A Visit to the New Amazon Bookstore in New York City

The Fung Global Retail & Technology team recently visited the newly opened Amazon Books location at The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York City. This is Amazon’s seventh bookstore, and follows store openings in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Oregon and its home state of Washington. The bookstore was fairly busy when we visited, with a healthy mix of local office workers and visitors.

Although the store looks like most traditional bookstores, it differs in several key ways. First, there are no prices listed. To find out the price of a book, the customer must scan a barcode with the Amazon app using a smartphone camera. Each book includes a rating of zero to five stars and a quote from a review, similar to how books are presented on Amazon.com. The store also has collections of highly rated books (with ratings greater than 4.8 stars, as shown above), local favorites and the most highly anticipated books (again, as on Amazon.com).

The store features only a curated selection of books and does not attempt to offer the same broad selection as traditional bookstores. There are other product displays taken from the website, such as a display of “If you like [this], then you’ll like [this]” recommendations.

Although one might think that the store is just a showcase for ordering books online for shipment, this is not the case: customers can buy books in the store and take them home. Customers who are Amazon Prime members automatically receive discounts (the GeekWire tech website reported that these discounts range from 6% to 40%). To check out, the customer swipes a credit card or scans a barcode. For Prime members, the register recognizes a known credit card and applies the discount automatically. All non-Prime members pay retail prices.

The bookstore is similar to chain bookstores in that it carries items such as coffee makers, cellphone cases and consumer electronics, which naturally focus on Amazon’s devices. Shoppers can try out the various Amazon products on display, including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets and TV set-top boxes, and the full spectrum of Alexa-enabled devices. The store also offers a variety of smart-home gadgets that work with Alexa, including connected thermostats, electrical plugs, door locks and light bulbs from a variety of vendors. In addition, the store has a wall of AmazonBasics accessories, such as smartphone and video cables and batteries. There were of plenty of helpful staff members around to explain how to scan and purchase items.

Lurking beneath the surface of all things Amazon is the mountain of data that the company is able to collect and leverage. Amazon can use the data from customer purchases and preferences on its website to curate and fine-tune the store’s inventory and, of course, it can collect data from the bookstore. Moreover, the store serves as a showroom for all of Amazon’s electronic gadgets that were previously only available online.

The Fung Global Retail & Technology team will continue to provide updates on Amazon Books and other interesting retail happenings.

Other pieces you may find interesting include: Deep Dive: US Consumer Survey—Amazon Prime Members Love Shopping Offline Too,  Amazon in 20 Charts—the Rise and Rise of the E-Commerce Giant

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