Last year, Amazon opened a retail store in Seattle. And now word is that the online bookselling giant is headed toward a further expansion into brick and mortar storefronts. Who would have thought…?
Throughout the evolution of the online shopping phenomenon, the demise of large bookstore chains has frequently been the subject of media stories. Borders Books, for example, has been a poster child of consumers’ movement away from the brick and mortar shopping experience. Nevertheless, and somewhat surprisingly, book publishers are pleased to see there has been resurgence in smaller, more localized bookstores.
Turns out, the physical experience of scanning book store shelves is still enjoyed by many; and it’s not easily replaced by auto populated recommendations on a computer screen. Further, how can anyone replace the look/feel/smell of a new book in your hands, flipping through its pages—or browsing a maze of shelves for new ideas; not to mention the intellectual spider webbing affect of perusing myriad titles, topics and authors?
Industry gurus call it “discoverability.” Yes, physically strolling through a bookstore has some real entertainment value. Amazon clearly recognizes this and seeks to capitalize on it.
In Seattle, Amazon is already bringing its technology muscle to enhance this experience even further. Unlike typical retailers, the company can use its massive data-backed insights to identify titles that are most likely to sell to the target consumers.
The number of stores allegedly planned is somewhat of a mystery. However, Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties—a publicly traded REIT that develops and operates malls nationally—suggested the figure to be as many as 400.
It’s not just about books, however. Seattle’s Amazon Store also sells the company’s line of interactive devices such as Kindle tables and Echo, it’s wireless speaker and voice command device.
But why stop there? This may be just the beginning. Is Amazon using the bookstore model as an opportunity to pioneer even more ambitious retail initiatives? Last year, the firm filed patent applications that suggest a new kind of retail shopping experience that would allow consumers to completely bypass cashiers.
Granted, patent filings are a common practice in the dynamic and fiercely competitive world of high-tech. But the fact remains that the retail shopping experience will continue to evolve as technology takes over all facets of our lives. And who better to lead the charge than Amazon? But what about privacy issues? Are we truly ready for this?