Home » Amazon, Bookstores » How Amazon.com, Inc. Could Reinvent the Brick-and-mortar Store Experience

How Amazon.com, Inc. Could Reinvent the Brick-and-mortar Store Experience

13 February 2016

From ValueWalk:

Last week, when Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of Chicago-based General Growth Properties (GGP), said that online retail giant Amazon plans to open 300 to 400 physical bookstores, he let loose a flurry of speculation. Is the company that built its fortunes on the Internet while threatening the brick-and-mortar store model recasting its business strategy? Or does Amazon have something more exciting and experimental up its sleeve?

. . . .

Nonetheless, the ensuing debate on Amazon’s future has centered on how the e-commerce giant could use technology and data analytics to create a new experiment with brick-and-mortar stores. Wharton management professor Daniel Raff said it was “clear from industry gossip that [Amazon is] contemplating a rollout of stores” and that there were “hints at clever new technology in these stores.” However, “the bigger question is: Why they are thinking of [doing] it?”

According to Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, Amazon may be “trying to redesign a new kind of store and move into brick-and-mortar, utilizing its own technological and data brilliance.” She noted that Amazon has an “extraordinary supply chain” and that it has “built [its] name on how to get stuff to us very inexpensively and very quickly.”

. . . .

Raff pointed to Amazon’s lone physical book store in Seattle to glean some insights into the company’s thinking. He noted that the store occupies a tenth of the floor area of a former Barnes & Noble store at that location, and has a “highly curated” selection of books that seem to cater to “local interests” such as those of campus walk-ins from the nearby University of Washington and suburban residents. “All books are displayed face-out unlike in other bookstores, and most significantly, they are sold at online prices,” he said. “Everything appears to be at a discount relative to what it would be at an ordinary bookstore.” The store also sells Amazon’s Kindle e-reader and its Fire Phone, he noted.

Raff drew two insights from that model. “One, it doesn’t seem to be [about] just books, but also participation in the Amazon ecosystem,” he said. “The other is, they are in a position to stock and promote these stores quite inexpensively. That is a competitive edge relative to new brick-and-mortar stores.”

. . . .

Nicholson noted that Amazon is not trying to replicate a Barnes & Noble but attempting to do something different. Expanding on Raff’s observation about the highly curated collection at Amazon’s Seattle store, she said that space represents “a test” to see if Amazon can create “a new kind of experience” using data analytics about customers’ preferences.

However, “were [Amazon] able to give a coup de grace to Barnes & Noble,which has been appearing troubled in recent months,” that would certainly benefit Amazon because there would be less pressure on pricing, Raff noted. Also, by adding brick-and-mortar “depots,” Amazon could realize savings in its profit-draining cost structure of shipping to individual customers, he added. If Amazon could send large shipments to locations where customers could pick up their orders, the firm would be “ahead of the game in terms of shipping costs,” he said. The company could also convert customer visits into sales of other merchandise.

Link to the rest at ValueWalk

Amazon, Bookstores

5 Comments to “How Amazon.com, Inc. Could Reinvent the Brick-and-mortar Store Experience”

  1. Hugh Howey had some ideas along these lines also:

  2. Meh, how are they going to stock ‘large shipments’ in a retail store?

    I’m sure Amazon would save money if people came in to pick stuff up instead of getting it delivered to home or work…but you’d need a retail store connected to a very large warehouse in back to service even a fraction of orders in most cities. Maybe if they limited it only to books, but how many piles of TV’s, books, dog bowls, etc. can a small retail store hold in back?

    It is doable, but likely not in easily accessible locations like their current store.

  3. To ADSers all over, Amazon opening a bookstore raises such a haze of rage they don’t even bother to consider what kind of store it is or what it stocks or why.

    They assume it is just another bookstore, only with online pricing. At most they might dwell on the small number of books.

    The idea that they might be playing a whole different game never crosses their minds. They think Amazon is playing checkers when they are actually playing chess. Or Go.

    Might come back to haunt them.

    Looking at the reports of what Amazon is doing it sounds like their game is similar to what WalMart and Target do with books: use bestsellers as bait to lure in traffic so they can then sell them other products that might catch the eye.

    Only in this case, “other products” means “quality books they never knew existed”. To the intent that they stock APub and Indie titles they are counterprogramming the traditional book stores by carrying content they refuse to carry. Not unlike Netflix, at that.

    Amazon books isn’t “just another bookstore but cheaper”, rather it is an “alternative book store” looking to build its reputation by carrying a different stock loadout than the stock it and they will come, maybe, traditionalists.

    The effect will probably start to sink in the next time a BPH pulls a WATCHMAN stunt: all other stores pimping the one “long awaited” title and Amazon Books carrying it but not plastering it all over, sucking all the promotional air from other books.

    At that point it will be clear their business model is to be a bookstore for readers and authors, not a bookstore for publishers.

  4. Deities but some of those guys are funny …

    Amazon is yet again doing what it’s been doing since day one.


    They’ll have to wait a few months for the ‘new thingy’ bit to wear off so they can start collecting real data on how well this will/won’t work for them.

    How many wiz-bang things has Amazon ‘played with’ over the years? (hint, even large families may not have enough fingers and toes for this!) Some they grew out, others were left to die on the vine.

    Though I will laugh if Amazon closes it and the ADS crowd happily claim Amazon couldn’t even run a store, for the joke will be on them.

    Amazon can run a store with the best of them — but they won’t bother to if that store isn’t useful enough to their customers — which will say ‘very bad things’ about/for all the other B&M stores …

    • “Amazon can run a store with the best of them — but they won’t bother to if that store isn’t useful enough to their customers — which will say ‘very bad things’ about/for all the other B&M stores …”

      This is a very good insight. And a scary one. I like to think indies will do well in the current climate. The big boxes just weren’t set up to compete with the internet. What works: Small footprints; carry the must-haves and the classics; stock the seasonal and regional gifts; and curate to the community’s tastes. Add decent coffee and free WiFi, and get some authors in to do readings. And don’t expect to get rich, but expect to enjoy your work and be a valuable member of your small business community. It’s like retirement, while working 80 hours a week. It can work.

      B&N can’t. And won’t.

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