Welcome to the Real World: Amazon Books’ Impact on Brick-and-Mortar

Early last month, Amazon made a move that seemed both curious and calculating: they opened their first non-virtual walk in store, an unassuming storefront in an outdoor shopping center in Seattle. It’s curious because it seems to be a backwards move, following an e-commerce site that literally changed the retail world forever with a pedestrian retail store. And it’s calculating because, well, every move the U.S.’s most valuable retailer makes is deeply rooted in analysis and strategy.

But what does Amazon Books mean for the mere mortals – er, mortars – among us? We see a few impacts and potential lessons to be learned. First – and perhaps most importantly – this is a vote of confidence in the brick-and-mortar store format. As we’ve said in the past, stores aren’t going anywhere. While their role in the customer buying experience may be evolving (see: showrooming), what Amazon is acknowledging with their retail store is the importance of “touch, see and feel” to consumers, and the imperative for brands to provide a multi-dimensional, omnichannel experience.

That said, this is perhaps the boldest attempt yet by a retailer seeking to blur the lines between the customer’s online and offline experience. At Amazon Books, books all face cover-out rather than spine-out, mirroring the viewing experience customers have browsing online. Customer ratings and reviews, so critical to amazon.com, are displayed prominently – in fact, books are actually grouped and displayed by customer rating. It’s clear that Amazon Books wants the shopper to know without a doubt he is shopping at Amazon, and not your average bookseller.


Then there’s pricing strategy. With its store, Amazon is flipping the old “prices may vary in store” approach on its head. This could be the ripple that causes the wave of the future, and standard retailers may well need to figure out how to offer the same low prices in store as on their sites.

Finally – and here’s where it gets calculating – there’s the incorporation of technology. When shopping at Amazon Books, you can’t actually find the prices without the aid of your smartphone. To find the price, you must scan the book’s barcode with your smartphone’s camera, which then uses the Amazon app to bring you the item’s product page, complete with price and full reviews. Of course, by forcing you to utilize their app in the store, Amazon can tap into the power of your data – buying history, wish lists, Prime status, etc. – to feed you highly personalized offers and incentives to close the sale. Every retailer with a mobile app is currently banging their head against their desk, moaning “why didn’t I think of that?”

Whether any of Amazon’s latest venture pays off remains to be seen. But for now, we’ll give the retail giant a five-star review for ingenuity.

Read more about Amazon Books here and here.

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