Disrupting the market to deliver enhanced customer experience?

I was fascinated by a report recently that Amazon has opened its first physical bookstore in Seattle. The immediate reaction to this news is – why? The phenomenal success of the Amazon business model shows, without any doubt, that selling online with great service was the right thing to do vs. traditional bricks + mortar stores. So why buck the trend?

Is there an impending Armageddon against the internet that will see consumers shun the net in favour of a walk down the High St? I doubt it. This feels like extremely clever market research that will place further disruption to the High St bookselling model that could/should result in improved customer service.

I can’t speak for everyone but I enjoy walking into bookshops and browsing, but being time-poor (and impatient), I need to very quickly identify books of a particular genre and ideally be able to quickly review feedback before making a decision. Online this works beautifully: in store, typically I am frustrated by too much choice, too many genres, and I lose interest quickly.

In taking the Amazon model ‘to the street’ I could walk into an Amazon store, knowing that there is a reduced selection (about 6,000) of best-selling/most popular books based on feedback from their online platform. All the books in the store are likely to be rated 5-star on the online store so everything should be good and reviews from online will feature in-store. I like the idea and will be fascinated to see how the feedback from this store roll out translates in the coming months.

Other reports take comments from competing High St retailers who call out their USP in terms of volume of books on show – that’s great – but in a changing world where the net has made search/browse a far less time-consuming process, this argument is going to come under increasing scrutiny as organisations such as Amazon continue to innovate and disrupt the market through innovating on the High St too. It’s interesting to note that the Amazon store insists on displaying books face front, not stacked up so only the spine is visible. If you reduce the range to only the best then you can afford to focus on presenting them well with the cover art visible.

There are many precedents as I have mentioned in previous blogs. Did Internet shopping kill the supermarkets? No – it made them even bigger and consumers spend even more. Have e-Books signalled the end of the High St bookstore? No – it forced High St retailers to work harder at making the in-store experience that much better (it is rare these days for book stores not to have their own onsite café’s/internet terminals).

I am a traditionalist – and will always prefer a physical book to reading one online. That doesn’t mean I don’t welcome potential innovation on the High St…

What do you think about the new Amazon store in Seattle? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

The new Kindle vs the keyboard one.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Photo by Nina licensed under Creative Commons.

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