With its massive customer base and following, Amazon has changed the way consumers shop. According to Business Insider, there are roughly 85 million Amazon Prime subscribers, meaning over 85 million people choose to shop in the e-commerce landscape versus a physical store.
Amazon succeeded in the online world, and now is moving to brick and mortar with grocery and its Amazon Bookstores, which are popping up across the country. This shift is very interesting and almost backwards compared to other companies, specifically in retail. Now that everything is digital, companies are moving from the brick-and-mortar presence to online, with some even failing in the physical world.
More and more companies are growing their e-commerce sites and creating apps to stay ahead of the game and keep up with customer demands. Amazon, on the other hand, is moving to brick and mortar. Amazon has paved the way in the e-commerce retail world, but is it moving backwards or once again changing the way people shop?
Not your mother’s bookstore
I’d never been to any physical Amazon locations, so I decided to try the Amazon Bookstore last weekend. Since launching in May 2017, there are now 11 locations around the United States, including San Diego, San Jose, New York, and Paramus, N.J.
Upon arrival, it looked like a typical bookstore, selling a variety of books, as well as some other items sold on Amazon, like candles. The books were categorized the same as in any bookstore: Fiction on one side, best sellers in the front of the store, children’s books in the back. Below every book there was a customer review and a barcode, not a price.
Customers interested in a book had to open their Amazon app, click the camera icon, then scan the barcode. After that, the app opens a page with the book, description, price, and customer reviews. In a perfect world, Amazon would have a way to digitally scan the book and purchase on the spot so the customer could walk out of the store with it. Since these stores launched just a few months ago, the technology isn’t quite there yet.
People who want to purchase a book will still have to stand in line, then scan a QR code with their Amazon app in order to purchase the book. Personally, I don’t believe this is revolutionary. Before these stores, people could walk into a physical bookstore, see the price without opening up an app, and if they wanted to see customer reviews, just search online via their smartphones.
Although this is not a radical idea, I do see a few benefits of the Amazon bookstore. Customers have the chance to browse books and read them before purchase, which is definitely easier in the physical store. Amazon is known for a great online shopping experience, but bringing their products to a physical location makes the brand a true omnichannel leader in the retail world.
The books are also the same price online and in store, which isn’t the case for some retailers. Additionally, the idea of a physical store supports impulse buying and instant gratification. Unlike purchasing something on Amazon.com and waiting a few days for the product to ship and arrive, these stores allow customers to get instant gratification by walking out with the book immediately.
Customers may also browse and purchase more than intended, simply because they can physically take home the product versus waiting for shipping. Finally, paying with a device (most commonly a cellphone) is keeping up with customer demands. With this omnichannel trend, apps are now allowing customers to program their credit cards into the profile and pay with a simple click, as seen with the Starbucks app or Apple Pay.
I’ll be interested to see if Amazon expands its brick-and-mortar presence to different categories, like household supplies or clothing. Opening up a physical bookstore brought in more competition, but if it works, I believe Amazon will be an unstoppable omnichannel leader force to reckon with, and traditional booksellers will need to make the customer experience stellar to keep pace.
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