Three Lessons Brick and Mortar Retailers Can Learn

I recently visited the Walpole, MA, Amazon Books location.  It appears they have succeeded in doing just that: walking through Amazon Books feels like walking through a website.

Three Lessons Brick and Mortar Retailers Can Learn From Amazon Books

Amazon. Brick and mortar retailing.

Seemingly at opposite ends of the spectrum, the idea that the two could come together would seem anathema to the entire Amazon business model. And yet, it’s happening for two reasons. First, Amazon needs to own the ‘last mile’ to complete its total dismantling and domination of retail as we know it. And second, they believe they can do it better than any retailer who has come before them. The way they will do that is by taking the best of what they know about why shoppers love to shop online, and translating those into insights into the ‘real’ world. While the rest of the retail world is trying to take what they do in-store and recreate it online, Amazon is taking what they do online and putting it into a store.

To try to understand their interpretation of how to make this happen, I recently visited the Walpole, MA, Amazon Books location.  It appears they have succeeded in doing just that: walking through Amazon Books feels like walking through a website.

How did they do it?

Recreating Online Elements

Unlike traditional bookstores, all of their books face out (no bindings out), just as you would see on the website. There are spacers to push the books to the edge of the shelf if there isn't enough inventory to keep the book pushed forward, so there is uniformity as you scan across the shelf - just like viewing a flat screen. Also mirroring the online experience, every label contains a quote from a review that describes the book, the average rating, number of reviews, and a barcode to scan with the Amazon app if you want to read more online. Books with no reviews or too few reviews are also noted on the card with a clever 'Review Card Under Construction' message, akin to “Webpage under construction.”

Clever Recommendations & Product Placement

They have 'If You Like,' 'You'll Love' walls, featuring a best seller under 'If You Like,' and three recommendations under 'You'll Love.’ Behind the register is a ‘Most Wished For’ list. Other walls included ‘Amazon Basics’ and a feature on Amazon Fire TV.

Throughout every book section are Kindle demonstrators to encourage Kindle sales, and a large demo table for Echo in the center of the store, with store staff providing live demonstrations.

And of course, there are exclusive Prime member savings, which are called out in the transaction screen and on the receipt (emailed, naturally).

Three Lessons for Physical Retailers

All in all, I see Amazon Books providing three lessons to physical retailers:

  1. Don’t get flashy. Take the best of technology and bring it into the store environment, without gimmicky devices and flashy tech that adds friction to the shopping experience. Many retailers are experimenting with apps that are intended to enhance the shopping experience by offering exclusive content or information only available through the apps. Generally speaking, the only thing they add is frustration. Compare to Amazon Books where the best of what’s available online is already at the shelf; using the app is supplementary but certainly doesn’t cause shoppers to miss out by not using it.
  2. Replicate what works offline. After 25 years of eCommerce, shopping online still forces the shopper to consider one item at a time, one product detail page at a time. And yet, that is not how shoppers shop the physical store. Four foot planograms, top to bottom, left to right. That is classic Category Management. The retailer who figures out how to replicate this online will be the first retailer to give Amazon something to worry about.
  3. Know why shoppers choose you. Focus on why shoppers chose you to begin with - what's your cache or equity with your core shopper base? Once that's identified, focus on how to recreate that experience online. To help think this through, consider setting up a flagship or pop-up store in Times Square. What's the essence of the retailer brand equity you would focus upon? Insider Trends recently listed the top 50 flagship retail stores in the world – the stores that they think act as a true showcase for the brand, that draw customers in, that create an experience and are a destination in their own right. This has to be done online and in-store to truly be a successful omnichannel retailer.

Overall, after years of looking to brick and mortar retailers to define what omnichannel retail means, it is Amazon - through continuous retail innovation - who is leading the industry into new territory, not only online but now in-store as well. Have you visited Amazon Books? What were your thoughts?


Danny Silverman
Article by:
Danny Silverman

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