Opinion

Uncovering Amazon’s new retail secrets

4 min read

06 November 2015

When Amazon launches something new, the world stops and listens. This week it took its first foray into running a bookstore with Amazon Books. And while it might not seem like an obvious next step for the world’s biggest online retailer, it makes a lot of sense.

Amazon is in a unique position to help people find the perfect book, and to deliver that in a physical environment with all the joys of shelf-browsing that online stores lack. This is all thanks to the power Amazon has with publishers, combined with its proprietary sales data and customer reviews.

It’s a format which, if it can attract the right footfall and overcome higher operating costs than the company is used to, could see Amazon open more stores in a multi-channel play.

Amazon Books versus traditional bookstores

Physical book retailers have been heavily criticised for reacting slowly to ecommerce. Now there’s another opportunity that SMEs can respond to: how to bring the best of the online experience into the physical one.

Perhaps the simplest but most effective way that Amazon has brought its dotcom offering in-store is through the use of shelf-point data. All of the books stocked in the Amazon Books store have been selected based on online customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads and the store curators’ assessments. It’s very much a case of “by the people, for the people”. Every product, where available, is accompanied by a rating, reader’s quote and the number of reviews it has had.

This is a clever way of utilising online rankings and reviews to bring consumer-driven content in store to drive purchases. And it’s something that will work for anyone with an online offering that they’re looking to launch offline.

Another way to drive people in store, joining the multi-channel dots, would be to reward online customers for their reviews with a voucher that can be redeemed in-store. Or alternatively, encourage them to leave a review on a tablet while in-store for an instant printed voucher.

Rewarding customers for their reviews is something other businesses are exploring, but it’s generally based on a points system and doesn’t offer incentive for shoppers to then visit their local store.

Another consideration is ratings. Why not use them on POS to build trust? Nordstrom in the US places a Pinterest logo by most-pinned products in-store that’s based on online ratings.

There are no digital experiences – just experiences

Whether they come from cardboard point of sale, in-store experiences or technology, these ideas all lead to the same thing – an experience.

What’s interesting about Amazon Books is that it hasn’t relied on bringing technology in-store to change the physical book store experience. There’s a time and a place for digital in-store, but it’s nothing without the insight of a good campaign idea based on what shoppers want, and should never be used as a solution in itself.

Even without a reliance on digital there is an opportunity for all businesses to deliver a seamless multi-channel offering, particularly for new entrants into the physical world, there are some huge learnings to be gleamed from those who didn’t adapt quickly enough. 

Perhaps the key take-away is this: you don’t need to know how to bring online experience in-store. Instead focus on delivering an interconnected world where you offer the best customer experience, whatever the mechanics are that create it.

Viv Craske is head of innovation and digital at Live & Breathe.