I am not sure who coined the term Always Be Copying (ABC). I was told GE but short of looking it up and trusting something like Wikipedia, I’ll just accept that someone back in the day came up with it. This phrase rings close to my heart, since when I was running an ecommerce site we were forever watching the larger competitors and what they were doing with their websites.
When REI released zoom images, we had our own zoom the next day. When Backcountry.com moved the add-to-cart button to the left side of the screen, umm, we did not copy them. You see, we were watching the larger players and copying where it seemed to make the most sense. We weren’t consumed with watching our competitors and worrying, instead we were using them because they were bigger, had larger teams, and presumably tested their changes (Still wondering about that left side ATC). I have never been shy about copying others. To me, it is a form of flattery whenever someone copies what we are doing.
I think the smaller ecommerce sites are probably in a better position to watch the larger ones and pick and choose what they wish to copy. I have always said that I never wanted to be a trailblazer, let someone else come up with something completely original. But if that idea is good, you better be copying it, and fast. The problem with trailblazing is that the ecommerce space is trained by the larger sites, so if you attempt to, um, move an add-to-cart button to the left side of the screen, you are tripping up the users and the typical UX path they are accustomed to. However, if you are Amazon and you wish to make a change that defies normal, you have the power to do so and to then create the new normal.
The very best websites provide ease of use, but more importantly, they deliver a product or service that your customer wants and expects. Don’t trip them up with something they aren’t expecting, but certainly don’t fall behind and ABC the great ideas!