I don’t like most shopping experiences. That includes physical stores and virtual ones.

That’s why I love Amazon and its Prime unlimited-shipping program. I can buy a wide variety of items at a reasonably good price, from one retailer, with speedy checkout and delivery. It saves me time and money, and reduces hassle. That explains why I often make several purchases a week from the service.

While I’m using Amazon a lot for holiday shopping this season, I just purchased a few items from Etsy, the marketplace of handmade goods. Sure, the items I purchased were all one-of-a-kind, from passionate artisans with small shops. The discovery, review and checkout process was simple. But it was a radically different experience, and not just because of the handmade part.

What made the shopping experience stand out was a personal email from each seller. These were far from canned and corporate. They included little quirks with lots of personality. When I responded back with questions or comments, I got happy replies immediately. I’m not sure if this is standard with every Etsy purchase, but it was with every one of mine. Here is an example:

Thank you so much for your purchase! We do so appreciate your business the item you purchased is on way. We do so love feedback so if you have the time let us know how you feel… peace and love karenD

These notes made the most robotic, transactional and anonymous aspect of online shopping — the checkout — rich, human and authentic. They also underscored how much those attributes are missing from big corporate retail experiences. Custom notes may not scale as efficiently as messaging automation, but just one can have transformational impact. And I got multiple ones.

Amazon has captured me with a barbed hook of efficiency. However, I’ll always have a place in my heart (and corresponding dollars) for Etsy and other online retailers that deliver good products with authentic, personable experiences.

It really is possible to be human online, even during a transaction.

This article also appeared in MediaPost. Photo: Rachel.

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.