A few years back, a guy by the name of Jeff Bezos set out to change the way people bought books. He ended up transforming the way people buy just about anything…and he’s just getting started. Recently, Amazon, the company that killed off more than one bookstore chain, recently opened the doors on its seventh brick and mortar bookstore.
Now, you might think that this is crazy but bet against Bezos and his team at your own risk. Amazon has taken everything people loved about bookstores and added a ton of technology that the company created to help them sell more online.
.The newest store, which recently opened in Manhattan, stocks about 3,000 different titles across a wide range of subjects in both fiction and nonfiction categories, as well as tech products like the familiar Kindle and Amazon Echo.
One of the most obvious changes in the store: all the books face cover-out, just like they do online. So, instead of having to search on the spine of a book, customers can see the whole cover and then, ahem, judge the book by it. Signage in the shop includes star ratings from Amazon.com as well as further suggested reading, the famous: “If you liked this, you might like this…” suggestive selling that has made Amazon hugely successful at selling multiple items online.
There is one conspicuous label missing: the price. This is because the cost of the items in the shop varies, based on whether or not the customer is a prime account holder. Prime customers can scan the back of the book to see the in-store price. Non-prime members pay list price, which is generally printed on the book itself.
At the register, employees don’t take cash. You can either pay with a credit card or have the item billed to your Prime account. Convenient for tech-savvy shoppers, but it might be a bit of a shock for traditional brick and mortar buyers.
Some initial customers believe the pricing and checkout procedure is a way to drive customers to sign up for Prime accounts. Could be, but it could also be a way for Amazon to capture customers who just prefer bookstores. There are a lot of them still out there, and Amazon can reach them in a way that also allows them to redefine and re-engineer the marketplace and buying expectations.
And, in true Amazon fashion, the company is moving quickly, planning to nearly double its current brick and mortar footprint this year alone. Six more stores, including a second location in Manhattan. What will this mean for the future of book sales? Too early to tell, but you can bet it will be innovative.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.