Amazon finally has a “store”

After systematically dismantling the retail book selling ecosystem for two decades, Amazon has now opened a real physical book store in Seattle’s Univeristy Village.

The Seattle Times reveals that the 7,500 squarefoot store will feature books that based on data. “We’re taking the data we have and we’re creating physical places with it,” Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books told The Seattle Times. “We’re completely focused on this bookstore, We hope this is not our only one. But we’ll see.”

However, it is towards the end of the press release accompanying the news that Cast tips her hand and why I believe why this is one of the many stores to come. “At Amazon Books, you can also test drive Amazon’s devices. Products across our Kindle, Echo, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet series are available for you to explore, and Amazon device experts will be on hand to answer questions and to show the products in action.” she writes.

The growing arsenal of devices, intellgience dervied from data, and desperate need to create physical experiences around books were my three reasons why I had predicted in June 2010 that Amazon will eventually have to open physical locations. In the episode 307 of with Leo Laporte, because despite being an online retailer, it would need a physical “experience ” space. Of course that was a chance for Leo, Justin Young and Robert Scobele to have fun at my expense — though now I believe Leo owes me a bottle of nice Napa Valley Red.

Is this a vanity project for a large corporation, as J. B. Dickey owner of Seattle Mystery Bookshop tells the New York Times. “A brick-and-mortar store is antithetical to what they’re about. The whole point of Amazon is getting what you want through your keyboard. What’s the point of opening a shop that demands people drive to it?” he said.

I disagree with his assessment.

Amazon is so deeply enmeshed in our lives — Prime Now makes buying local even more irrelevant — and I actually groan when I can’t find something on Amazon, because it means setting up a new account somewhere, creating a new equivalent of digital paper trail (aka more passwords and emails) and more vulnerablity to data hacks. (At this point one can count on the fingers of one’s hand the organizations with solid digital security — Amazon is one of them.)

What Amazon needs is a place for us to physically experience the company. Twit watcher Sean Clark put it best when he wrote, “By nature humans are social animals, tribal even, however much time we like to spend online, we still like to meet face to face. So, if getting together is so popular and part of our nature, doesn’t it make sense that we would go to a physical Amazon store to meet others like us?” 

From a cold business logic, this is something which Amazon can do without actually losing money. In many ways, Amazon Store, however is a good proxy for the next generation of retail — it marries retail location with online data such as customer ratings, popularity on GoodReads, pre-orders and other bits of data. As multichannel retail becomes pervasive, it wouldn’t be surprise if others don’t do this in four to five years.

I should be happy about being right, but like I have heard the hard way — predictions are a risky business by the way!

A letter from Om

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