Home » Amazon, Bookstores » Amazon Books: 4 months later, the retail giant’s bricks-and-mortar experiment feels like a winner

Amazon Books: 4 months later, the retail giant’s bricks-and-mortar experiment feels like a winner

14 March 2016

From GeekWire:

Amazon has almost perfected a shopping experience for browsers — and I mean human, not web.

Four months after the first Amazon Books physical store opened in Seattle’s University Village, Amazon appears to be satisfied enough with the results to move forward with a second location in San Diego. But is the original just a novelty, attracting only nerdy tourists? Or does it work as a retail store for people who truly want to browse and buy?

From what I saw — and purchased — on my recent visit, Amazon has nailed what it takes to have a successful retail store in an e-commerce world. Any kind of retail store.

I’ve long been skeptical about the artificial separation between online and physical retailing.

. . . .

Since then, “showrooming” has become a dirty word in retail, reflecting customers who check out products in a store and then buy them cheaper, online. But Amazon has embraced this reality of consumer behavior and flipped it into a positive, matching price and adding the satisfying bonus of instant gratification.

Why does Amazon Books work, beyond the novelty of seeing the Amazon name IRL?

. . . .

Encourages browsing and serendipity. From the airy and wood-filled interior, to the long counters with seats by the windows and a good-sized children’s section with play table, Amazon Books feels like a traditional bookstore that wants customers to linger. The books, displayed face-out on both shelves and displays of varying height, make it easy to make a serendipitous discovery — something even Amazon’s online recommendation engine (which keeps offering me items related to gifts I bought for others) struggles to get right.

. . . .

Removes “better deal” fears. I was at first taken aback when I saw all books (including the one I had in hand) apparently at full, publishers’ list price. Until I saw the signs and scanners which assured me that whatever the price was on Amazon.com now would be the price I would pay in store. (Yes, I double-checked on my smartphone.) Since Amazon is constantly adjusting online prices, that provided both reassurance and a good reason to not have to sticker and re-sticker price tags on inventory.

. . . .

Leverages the e-commerce experience.Perhaps most important to customers used to a lame integration of offline and online shopping (“Give us your email address for discounts”), Amazon has taken what it’s learned on the web and reduced the friction between worlds. While browsing, you’re exposed to Amazon’s star ratings and review excerpts and encouraged to snap bar code images to read full reviews on Amazon.com. At the register, swiping a credit card tied to your Amazon.com account not only automatically triggers an emailed receipt, it puts the purchase in your online Amazon order history. Everything Amazon, in one place (conveniently or creepily).

Link to the rest at GeekWire and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Amazon, Bookstores

15 Comments to “Amazon Books: 4 months later, the retail giant’s bricks-and-mortar experiment feels like a winner”

  1. Also of note, this older article on Amazon’s ebook gift cards:


    “On the back of each ebook card is a quote from an Amazon customer review and a summary of the book, along with an area for writing a message to the recipient and instructions for redeeming the book by scratching off the claim code and going to a dedicated Amazon url to enter it.

    Purchasing the card at the Bartell Drugs register automatically activates it for use, as with a standard gift card.

    Here’s the most interesting part: Any of the cards can also be treated as a regular Amazon gift card, if your gift recipient doesn’t like the book you chose for them, or already owns the title you picked. In other words, it offers the personalization of a hand-picked gift with the flexibility of a regular gift card — another example of Amazon blending the best of physical and digital retail.

    The card promises that you’ll always get “the lowest online price, plus the balance.” For example, I purchased a card for “The Martian” for $14.99 at the store, but the price online was $8.99, and when I redeemed the book, the difference was automatically added to my gift card balance.”

    They’re not going away.

    • And another example of Amazon’s technical chops, Felix.

      It indicates to me that their retail store is a serious exploration.

      • While the retail store would require build-out of facilities, the interesting thing about the book-specific gift cards is that they would just require a new display stand, if that. And lots of stores all over already sell plain-vanilla generic Android gift cards. So it’s not like it would be hard to roll them out if they do well in Washington.

    • Oh, that’s *cool*. And there’s no reason that can’t be expanded to a Card-on-demand service. I’d love to be able to offer my books on a card for physical sales events.

      • Just drop a QR code on a business card or book mark that links to the Amazon’s book page. Actually with the new embed code for the sample, you could link directly to that. All folks have to do is scan the card with their phone/tablet and your book sample or the one-click is there!

      • Oh, that’d be awesome! Get your autographable card and your ebook, too!

        And now my boothie experience is trying to figure out a way to upsell that as “autographed ebook card” so the $2.99 – $4.99 book could be sold for an even $5 or $10, leaving both a happy customer who feels he got more value than just buying online, and the sweet, sweet joy of not having to make change with one dollar bills…

  2. Here is a link to a piece I wrote on my attempt at going data free in their bricks and mortar store.

    • You were most likely tracked the minute you walked in the door if your phone was on. Several big retailers are implementing in-building customer tracking of movement throughout the store by tracking the movement of one’s phone. They will use that information for studying floor layout, advertising and packaging effectiveness, and also tying behavior to individual purchases and eventually offering coupons on the floor via dedicated app, etc. Paying cash will not be enough to protect one’s privacy. I would think Amazon would be one of those retailers, it depends on the patent situation. Consumer location and behavior can also be tracked using RFID tags in product packaging and in books.

      • …or good old fashioned video and interns. 😉

      • I have no doubt I was tracked the moment I stepped through the door, I didn’t realize I was also likely tracked throughout the store itself. Makes sense.

        I was hoping to leave minimal data traces, but that is impossible unless I bought nothing and had no tech. The lack of choice in payment is annoying whether I cared about data crumbs or not. The way of the future I guess.

        • Bringing tech only makes it easier. It isn’t necessary.
          Video tracking works just as well:


          Just by walking in you become trackable.
          Stores are public venues: you should have zero expectation of privacy. Less disappointment that way.

        • buy pre-paid cards for cash.

        • @ Suzanne

          “I was hoping to leave minimal data traces…”

          Turn your phone off before entering! And pay cash! And don’t give out your phone number or other info to the cashier! 🙂

          • That was the point of the story. I knew I would leave some crumbs by having my phone on, but I used nothing else – no app etc. and if you read the article, there is no option to pay cash.

  3. I feel as though the biggest success the brick-and-mortar Amazon bookstore can have is to make visitors forget they’re in an Amazon store and just make them feel good about being in any kind of bookstore. If Amazon can do that, then I would say they’ve successfully moved from online to offline.

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