From Fast Code Design:
Amazon is planning to open at least six bookstores across the country by the end of 2017.
Technically the stores are still an experiment. But after visiting one it’s clear that this is in some ways an ingenious refinement of the bookstore idea—what Warby Parker is to eyeglasses and Shake Shack is to fast food, Amazon Books is to Barnes & Noble. The store solves one of the biggest problems with online shopping: discoverability. The solution isn’t derived by stocking an infinite number of books; it’s just the opposite—this bookstore uses data-driven design to increase the likelihood that you will pick up a book that you didn’t know you wanted to read.
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Walmart acquired Jet.com for $3 billion at least in part to figure out what to do with all those stores across the country. The competitive edge that Amazon has is its trove of consumer data, which allows the company to experiment and optimize—even if that means failing repeatedly—until it gets the formula just right.
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“I’ve been asked for 20 years, ‘Will you guys ever open physical stores?'” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos tells me during an interview at his offices in November. “And I’ve answered pretty much the same way the whole time, which is that we will if we have a differentiated idea. You know it can’t be a me-too offering, because the physical world is so well-served already.”
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So what makes Amazon Books different? The first thing you’ll notice is that all of the books are facing out so that the cover is on full display. For a company that counts frugality as a core principle, stocking books in the least space-efficient way possible doesn’t seem to make much sense. But Amazon didn’t do it by accident; this was A/B/C tested. When the store concept was being tested in a warehouse south of town, the company procured old books from Goodwill and created three aisles for customers to browse.
“In one aisle we had all the books face out,” says Jennifer Cast, an early Amazon employee who returned after a long hiatus to oversee the Amazon Books rollout. “In another aisle we had 50-50, and another aisle we had two-thirds/one-third.” The face-out aisle won, customers liked it more. “What we realized is we felt sorry for the books that were spine out because they didn’t get to shine,” says Cast. “And your eye was drawn to the face-out books.”
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“If you walk into Amazon Books, the physical store, with a preconceived notion of the book you want,” Bezos says, “there’s a good chance you’re going to walk out disappointed.” There are only a few thousand titles in the store. But nothing here has less than a 4.6 out of a 5-star rating. And there’s a placard below each book offering some kind of Amazon-derived metadata about the title. Under Hillbilly Elegy there was an excerpt from an online customer review, the book Sprint had an “If you like . . . then try” suggestion, and The Way of the Shepherd touted that “92% of customers rated this five stars.”
Link to the rest at Fast Code Design