After disrupting the traditional book market with its online bookstore and Kindle, Amazon is now going back into the future by opening a chain of bookstores across the country in what is seen as a move that probably indicates its intentions for other types of stores. At first glance a customer might not realize what an Amazon bookstore is all about, other than the display of books on shelves.
It must be said though, that the store layout is interesting – the front cover of every book on the shelves faces outward just as they appear on the Amazon portal. There’s no discrimination by stacking some titles the way it’s done in physical libraries where visitors have to identify a book by reading its spine vertically.
That’s the simple part. The customers’ experience begins to change when they find out that to identify books and objects around them, they can use visual search technology with their mobile phones. But that’s possible only when they have the Amazon app loaded on their phones which is worth its while – the search will reveal reviews, shipping options and price among other benefits. Over the last couple of years, Amazon has been experimenting with physical stores, and during this period it has opened a number of bookstores that also serve as some kind of gadget outlets in addition to some campus bookstores that doesn’t sell books and a convenience store without any cashiers around. These experiments suggest that Amazon is upto something that its competitors can’t figure out yet.
Amazon hasn’t yet revealed any facts and figures of its retail-store operations although from whatever little that has come out from the company’s officials, there’s reason to believe that they are happy with the results of their experimentation with physical retail. Brian T. Olsavsky, chief financial officer of Amazon, told investors that the stores represent “another way to reach the customer and test what resonates with them.” At the bookstores, there are no prices on the books and a customer has to either take a picture of the book cover with the Amazon app or walk a few steps to a screen displaying the price scanner. No checkout queues and no waiting; so, there’s convenience for the customer but what’s in it for Amazon? Probably there’s some purchase-intent data that can be used to target the customer on its digital channels.