The Times of London reported Sunday that Amazon.com has plans to open a store in London. However, Amazon.com, according to Reuters, says it has no such plans. Of course, one should never let a corporate denial get in the way of a good rumor.
Frankly, there is plenty of precedent for Amazon opening a physical store — and I mean plenty. You may think of Amazon as an “e-commerce” or online merchant, but their business model is straight out of the direct marketing playbook — or, I guess I should say “catalog.” Flashback to 1887 and the first edition of the Sears & Roebuck Catalog. That company grew to dominate an earlier era of “mail order” customer like Amazon does today. It was not until 1925 — almost 40 year after Sears & Roebuck started their mail-order business — that they opened a physical store.
As Amazon.com continues to grow, it will, no doubt need to get closer and closer to its customers. In seven U.S. cities, the store already offers limited same day “local-express delivery”. And for certain zip codes in Seattle, it has a home delivery grocery store service. It has warehousing and fulfillment centers in a couple dozen locations around the world.
So why not take the next step: set up physical stores that work just like the website. When you walk in the door, you are requested to log-in — or in Minority Report fashion, they recognize your retina. Since they already know what everyone in your zipcode purchases — and know what everyone like you has bought, the store will anticipate what you’re interested in purchasing and will have someone greet you at the door to lead you right to the product.
The real-live people in charge of greeting you and making sure your shopping experience is all warm and fuzzy will be from Zappos, of course.
Update: Speaking of the Amazon.com unit, Zappos, the New York Times reports the company is sending out, get this, catalogs on paper. Really, paper. It’s called Zappos Life, which I believe is a clever pun, considering it’s published on paper made from dead trees instead of being available just on a computer that requires electricity from coal-burning power plants. Great quote from Mr. Aaron Magness, director for brand marketing and business development at Zappos.com. “Different people respond to different media.”
So where is my Kindle version?