In one of the first shopping centers in America to see a Microsoft store take up a “keiretsu-like” retail position directly across a tree-lined courtyard from an Apple store, like opposing pieces on a chessboard, a new, counter-flanking chess piece has occupied a space just around the corner (a “knight move,” in fact).
The new positioning represents another strategic commerce play — the opening of a brick-and-mortar Amazon Book Store, bridging online and offline merchandising as well as Kindle Paperwhite pages with actual books made of paper and ink. And the game, or gambit, is afoot!
The upscale U Village mall, stretched out below the hilltop University of Washington campus, may now be the best testing ground there is for the university’s business school. Here is the ultimate, real world laboratory to study a whole, new generation in integrated marketing and merchandising. The online-offline experiment which has been kept under wraps for many months is now open for business. Now you are a member of the first-generation “focus group.” Now you can meet Amazon.com face-to-face!
In a letter to customers signed by Jennifer Cast, VP Amazon books, the A-listers announced: “These aren’t metaphorical doors: these real, wooden doors are the entrance to our new store in Seattle’s University Village. The books in the store are selected based on Amazon.com customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and our curators’ assessments.”
To give shoppers more information as they browse, many of the books are presented face-out, in defiance of the physical limitations of finite shelf space. Under each showcase book is a review card with an Amazon.com customer rating and a review. You can read the opinions and assessments of Amazon.com’s book-loving customers to help discover great books. Is this how we all should be buying bread, milk or tires (by customer review)? Is Amazon illuminating the path to retail success?
The economies of scale have been localized. Prices at Amazon Books are the same as prices offered by Amazon.com, so there’s no need to compare Amazon’s online and in-store prices.
And it isn’t just books. You can also test-drive Amazon devices including the Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet series. For the first time, Amazon device experts will be on hand, in the flesh, to answer questions and to show the products in action.
Has Amazon’s twenty years of online bookselling experience given it the prowess to out-market the traditional bookstores it threatened to place into extinction with its volume pricing, eReaders and audible book product line? Ironically, the U. Village complex once housed a two-story Barnes & Noble bookstore that was shuttered two years ago.
Data from stat portal Statista and analysis firm IBISWorld suggest the number of physical book-selling storefronts open for business in the U.S. fell by around 10,000 between 2004 and 2012. So with free Kindle previews, Prime shipping, storage lockers and same day delivery, the conundrum is why the physical store exists in the first place?
Seattle was ranked earlier this year as America’s most well-read city by none other than Amazon itself based on per capita sales.
Hours for the new store are from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or 24-7 online! [24×7]