I Want It Now!

I Want It Now!

March 29, 2016

The following headline was recently seen in the LA Times: “A second Amazon brick-and-mortar bookstore is coming.” That’s right. The company that killed the bookstore is opening its second bookstore. Some estimate that as many as 300 stores will be opened in the next few years.

This may seem to be an about-face for Amazon, given its sole focus on online commerce since its founding in 1994. However, the company’s motto shows little restriction in the direction the company may take: “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for four primary customer sets: consumers, sellers, enterprises, and content creators.”

Amazon wants to be THE link between buyers and sellers, no matter where, and when, they are. If a buyer is online but then wants to go into a store to buy, Amazon wants to be there. If the buyer wants to buy at a physical store and have the goods delivered, they want to facilitate that. Buy online, receive via USPS, return to store? Yes, that too. The Omni-Channel experience is the best way to service customers anywhere and anytime, online or at the counter.

But, until just recently, Amazon could only offer an online experience and couldn’t really offer what Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray calls “instant gratification,” the realm of traditional retailers. Yes, Amazon has led the way in bringing quicker gratification to online buying with next day delivery at little to no cost. But a physical location, bricks and mortar, now allows Amazon to begin testing how best to deliver the Omni-Channel experience, as well expand its brand presence to those who have yet to move beyond the physical store. Those stores will also double as product pickup locations, distribution facilities and drone airports from which items can be flown to nearby buyers.

Some have called this Amazon’s “gateway drug plan,” selling you products like the Echo that enable you to order online more easily from Amazon. But if you peel back the curtain you will see a lot more to their strategy. Amazon has taken a small footprint and stocked it only with their top selling books (and a few products) while offering full online, while in-store, service for the entire collection. The customer must use their Amazon app to see the prices as well as to pay (which can be off-putting to those who don’t ‘get it’). For those that do, they know that Amazon is doing this in order to know them as a customer anywhere, anytime and can then serve them even better.

With this approach and format, Amazon may well be doing all retail companies a huge favor. They are teaching them how to showroom, better utilize the physical space and to bridge the gap of “I want it now” with the “I’d like it delivered and returned here.”