Rumours are circulating that Amazon is about to unveil plans to launch a chain of 300 to 400 physical bookstores (Elgan 2016). But wasn’t the whole idea of Amazon to make the brick-and-mortar bookstore obsolete? And weren’t we meant to evolve as human beings to the more efficient model of ordering everything online?
The brick-and-mortar bookstore is clearly not dying as quickly as anticipated, in fact the American Booksellers Association has reported independent bookstore business growth for the seventh consecutive year. The number of individual independent bookstore locations is now up to 2311 from 1651 in 2009 across the USA (Italie 2016). Independent bookstores are far from a spent force, this YouTube clip even suggests that they are thriving.
What is apparent in this YouTube clip is that these independent bookstores are far from the technologically ignorant booksellers of yesteryear, they keenly embrace Apps, eReaders and book printing machines but also leverage off the personal customer interaction and look to deeply engage the community through book clubs and author events.
I think it really highlights how the businesses that have survived and thrived in this challenging environment are those that have adopted an integrated approach to their channel management. A lot of corporations have embraced a multi-channel strategy and so will look to maximise the performance of each separate channel, internet and in-store, putting channels into ‘swim lanes’ and setting goals for each channel (Pophal 2015).
However an omni-channel approach is a better approach because it acknowledges that the customer could switch between channels and even use them simultaneously in making a purchase decision (Pophal 2015). In fact omni-channel management broadens its scope of channels to include all customer touchpoints (Verhoef et al 2015).
It is sometimes a significant shift for a corporation to see customer touchpoints such as social media as distribution channels and not just belonging to the ‘promotion’ department. However, to an independent bookstore, it is intuitive because decision makers are closer to the customer and the guy who does the promotion also does the distribution and can therefore easily create consistency across all customer touchpoints or channels (Verhoef et al. 2015).
How can a large corporation successfully implement an omni-channel strategy? Blurberry is a great example. The aim of the Blurberry flagship store in London is to “seamlessly blur the physical and digital worlds” and at the core of this idea is the use of art and entertainment to enhance the Burberry brand experience across all channels.
This example highlights that we can not afford to look at brick-and-mortar the way we may have in the past. The practice of showrooming where customers search for information in the store and then buy online or webrooming where shoppers seek information online and then buy in store are not behaviours to be discouraged but rather facilitated. Brick-and-mortar channels when integrated with other channels are unique in their ability to build the brand because they don’t just sell to the tactile inclined buyers but they introduce customers to a community of other brand enthusiasts (Verhoef et al. 2015).
So now back to Amazon. The plans for 300 to 400 physical stores are unconfirmed but in November Amazon opened a bookstore in Seattle so we can certainly look at this as a model of what might be to come. Amazon have specifically described the store as ‘a physical extension of Amazon.com’ and they actively facilitate showrooming and webrooming (Streitfeld 2015).
One clear example of omni-channel management in practice here is that Amazon will charge the same prices in store as they do online in fact because prices change regularly customers are encouraged to scan in store on a mobile app to check prices (Wingfield 2016). If Amazon can continue with this seamless retail experience across in-store and mobile devices removing barriers and providing value to customers at each and every customer touchpoint there is every chance that they will be just as successful in Brick-and-mortar as they have been online.
Posted by Daniel Joy (dmjoy) 215138594
Eglan, M 2016, ‘This is why Amazon will open physical bookstores’, Computer World, 8 February, retrieved 14 May 2016, http://www.computerworld.com/article/3030321/e-commerce/this-is-why-amazon-will-open-physical-bookstores.html
Italie, H 2016, ‘Independent bookstore business grows for 7th straight year’. Boston Globe, 9 May, retrieved 14 May 2016, https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/05/09/indie-bookstore-business-grows-for-straight-year/LrfBz2rUdu9AM0WQV7FynL/story.html
Pophal, L 2015, ‘Multichannel vs Omnichannel Marketing: Is There a Difference and What Does It Mean to You’, EContent, March, retrieved 14 May 2016, Deakin University Library Search, EBSCOhost.
Streitfeld, D 2015, ‘Amazon Adds New Peaks for Workers and Opens a Bookstore’, NY Times, 2 November, retrieved 14 May 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/technology/amazon-adds-new-perks-for-workers-and-opens-a-bookstore.html
Verhoef, PC, Kannan PK, Inaman JJ 2015, ‘From Multi-Channel Retailing to Omni-Channel Retailing Introduction to the Special Issue on Multi-Channel Retailing’, Journal of Retailing, vol. 91, Issue. 2, pp. 174-181, retrieved 14 May 2016, Science Direct.
Wingfield, N 2016, ‘Amazon is Said to Be Planning an Expansion Into Retail Bookstores’, The New York Times, 2 February, retrieved 14 May 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/03/technology/amazon-is-said-to-be-planning-an-expansion-into-retail-bookstores.html?_r=0