Amazon Opens a Bookstore: Taking the Online Shopping Experience Offline

Last week on Tuesday morning, Amazon cracked open the doors to its new brick and mortar bookstore within the University Village in Seattle, WA. The real walls and floors are lined with real wooden bookshelves with real, neatly placed, outward-facing books. It almost makes one want to exclaim, “I’m a real store” in their best Pinocchio voice.

This is a complete 180 degrees from the Amazon everyone is accustomed to interacting with. But it’s directly congruent with the brand Amazon spent the past twenty years crafting.


Jeff Bezos is quite clear when it comes to what the goal of Amazon was and remains:

“We’re in the business of helping people buy books.”

Their brand identity is rooted in helping consumers purchase items better. They’ve done this through creating exceptional customer experiences, decreasing the effort it takes to shop and improving operational efficiency in regards to shipping. All of this happened through the use of data. The Amazon Bookstore is no different.


Even though Amazon is moving the book buying experience back to the traditional brick-and-mortar environment (which they spent the past few decades decomposing), they’re doing so with a different mindset. An exceptional customer experience is still a priority. Walking through the bookshelves, you can see all of the micro-moments Amazon identified to “Wow” their shoppers.

One of the first differences you’ll notice is all of the frontward-facing books. Amazon strategically shelved each book with the front of the cover facing the shopper. Not only does this allow the cover art of each book to be seen, but it helps bookstore wanderers interact with a book beyond simply reading the title on the spine.

Highly specific shelving categories, such as Best Rated Young Adult Fiction of 2014 and “Most Wished for By” are scattered throughout the floor, helping browsers narrow down their search for their next read. Reviews are hung underneath each book with real customer feedback and ratings. This social proof is something we’ve grown to rely on when making purchases. In a way, Amazon reviews transformed the website from an online retailer to the go-to site for shopping research, surpassing Google.

Amazon also thought of ways to integrate the mobile and offline shopping experience. On this same review placard, shoppers can use their smartphones to scan a bar code and review further information about the book. A lot of companies still struggle with blending these experiences together. Start simple.


Using data from their e-commerce website — such as online purchases, customer locations, and online reviews — they’ll be able to stock their shelves with titles Seattleites will love and buy. This will hopefully decrease the amount of books left untouched, as well as operating costs, an area where book retailers usually struggle.

“We’ve applied 20 years of online bookselling experience to build a store that integrates the benefits of offline and online book shopping.” — Jennifer Cast, VP

The iPhone price check scanner app can also offer a lot of insight into what people are interested in, allowing Amazon to refine their inventory. At the same time, this app provides a unique opportunity (which I’m sure Amazon is taking advantage of) for:

  • Customers to quickly add books they're interested in to they’re Amazon Wish List and/or conveniently purchase and download the Kindle versions;
  • Amazon to use this data to hyper-targeted, personalized marketing and retargeting campaigns.

Even with all of this data, Amazon wanted their bookstore to have that humanistic, neighborhood shop atmosphere. As Cast simply puts it, “It’s data with heart.”

People love the act of going to a physical store to shop. We love to experience a product before we pay our hard-earned money for it. We love being able to own physical objects and putting them up for display, as if they help convey our identity. Although digital consumption of music and literature is increasing, millennials still enjoy buying hard copies of these items, especially books.

We like to make a social occasion out of it. Online shopping albeit convenient is comparatively boring. Amazon’s new brick and mortar bookstore provide consumers with the best of both worlds. It combines the data-driven, convenience of online shopping with the humanistic experience of offline shopping.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.