More Amazon Stores
When Googling the topic of "Amazon store", one of the articles proclaimed that they "sucked the joy out of shopping for a book." That seemed a bit harsh, so I wanted to check it out myself. I was curious how they might interpret and enhance the shopping experience. After all, they're being blamed for the death of the shopping mall and many smaller stores. This news gets trumpeted almost daily on the financial channels. Their recent purchase of Wholefoods supermarket sent another tremor through retailers. So I wanted to find out, "How might Amazon, reverse engineer the shopping experience?". Here's what I found, with some suggestions.
Greet me but help me on my terms
The first thing you notice is the friendly greeters. This takes an often repeated page, out of Walmart's playbook. This is standard today in most physical stores that are trying to enhance the customer experience. I find this a bit counter intuitive, because I don't want someone telling me that I need help, I'd rather them be there when I decide I need help. (and not occupied with another customer). If Samsung can track my eyeballs on a tablet, surely the store of the future will understand physical cues that indicate I need help.
Look under the hood...a peek into the future
The second thing that jumped out at me was the featured devices and home automation products. I was happy to get a hands on look at the new Echo Show, with the video screen. I had originally placed an order for 2 of these units, but bailed on it. My thinking at the time was a similar historical comment regarding the original telephone..."who would I ever want to talk to?" The fact is, I don't have any family members who are prime members that I'd want to video chat with, excluding an occasional holiday call. Personally, I'm going to wait for now but I can easily see how this will be commonplace very soon.
All of the products in the series are featured nicely, with a bench seat, and a flip book with suggested commands. This really lets everyone take the devices for a test drive. (If you're wondering there is a unique command for each device, so the guy/gal next to you doesn't hijack your device)
On the flip side of the bench display are third party products that integrate well with Amazon Echo devices. These include lights, fans, speakers and a host of other devices. Amazon spends a lot of time and effort vetting products that will work through Echo. This will be a bit of "future shock" for some people, but in the very near future, devices that can't be controlled by your voice will be considered "dumb". (click here for an excellent book on the future, that makes this point nicely.)
Using Big Data to curate content
As far as the books go, it looks like Amazon is using it's "Big data" prowess to curate content. This happens in a number of ways, but mainly by summarizing the online reviews for each title, into a "ranking". That, again, takes something that I'm familiar with from the site and incorporates it into the physical space.
The showroom for showrooming
At first I had a feeling of confusion, as I'm so used to scanning products on my phone to check the price on Amazon. In fact, as I started to browse the books, that was my first question. How do I make sure that I'm getting the same price that I can get on the site, and shipped to me in 2 days? They seem to have figured it out by incorporating the checkout with their app and also providing in-store scanners to show you the Amazon price of the item. That seems simple, is a huge nod to Amazon's digital prowess and their use of existing data integration. It's also a very slick way of encouraging you to signing up for Amazon Prime. Get your delivery quicker and avoid the trip to the store.
Pay with your Amazon app
Personally, I think that quick checkout is the best feature of any store and Amazon makes it easy. Open the Amazon app on your phone, select "checkout" under the stores tab, and you will be presented with a QR code that the cashier can then scan. That QR code contains your existing default methods of payment on your Amazon account. The cashier (what will we rename this position when cash ceases to exist?) scans your items. Sign the screen, and boom, you're outta there. I've never felt a particular need to languish while book shopping, so, for me, the joy has not been sucked out of the experience. It simply works, and that's what matters most for me.
The jury is still out on the future of physical retail, but Amazon is using everything it's learned over the past 20+ years to provide itself with a competitive advantage. One thing that hasn't changed is how I make practical use of my purchases.