Amazon has been pissing off retail shops since coming on to the scene in 1994 but none more so than the multiple bookstores they’ve helped to put out of business over the years. So, it’s a little surprising they are dipping their hat in the physical bookstore space. Then again, with the success of Apple, Microsoft, and some pop-up Amazon Technology stores, maybe there is room for new sources of revenue from this initiative.

Personally, I wish them the best. It could be a great opportunity for the company to elevate the way in which we interact with bookstores. Let’s just hope they don’t get lazy and try to recreate something that already exists. Or worse yet, recreate something that has already failed… If I were heading up the effort there are a few things I would make sure to include in the new initiative.

  1. Provide access to real-time online reviews.
    One of the biggest advantages Amazon has are the real-time stream of reviews offered on pretty much everything they sell. Specifically with books, these reviews provide valuable feedback on the content, but they also provide a snapshot of the value of that content over time. As more and more reviews are added, customers get a sense of how relevant the information in the books continues to be. I’ve noticed in the Amazon release, they will be placing static ratings next to each book; this is pretty poor alternative in my opinion. They should, at a minimum, provide a kiosk for customers to see all reviews for the books, and it should be real-time. They obviously have the data, and the technology is not that costly to roll-out.
  2. Include your logistics teams into the store planning process. Amazon is no slouch in inventory management and order fulfillment. This was further elevated by their purchase of Zappos. Deciding to open physical book stores would allow Amazon to distribute their logistical efforts across a much wider area. The technology they already have to manage their current systems could most likely work well with new distribution centers. Meaning, their physical stores could also be used as micro fulfillment centers. This could potentially give them a platform to do same-day, or next-day shipping on certain items, within the local stores. As well, it could translate into direct savings in terms of lower shipping costs on items that already include shipping in the price, like Amazon Prime items.
  3. Kindle purchases while in-store. This one hopefully is already on the radar, but just in case. Amazon has been pushing the Kindle and digital books for a while now. And rightfully so. In a number of cases, the digital format is more convenient (not all, mind you). But now with stores selling physical books, Amazon might make the mistake of only measuring in-store purchases as a KPI for overall store performance. Instead, they should provide a very quick and easy way for people to purchase the digital versions of the books once they have browsed and located the items they want. The fact is, people actually like using Kindles, but purchasing from the Kindle can sometimes be a pain. Using the storefront to help simplify the transaction would be a great tool. Additionally, they’ll also need to measure the online sales originating from the stores as a performance indicator.
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Above are just a few considerations for the online commerce giant. Hopefully, these things are already a part of their plan moving forward. If not, that’s a shame (feel free to use them and send me a check Amazon). Amazon has an opportunity to lead in a new category of bookstores, one that their predecessors could not. If they play their cards right they can create a brand new book buying experience for their customers. If they can accomplish that, it would most assuredly translate to money in their pockets. Hopefully, they jump at the opportunity!