Amazon expands to brick-and-mortar for omnichannel engagement


By: Kalli Ricka Wolf

How could Amazon, the e-commerce retail king, possibly top itself? By opening a brick-and-mortar store, meeting the needs of its customers, and integrating virtual and physical retailing. Before the store opening, skeptics weren’t sure if the online giant would do well in a physical space. But in an age where consumers multitask and expect instant gratification, omnichannel retailing reigns supreme.

Amazon Books, Amazon’s first brick-and-mortar store, opened its premiere location in Seattle last fall and is preparing to open a second location in San Diego this summer. The physical store has managed to squash any doubts that consumers prefer to shop online. This blending of physical and digital commerce has moved Amazon into an entirely new marketplace, strengthening awareness and loyalty by meeting customers’ dynamic shopping needs. Today’s consumers—especially millennials, who are predicted to spend $1.4 trillion annually by 2020 and represent 30 percent of retail sales —expect a lot from the brands that are vying for their attention. That’s because this generation of well-informed consumers seek information across a variety of channels and are constantly looking for ways to integrate platforms and simplify their lives.

Spiegel Research has demonstrated the consumer effect of omnichannel purchasing through the Consumer Engagement Engine. This new marketing framework portrays consumer engagement actions at various touchpoints. The Engine is designed with multiple “gears” that work together to strengthen loyalty and increase purchasing.

Amazon’s omnichannel presence reflects several of these “gears,” including “Purchase Behaviors” that activate when satisfied customers are encouraged to share their experience online and “Brand Dialogue Behaviors,” which invite customers to experience, share, and create content related to the brand. Working together, these “gears” demonstrate Amazon’s ability to connect the dots for customers along all paths to purchase.

Amazon takes integration to the next level by providing in-store services that connect consumers to the Amazon they know and love. The seamless connection to Amazon accounts with the swipe of a credit card and the trusty online reviews displayed in-store have truly integrated digital and physical commerce. Amazon even displays books face-out on shelves, so shoppers can have a more visual experience similar to shopping online. In-store customers can also match prices that adjust with online listings, building trust and raising brand loyalty.

“From what I saw — and purchased — on my recent visit, Amazon has nailed what it takes to have a successful retail store in an e-commerce world,” said Frank Catalano, a writer for GeekWire

In his visit review of Amazon Books, Catalano is pleasantly surprised to find the store is charming with a wood interior, cozy with seats by windows, and a big hit with families who visit the large children’s section.

Customers can connect with their accounts for easy checkout, find recommendations, and read online customer reviews in-store. At the intersection of social media and commerce shoppers not only utilize multiple platforms, but also share their own feedback while seeking the feedback of others. These “Purchase Behaviors,” as defined by the Spiegel Consumer Engagement Engine, keep the consumer engaged at all brand touchpoints.

Amazon Books also displays their other products in-store, like Amazon Basics electronics. Historically, Amazon has utilized a single online channel, which did not allow consumers to experience product testing firsthand. Now, with a combination of brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, Amazon shoppers can physically try out a new product, make a satisfied purchase decision either online or in-store, and go on to share their experience with others via social media and reviews. The “gears” of Spiegel’s Consumer Engagement Engine continue to run, Amazon continues to thrive, and omnichannel has proven itself a serious retail contender.