Last year we published an article discussing e-commerce basket abandonment and why the same efforts to combat it aren’t made in-store. An issue we touched upon was product reviews, despite their importance across e-commerce, they were rarely publicised in-store, neither through point of sale retail displays or store staff. Fast forward 12 months and it looks like Amazon read our minds. In their ongoing quest to move into the physical world they have introduced another new concept - Amazon 4 Star – physical stores stocking their highest rated products.
A quality bricks and mortar experience includes thought provoking retail displays, clear category management and helpful sales assistance. When viewing images of the New York Amazon 4 Star store, it seems to replicate landing on Amazon.com. Colourful in-store theatre and point of sale are replaced with dark overcrowded shelves which grace a very random selection of products. Furthermore, retail signage is used to replicate their website categories with point of sale messaging including: Most Wished For, Highly Rated and Frequently Bought Together.
Whilst we’ve always endorsed a seamless customer journey from one sales channel to another, does this overstep the mark and remove the very thing that is unique about shopping in-store? After all, it is important to accept that not every customer will experience your offering in the same way - nor should they. Although core brand values should remain consistent across all channels, it is important to accept that your online customer and in-store customer often want totally different shopping experiences and to complicate things further, your in-store customer will occasionally be your online customer and vice-versa. Mintel's competing with Amazon report found that 1 in 10 Amazon shoppers in the US find the Amazon shopping experience impersonal, it therefore seems rather disappointing Amazon aren't using their physical presence to add colour and humanity to the brand.
The fact Amazon are using online data and reviews to curate their in-store experience is a huge step in the right direction, yet their execution may fail to replicate the enjoyment many still find from shopping in-store. Their new offering may appeal to Amazon enthusiasts and those who would usually shy away from physical stores but for those looking for an engaging leisurely experience it may lack substance. That being said, the very fact Amazon continues to invest in physical stores should be viewed as a major vote of confidence to the physical retail format.
What are your thoughts? Is this in-store replication of Amazon.com a step too far?