Clicks and Mortar: Buying a book at Amazon's book store
On a recent visit to Seattle, listed as one of the tourist’s ‘must see’ attractions was a book store. But this was no ordinary bookstore; this was the Amazon book store, situated in the city where the Amazon HQ is located. Amazon Books in Seattle is one of 10 that operate in the US, marking the expansion of the online retailer into physical stores. On first viewing, the store looks very much like the typical book store that existed before the dominance of Amazon Books took hold, but, under closer inspection the book store is, in fact, very different.
Introducing digital in-store
Shelves are stocked with books that are arranged into rows, and these rows are organised into typical sections we are used to seeing. Move in closer and suddenly all the useful online experiences we observe on Amazon are magically brought into the store. In the travel section, you can find new travel books and those rated 4.0 stars and above. Again, the useful function of ‘if you like this, then you’ll love…’ that we are offered on Amazon’s digital store has been brought onto the physical shelf; a brilliant use of transferring the known digital experience to power the store. Much of the work has been done for you thanks to the data obtained from the online store.
Move in closer and, where normally the shelf ticket may display the price of a book, the most helpful online review has been presented, as well as the overall rating and the number of reviews. Also, as many an evening is spent reading the Kindle and highlighting those passages you may want to keep, these are again lifted into the store, adding an inspirational and collective feel to the bookshelf ends.
It’s the Alexa Show
Taking a leaf out of the Apple Store, a genius bar has been added, showcasing the latest Alexa offering – the Alexa Show. The new show (which is not in the UK quite yet) offers the power of Alexa with a small screen to back-up the voice actions. This illustrates Amazon’s strategy of launching the voice-only device first, developing the voice user experience, before layering on the screen a few years later once the design pattern has been learnt.
For customers used to seeing the list price and the Amazon price, they have two opportunities:
- Scan the cover of the book using the Amazon app, prompting the pricing and a QR code to appear.
- Scan the bar code of any book at one of the conveniently located price checker devices scattered around the store.
Again, another great marketing idea - showing the regular Amazon price against the vastly discounted Prime price – and another nod to enforce the value of Amazon Prime.
At the not-so-standard checkout, data from the site is, again, reintroduced. Books with more than 5000 five-star reviews are today’s star attraction, along with the most highlighted quote from the Game of Thrones book; apparently these change on a daily basis.
Always promoting additional items, many of Amazon’s own label ‘basics’ are scattered throughout the store, alongside the ever-present promotions to get us all to become increasingly valuable Prime members.
Is Amazon book-ending the future of pure-plays?
We’ve seen the initial push to take online the lessons learnt in-store, but this significant reverse pattern of online to in-store clearly demonstrates it’s by no means a one-way street.
It is, however, a very clever demonstration of the power of data, and ways in which we can bring some magic back into physical retail. It's also a smart way to reward your most valuable customers, in this case, Amazon Prime members.
So, through this example and its other moves into brick-and-mortar, is Amazon signalling an end to its pure-play ambitions? Not exactly. What it does highlight is conceivably Amazon’s first step towards omnichannel. Alibaba, China’s largest ecommerce company, is following suit too, moving towards bricks-and-mortar retail following a $2.6bn bid for the department store chain Intime Retail Group.
What both retail giants are doing is pursuing a path of “interface imperialism” - that’s trying to own every interface where there is a customer touch-point – website, mobile, app, voice and physical. If you own the customer, you own the data. If you own the data, you own the future.
The physical store is just another interface; another touchpoint where a customer has a decision to purchase, and, as such, it makes total sense for Amazon to be in this space.