By now, everyone basically knows about Amazon and how it dominates so much of the online retail market; with them delivering all over the world with the most advanced tracking systems and assurances of security, many have switched to shopping in this way. Yet, now Amazon has made its way into the physical space and this has led to numerous implications for how we consider the distinction between online and offline engagement.
Known simply as Amazon Books, the first store opened in Seattle, at the beginning of this month. As QZ reports, the store “will offer … the chance to thumb through thousands of titles selected by a mixture of big data algorithms and human curators.”
Of course the immediate concern is whether this means shopping online or offline is more beneficial, but, as QZ states “book prices in the physical store will be the same as they are online.”
It is encouraging of physical presence, as The Atlantic notes: “Amazon Books, like a Barnes & Noble of yore, comes complete with plush leatherette chairs for relaxed reading. There are open areas for browsing and chatting. There’s a kids’ area. “ This means it will offer the best of bost worlds: offline and online. That is, offering comfort, indulging in reading and gathering, while operating with the latest point of sale software, updates and reviews, online competitive prices and so on.
There has been a lot of discussion of what this means to retailers all over. Is this a library of the future? Is it a huge threat to the books business or a massive boon? And what does this mean for offline and online selling?
Nathaniel Mott writing in Gigaom notes: “Retailers could [try] emulating Amazon Books’ model of automatically price-matching items sold in their stores to items sold on their websites. Right now there’s no guarantee that a Walmart store will match the price of an item sold on Walmart.com, for example, and other stores have similar policies. It’s almost like retailers actually want shoppers to treat their stores like showrooms.”
As Mott notes, most people use their smartphones everywhere they go, including shopping. When we see an item in store that interests us, we use our phones to check its quality and price comparison to its competitors. Often, if the purchase is not urgent, people will opt to simply purchase it later, for cheaper, online – this means that physical stores do just become glorified showrooms rather than areas where people purchase. This is detrimental to the business since it means the operating costs of a physical space are used to basically just showcase items people will buy online!
Amazon, then, accordingly to experts, has the right idea: it’s recognised that there is no significant distinction between offline and online “life” – but there are aspects to both that can’t be done in the other. For example, you can’t physically interact with a book on Amazon’s site. But by leveraging the benefits of online shopping with offline, Amazon is taking the best of both worlds to facilitate better purchasing and convenience for everyone.