New York, New York - Amazon & Retail Trends
Updated: Jul 5, 2018
To quote the wise Taylor Swift, “Welcome to New York”. Just came back from a quick trip and no matter how many times I’ve been there, it never gets old. Lots of good food, some great shows (highly recommend both Mean Girls and Boys in the Band) and of course, shopping. But instead of using shopping as retail therapy, I made some deliberate stops to check out the newest trends in retail. Later this week, I’ll share with you my thoughts on how an internet darling has created a physical shopping environment that is service driven. But today we will start with Amazon and how they are taking over the city.
Amazon has revolutionized shopping in America and New York is no different. In addition to Amazon Prime, you can get your deliveries the same day via Amazon Prime Now. You can work be a freelance courier and be in the Amazon Flex program, which is Amazon’s version of Uber for package delivery. Note – these guys are fast….I almost collided with one in Midtown! Whole Foods has 15+ locations in the 5 boroughs, including a Whole Foods 365, which features primarily private brand products. And you can visit Amazon Books, one of 16 permanent, physical book stores in major markets. I went to the Amazon Books in Columbus Circle to check it out.
I was expecting to enter and see the holy grail of retail experiences. The true merging of e-commerce with the best of physical retail. A totally customer-centric experience. A haven for booklovers. What I experienced was a blast from the past. I was transported back to my youth when my parents would take me to Waldenbooks in the mall. Waldenbooks, whose demise was largely influenced by Amazon. Ironic, huh?
When you enter the store, you are instantly greeted by tables of best sellers. In Amazon-land, they are books with “4.8+ ratings”. Many fixtures call out “Prime Members Save on Books!” and states that the store has the same prices as Amazon.com. But to find the price of a book, you need to use the Amazon app or bring the merchandise to a price kiosk off to the side of the store. While this was annoying to me as a shopper, it lets the store take advantage of Amazon’s dynamic pricing and eliminates any “showroom” tendencies, where a shopper finds something they like in a store and then goes home to buy online.
The store made good use of one of Amazon’s best features, user reviews. Most books had a review from Amazon.com, as well as the total star rating and # of reviews. The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook, had a 4.3 star average from 113 reviews, as of January. Another interesting use of Amazon’s data was the wall of “Unputdownable” books – all selected because Kindle readers finished them in 3 days or less. A reminder that Amazon doesn’t only know what books we buy, but how readers are consuming them.
The right side of the store was Amazon’s version of an Apple Store. Sleek tables featuring Kindles & Echos, as well as compatible smart home devices. A section of “Amazon Basics” included sad looking USB & HDMI cables, as well as headphones and earbuds. I browsed through the store for close to 30 minutes. The part that disappointed me the most was the lack of customer service. There were several employees, but I was never approached.
After spending time in the store, I left a little perplexed. Not sure what Amazon is trying to do with this concept. Knowing how much they mine data, I’m sure they are using these locations as retail laboratories, tracking everything from what customers look at to how they interact with the books and how often they pick up their smartphone. I know they have a strategy, but it wasn’t blatantly obvious to me. What do you think?