Real-world artifacts of an online business

Argos is a uniquely British form of online business – a catalogue merchant with stores. When I was a kid, getting ready for a new year in secondary school meant getting a more advanced Casio scientific calculator (notably the Casio fx-451M); which whilst powerful had a user experience that not even an engineer could love. It still stocks a wealth of stuff needed around the house at generally reasonable prices.
A sea of Argos catalogues
Unlike a normal store, you didn’t wander around an look at the merchandise; instead you filled in a form, queued, presented the form at a till, paid for your goods and then waited to pick the item up on a queuing system similar to going to a doctors surgery or the welfare office.

There were usually a few editions of catalogue lurking around at home and my Dad would ensure that the we had the latest edition when it came out twice a year.

When I became a home owner, I again found Argos invaluable for stuff like washing basins and bins.

The company took to the web and has become a successful online business, partly because you can get near instant gratification by picking your purchase up rather than having to wait for the postal service. For drop-ins, they still have laminated catalogue pages with stock checking devices and a set of forms looking like a mix between a medieval monastery library and a betting shop.

But it never ceases to amaze me how many print catalogues that the company still produces twice a year for customers to take home. These don’t seem to be ‘connected to purchasing’ say with QRcodes to speed up mobile or online shopping (like Tesco Korea’s virtual shopping experience in Korean train stations).

Instead the printed Argos catalogues are more like a physical reminder that Argos has lots of stuff that you will probably need.



One Reply to “Real-world artifacts of an online business”

  1. It’s interesting how different formats suit different types of shopping. The online Argos is great if you know exactly what you want and would like it today – prices are usually quite competitive and you can reserve to ensure it’s in stock before you set off. Or you can do as I did the other day to buy a Woody and Bullseye toy for Esme, when Toys R Us didn’t have any in stock, I reserved it at Argos on my phone.

    But the printed catalogue is still essential as if you’re simply ‘browsing’ for ideas it’s far faster and more efficient than the web. You see lots of products side by side on one page. At first I thought QR codes would be a great enhancement, but I’m now not so sure as inevitably the design would mean less products per page, thus losing what makes the catalogue great for me. You can already type in the short code on the website.

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