Amazon’s 1-Click “business method” patent expires today. What that means is that anyone will soon be able to duplicate its functionality on any e-commerce site and across the internet.
Issued originally in 1997, the patent was the subject of controversy and litigation at the time. Here’s Amazon’s basic description of how 1-Click works:
When you place your first order and enter a payment method and shipping address, 1-Click ordering is automatically enabled. When you click Buy now with 1-Click on any product page, your order will be automatically charged to the payment method and shipped to the address associated with your 1-Click settings.
While it was certainly novel in 1997, many legal experts now believe that the patent shouldn’t ever have been issued. But if you read the patent, it seems more credible than the current consensus suggests. It sounds like a legitimate innovation (that’s what patent attorneys get paid for).
Today, Google, Facebook, Apple (which licensed 1-Click) or anyone else will be able to implement the same type of simplified purchasing. GeekWire joked that people will soon be placing accidental orders across the internet. However, removing payment-related friction from e-commerce transactions is no joke. One of the keys to Amazon loyalty, before Prime, was the simplicity of checking out.
By some estimates, shopping cart abandonment was worth more than $4 trillion in lost sales last year. That’s trillion, with a “t.”
W3C “payment-handler” API
Shopping cart abandonment is a major problem on both the desktop and mobile devices — especially mobile devices. One study argues mobile shopping cart abandonment is nearly 80 percent. While not everyone who puts a product in a shopping cart intends to buy at that moment, it’s undeniable that the problem is extremely large.
Most abandonment is based on the addition of costs (taxes, fees, shipping), but user experience is next in order. Making cumbersome checkout processes faster and less painful could mean that that billions of dollars of additional online transactions would be completed.
At a time when traditional retailers are more focused than ever on growing e-commerce, reducing abandonment represents massive potential revenue gains. 1-Click ordering could be instrumental in that process.
One way it could be widely implemented is in the browser. There’s already a browser-based payments standard in existence, developed by W3C. In all likelihood everyone won’t rush to implement this tomorrow. But some sort of standard everyone can embrace is the key to making streamlined purchasing available at scale, across the internet.