cups,
ladles etc) are placed together. This is a context based system, just like the
placement of international foods with condiments, vinegar and olive oil. Another
example of this can be seen in Aisle 2, which contains all snack foods ranging
from chips to cookies to crackers to jerky etc.

Some items are placed next to each other based
on their stocking requirements. For e.g. yoghurt, icecream and dairy are placed
in the same aisle. This is largely because it makes it simpler from a store
design perspective to keep a single area colder than the rest of the store. A
similar logic applies to the categorization of meat and seafood next to each
other. In one corner, we see bulk foods kept next to produce. This is because
customers who are doing their weekly groceries will tend to stock up for both
simultaneously. This is one example of organizing in a way that drives
footfalls. Gift items, and cards are stocked next to flowers. These are all
last minute impulse purchases and so they are placed near the store entrance.

There is also contextual grouping of items
that are similar in their use. For e.g. bath & body products are placed
next to toiletries. Vitamins are next to Cold & Flu, because in a way they
help prevent future colds, and therefore can be considered as part of the same

Amazon’s Organizing System

Andronico’s, by virtue of being a physical
store has a fundamental constraint in terms of its organizing system. A
resource (or a ‘thing’) can only be kept in one specific place. Unlike physical
objects, digital instances offer us the flexibility of cross-referencing the
same resource under multiple categories. This approach, called the ‘faceted’ model is seen across Amazon’s
organizing system. The advantage this offers it that it speeds up the
information retrieval process since the user is no longer expected to know
where in the design space he needs to look to find a resource.

Thus we see that Kindle Books are available in
the Kindle category as well as the Books category. Similarly MP3’s can be found
under MP3 Downloads, but also under Music, Books and Games.

Amazon’s categories follow a hybrid scheme of organization, with a
mix of topical and task oriented categorization approaches. For e.g. ‘Kindle’
is an audience-oriented category, meant for those who own Kindles. Similarly,
the ‘Toys, Kids and Baby’ category is targeted toward a parental audience, just
as the ‘Digital Games and Software’ is targeted toward techies.

Then we have ‘Amazon Cloud Drive’ and
‘Unlimited Instant Videos’ both of which push Amazon’s services and in a way
are more functional categories. Within
the ‘Books’ category we see a topical categorization of ‘Kids Books’,
‘Audiobooks’ etc.

Amazon’s system of classification also creates
categories based on media types,
which is also a kind of physical characteristic based organization. So we see
independent classifications for ‘Books’, ‘Music’ and ‘Games’ all of which are
different media.

Comparisons and Contrasts between the Systems

As already elaborated earlier, the digital
scope allows Amazon to have a faceted approach that Andronico’s cannot afford.
Amazon also offers a ‘Search’ function right at the top to enable quicker
information retrieval for users who do not want to spend time searching within
categories. This is unique to their system.

Additionally, it offers a Recommendation tool
at the bottom of the page. This uses the past behavior of the user on the site
to suggest products they may be looking for. The closest that Andronico’s can
have to a recommendation of a product, is to follow the retail principle of
placing smaller items like magazines / gum / candy near the checkout so that
customers are pushed toward impulse buying these, thereby increasing their
overall cart value. It can also use store layout to create recommendations,
like placing pasta sauce next to pasta (seen in the digital world representation
in the form of ‘customers who bought this also bought’ recommendation).

Amazon also follows Andronico’s approach of
driving up sales. If one looks at the categories listed on the Amazon page, one
notices that it is a sales driven layout. Amazon first focuses on its unique
offerings like Cloud Services, Kindle etc. Then it moves onto partners like the
Android Apps, Digital games and finally to physical objects like Books,
Household items and the rest. This is similar to a store model of placing own
brands / high level partner brands at eye level and other brands on lower

Abstraction of concepts to derive commonalities

From an overall modeling perspective, the two systems do have overlaps. They both
follow ambiguous, hybrid models of organizing the resources with the objective
of driving footfalls (in the case of Andronico’s) and page-views (in the case
of Amazon). Hence, Andronico’s store layout encourages a customer to move
through the store either by keeping associated items next to each other, or by
breaking an association in a way that causes a customer to have to browse
through the store to get to what they want. E.g. keeping apart bread and milk,
since many customers come in just to buy those two items and by breaking the
logical flow, they get customer to walk through the store, whereby they are
likely to pick up additional items along the way. Amazon uses tools like
recommendations based on past purchases, customer reviews, similar products to
drive page views on the site and get customers to think of buying more. In both
cases, it is a layout / architecture that allows for resource discovery. By allowing this, they ensure that users who do
not know what they are looking for, or who might otherwise not be able to
easily understand the principles behind the organizing systems are also able to
retrieve resources as efficiently as those to whom the system is clear.

Finally, it is clear that in both cases the
foundation of the system is the information architecture (store map / store
layout for Andronico’s) upon which the user experience is defined. The
definition of categories and object placement is as much about ensuring users
can find what they want, as it is about ensuring that in the process of this
finding they also find what they did not know they wanted.