First Click: Hunters gather to shop the Amazon

August 10th, 2015


Conventional wisdom suggests that men — which I am — don’t like to shop. An idea supported by anthropologists Kruger and Byker who, back in 2009, when “shopping” meant driving to a shopping center, published their research under the heady title “Evolved foraging psychology underlies sex differences in shopping experiences and behaviors.”

Here’s an excerpt:

"For the most part, contemporary stereotypes of women in modern industrial countries perceive women as enjoying shopping more than men. Our research provides evidence that this popular stereotype exists because most shopping activities have a greater similarity to women’s traditional activities of foraging and gathering than they do to men’s traditional activity of hunting. The results of our study show that shopping has significantly more in common with gathering than it does with hunting."

Bullshit, shopping is all about the hunt — at least when it comes to online shopping.

A lot has changed since the Kruger and Byker study. According to Comscore, digital commerce now accounts for $1 in every $7 of consumer discretionary spending in the US — double that of 2009. And depending upon which studies you believe, men are now spending more, or nearly as much of their time and money shopping online than women. Either way, it's roughly equal.

Back in the day, shopping for items like consumer electronics meant trudging to malls and walking store-to-store to compare features and prices. The work was tedious, scattershot, and based upon magazine reviews that were out-of-date by the time they were printed. I hated it.

Today I can buy items from the hunter’s blind of a laptop. Armed with real-time information and absolute focus, I creep up from behind with shopping apps to slay brands where they lie.

I love it (and sometimes I hate myself for it).

First, I stalk the product in promotional videos. Then, ever so carefully, I learn its weaknesses by reading everything I can:  professional reviews on sites like The Verge or Wirecutter, amateur reviews on Amazon, support forums, and comments in respective app stores. Finally, after traveling great distances across many megabytes, I track down the best price before pouncing with a click of the "buy" button.

And then comes the best part: the anticipation, watching updates as the quarry is delivered to its consumeristic fate.

As my friend, colleague, and fellow hunter Chris Ziegler once said:

Five stories to start your day

  1. There’s no such thing as post-PC

    As iOS 9 turns the iPad more into more of a PC, and Microsoft turns phones into PCs, the questions over which devices will be important in the future won't be around their traditional forms, but their function. PCs will continue to evolve, as will the versatility of devices that are shaping the mobility of computing. Perhaps it's time to kill off the idea of "post-PC" in favor of just personal computing. After all, smartphones, tablets, and laptops are all just PCs anyway.

  2. Bill Murray will appear in Ghostbusters reboot

    For years now, Bill Murray has made it clear that he doesn't want to do another Ghostbusters sequel. Nevertheless, it looks like Dr. Peter Venkman will at least make an appearance in the new all-female Ghostbusters reboot.

  3. I went to Speakers' Corner in London, the spiritual home of Reddit

    When I ask him why he comes to speak, he cites ignorance and says people are in "cultural denial." He also enjoys listening as much as speaking. "I heckle," he says. "I’m pretty good. But that’s because I’ve known this place for a long time and you know how to try and wind up the other speakers." In other words, he's a troll. There’s a definite sense that a speaker’s right to participate is earned through this sort of mutual hazing.

  4. Google will take another shot at low-cost Android One initiative

    Google is about to take another crack at its ultra-low-cost smartphone initiative, called Android One. The company's managing director in Southeast Asia, Rajan Anandan, says that a new plan for Android One will be unveiled in "the next few weeks." Few details are available, but Anandan adds in an interview with The Financial Times that part of the plans will be a push to hit the "sweet spot" of $50 smartphones.

  5. The most beautiful plane never flown is just weeks from its maiden flight

    The year was 1939. Ettore Bugatti — one of the most interesting and innovative individuals involved with the auto industry's formative years — was furiously working on his company's only aircraft. But this wasn't just any aircraft: like his cars, Bugatti's 100P was a technological marvel, featuring two engines driving concentric propellers in opposite directions. Air intakes gracefully integrated into the plane's V-tail would keep those engines cool, while unusual forward-swept wings would give the 100P a striking profile in flight. Ettore was hoping that by racing this beautiful machine — and winning — he'd burnish his brand.

Shopper of the day