Even the king of the online shopping world needs a physical retail presence

Even the king of the online shopping world needs a physical retail presence. The brand new Amazon 4-star debuted last week in New York. It’s another in a succession of firsts I think is now completely synonymous (read expected) with the brand. Clearly, Amazon feels it must have some level of physical contact with consumers, which is completely consistent with the notion of sensory branding. As humans, we all need touchy-feely to tick the authenticity box.

So how does Amazon 4-star work? Quite simply, it is an outlet for products that are (customer) rated 4 stars and above on Amazon.com. Staff curate items from the top selling categories, customer reviews and pre-orders – as well as from the most popular items making it onto wish-lists, which then make their way to the store’s shelves. Expect only top sellers to be there – which does not necessarily mean highest price. Popular coffee mugs, for instance.

This little tidbit of information may surprise you: in the areas where Amazon is putting up its retail outlets – like Amazon Go and its Pick-Up locations – online sales have increased as well. Reason: brand awareness is piqued. Arguably the best of all possible worlds.  

Yet the concept of Amazon 4-star is not entirely original. Several years ago in Japan (where else?), I came across “Ranking RanQueen”. These are self-standing outlets of the very popular Tokyu Department Store, which aggregates its monthly sales by popularity from all its stores, then puts the best sellers on sale at the Ranking RanQueen stores. Which means that every month shoppers will gravitate towards their closest shop to see what’s new and trending in the pop, fashion, and electronics departments. A lot of fun yes, but also culturally in line with Japan’s leadership role in retail innovation.

Back to Amazon 4-Star. If you’re intrigued, as I was, about the difference in price between the online item and its retail store counterpart, the answer is there is none. They cost the same. But if the price should drop online as it often does, you’ll pay the cheaper price at the register.  

Why bother going to the store when you can purchase online? As George Mallory replied when asked about why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there”.

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