Brand Experience Brief: Amazon Books Store

Amazon has opened a brick-and-mortar retail store, the Amazon Books Store — offering a web-enhanced shopping experience to customers and a Prime membership acquisition tool for the company.  Check out this Brand Experience Brief to see inside the store and learn about the retail customer experience it offers.

related Brand Experience Briefs:

  • b8ta — a new store for discovering new tech products
  • Birchbox  — a retail location from the online cosmetics sampling subscription service
  • Warby Parker — another e-commerce brand venturing into physical retail


What would a website be like if it became an actual store?  It would be what the new Amazon Books Store is like — exactly like the website.  This Brand Experience Brief takes you inside this website store.

An Amazon Books Store just opened in San Diego’s UTC mall — it’s one of three brick and mortar stores from the company, others are planned for Boston and Chicago, and hundreds of stores are possible according to some reports.  The store is 3500 sq. ft., about a 10th of the size of a Barnes & Noble.  In some ways, it resembles a regular bookstore with an exterior brick wall and inside shelves of books categorized by type and areas to peruse them.

But for the most part, the store is unlike any other. First, all the books are facing out.  A staffer explained that this is to mimic the website experience, where you see the full covers of every book, compared to normal bookstores where you only see the spines of non-featured titles.    Also, prices aren’t displayed — you have to scan a book to find out the price — and prices actually differ, depending on if you are an Amazon Prime member, in which case you pay the price on the Amazon website, and if not, you pay the list price.  And you can’t pay by cash or check — only credit card and the Amazon app– just like on the website or mobile app.

The selection of books is highly curated.  There are only about 3,500 books and almost all of them have received a rating of 4 stars or above on the Amazon website.  This means you’re not going to find more obscure titles, but in my quick scan of the business section, I found most of the books I would expect — and of course, if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can just order it online through your mobile phone or one of the store’s devices.

The book selection also leverages the website features and functionality by presenting edited collections like this one of highly rated books and this one of bestsellers in the city and this one of books most frequently found on people’s wish lists.  It references the website’s recommendation engine with “If you like X, you’ll love Y” displays.  Also each book has a sign that shows the number of stars it received on the site, a sample review, and a UPC code which you can scan with the Amazon app on your mobile phone to access more information about the book.

A hardware section takes up about a 1/4 of the store, where you can try and buy Kindles, Fires, Echos, Dots, and accessories. The store employees are enthusiastic about the store and eagerly explain all the unique features of it to customers and to each other since they’re all new.

My conclusion is the store serves two purposes.  For the customer, it makes shopping and buying even more convenient than the website.  You can leave the store with a book in your hand instead of waiting for it to be delivered.  And if you’re the kind of person that prefers in-person vs. digital shopping, it provides a nice experience.  For Amazon, it is a Prime membership acquisition tool.  Through the use of special pricing for Prime members and the many prompts about the benefits of Prime throughout the store, it’s clear Amazon wants you to sign up.   And it’s likely that these two purposes will continue to be the driving factor for the company to open up more book stores as well as grocery and convenience stores, as it plans to do.  For now, that seems like a win for customers and for Amazon.

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