Amazon recently opened its first retail brick and mortar store in Seattle's University Village. Our retail team took a short road trip to check it out.
I realized right away how ironic it was to be walking into in a physical store belonging to the largest online store in North America. Why would a company that started selling books online, wiping out retail bookstores, decide to open its own retail bookstore? I’m sure Amazon has many answers, but it comes down to touch points with their brand.
Amazon, like many of our financial services clients, wants to be part of your everyday life and have different brand touch points. A retail space delivers a unique brand experience that online purchasing cannot deliver. Designing the user interface (UI) of the future involves designing a branch of the future. The UI of the future should bridge both technology and physical spaces.
Glancing around the store, customers can quickly see the "book eye candy" because all the books are cover facing. Whoever said to never judge a book by its cover has not done book sales research. A nicely designed cover will sell more books. Amazon also only stocks books in their store that are best sellers, highly reviewed or hot and new.
None of the books in the store have prices on them. Finding out the price involves bridging amazon.com directly into the store. You can either use your amazon.com mobile app, or check the price from a store kiosk which displays the price on the amazon.com website.
The ability to physically see, touch, pick up and open the books helps you understand why not everyone reads from a Kindle or has fully embraced e-books. If we all felt we needed only e-books, no one would make physical books. Physical books still outsell digital books and, in fact, physical book sales are trending upward. Amazon has probably recognized that in order to sell more books they need to have to have more access touch points, and that's exactly what they're doing with their retail store.
I'm sure Amazon's retail strategy will be just as aggressive as their online strategy. The trick for them will be finding the perfect blend of technology and retail space. They will either turn their retail brand experience into a gem like their existing website, Fire TV and Amazon Echo, or it will flop like the defunct Amazon Fire Phone. My bet is on another gem for Amazon.