Amazon 4-star Store What Would We Do?

Last year, Amazon 4-star opened its first UK doors at the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent. The 3,500ft store offers around 2,000 products including books, toys, home goods and, naturally, the company’s own array of Kindles, Fire Tablets and Echo Speakers. Essentially, it’s a curated showroom of much-loved, highest-rated, most-wished-for products where the range changes regularly based on reviews and product launches. Sounds like a logical and smart decision for Amazon given its large inventory and expertise… but do we really need it?

Us Whippets headed out there to take a closer look. We were excited to experience a ‘store inspired by its customers.’ Because shoppers seamlessly bounce between physical and digital channels, we couldn’t wait to see how Amazon could piece together the jigsaw to build a truly holistic customer journey.

At first glance, the Amazon 4-star store model has the façade of a customer-first offering, but when we delved deeper, it became apparent that the in-store offer is more of a gimmick than it is a consumer need. While there is lots to love, the space somehow felt peppered with missed opportunities across convenience, enriching data and building on brand affinity. Instead, it’s capitalising further on their name by giving consumer-fandom a tangible space to spend.

What we would like to see more of is elements of convenience that are typically associated with e-commerce. We have a few thoughts on how the Amazon 4-star store could be so much more than a day out at Disneyland.

AMAZON

Give the people what they want… mega-convenience

The business premise has always been centred around instant purchases, ease and same-day delivery. Would you actively seek out an Amazon 4-star store for a need? Not really. It’s experiential but not in an innovative fashion – just yet.

We think convenience has a real role to play in retail, particularly for a brand Like Amazon. If the aim was to provide the convenience and fast-paced benefits of online, integrated with real-life experiences – we aren’t sure it’s hitting the mark. What we would love to see is a store that solves the stresses and brings out the best of both worlds. Here’s how we would bring it to life in this model.

AMAZON

Truly personalised shopper profiles

What we love:

Amazon has an ‘Amazonian’ level of customer data, and whilst this is at the heart of the store concept, we are still left wanting more. Sure, we love that they are offering the things customers love most – the bestsellers and top-trending products, all with reviews and ratings to help you make your purchasing decision. The ‘Trending in Bluewater’ also serves to build a sense of community. Yet the approach still somehow still feels too generalised and lacks personalised focus. What’s more, the biggest problem with buying online is that the customer can be overwhelmed with too much information and the 4-star store runs the risk of bringing that disadvantage into the physical environment.

What we’d love even more:

More personalisation! Bringing the things customers love into focus, by integrating the app even more to complete the personal journey with intuitive, data-rich navigation.

Picture this… push notifications to alert you of items in your Wishlist available in store. Or an integrated ‘in-store experience’ mode (much like the M&S app) where you can find the things you want quicker using the data from saved Wishlists, past purchases, and browsing history; scan the physical products to save for later; read more reviews online; and shop contact-free.

And what if we could take it a step further? With Amazon Fashion also wanting to expand market growth, the 4-star store provides a real opportunity. Clothing hauls, a socially driven trend where people buy in bulk only to send most of their purchases back, makes delivery costs skyrocket and drastically increases a company’s carbon footprint. What about an in-store tailoring service whereby you get your exact clothing and footwear measurements taken, which are then (consensually) uploaded to your shopper profile? When shopping online, clothing sizes could be suggested based on your profile information. It could revolutionise the way we shop online for clothing and give the retail space a definitive and necessary role in the process.

AMAZON

AR product testing

What we love:

The freshness and ever-evolving nature of the products on offer. With rotating daily deals, there are new surprises and discoveries every time you step inside. And there are places to play with and test-drive products. Yet, it still somehow feels expected and unsurprising. From a tech giant, the power of technology has been underutilised when it comes to how the products are experienced.

What we’d love even more:

We know that one of the biggest downsides of online shopping is the notion of ‘expectation versus reality’. We can talk from experience, having once bought a doll’s house office chair by mistake for a newly renovated WFH space… classic Amazon. But what if the concept store could alleviate some of the problems and fears of purchasing online, whilst creating a memorable, shareable experience for their customers?

Picture this… experiential product testing using an Oculus Rift. With travel restrictions firmly in place, camping has made a major comeback. Imagine being able to assess the size of a tent, gazebo or kayak in store. We would no longer have a fingers-crossed approach to online shopping.

But there’s also the opportunity to take the 4-star experience from simply product warehouse to funhouse. We could transport customers from a shop to a world of Amazon possibilities using virtual reality – something they have done with their virtual reality kiosk pop-ups for Prime Day. This would solidify its place as a destination – drawing people in to experience what the brand stands for, not just to experience the products. Sure, it’s a fine line between engaging and gimmicky, but we’re just craving something a whole lot more conceptual from a concept store.  

AMAZON

Inject a people-centric purpose.

What we love:

The store gives Amazon more of a face which it has long been lacking. Instead of chatbots and going on a 2-day expedition to find a contact number to speak to someone, there’s help at hand – real living breathing and knowledgeable people to speak to that offer impeccable service. But giving the organisation a face goes beyond having staff there to assist. It’s about giving it heart, too. And for the most part, Amazon 4-star leaves us feeling a little cold.

What we’d love even more:

Picture this… real people with a platform. A spotlight on the little guys – from small businesses with a demarcated area that features a new local small business each week. These products should be featured on Amazon – they most likely already are – but when sifting through a sea of products, the in-store space offers a moment of consumer clarity. It could allow small businesses the chance to come up for air (much-needed post-pandemic) and use the Amazon in-store model as a promotional platform.

No doubt about it, Amazon is powerful, influential and daring. But they are still learning – aren’t we all. Online and physical retail are different and don’t translate directly, so bringing them together is a journey of experimentation and constant innovation. This is just the start of exciting things to come for the future of retail, and we believe (like Jeff Bezos) the sky is the limit.

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