The Amazon bookstore at The Shops at Columbus Circle in New York City.
Just like its website, Amazon’s New York City bookstore privileges echo-chamber merchandising and the wisdom of the crowd over product discovery.
It’s tailor-made for the modern consumer who hyper-curates their consumption to fit their distinct tastes and sensibilities – from Spotify playlists to Facebook newsfeeds — a luxury today enabled by the magic of digital technology.
The Amazon Time Warner Center store in Manhattan’s Lincoln Center cultural hub is also a nod to how consumers increasingly seek out the opinion of their peers on social networks when buying everything from books and bicycles to bras.
Of course, Amazon helped create that very shopper.
The store is a living, breathing expression of Amazon’s pioneering customer review feature and product recommendation engine, the “if you bought that, you might like this” innovation, which suggests complementary products to shoppers based on their purchase behavior.
The much-copied engine informs the store displays, designed for shoppers accustomed to being served a steady diet of their favorite products.
It’s not Amazon’s first bookstore, of course. That one opened in its Seattle backyard in 2015. But when the nation’s biggest online retailer sets up shop in a city that prides itself on being a literary center of gravity, attention must be paid.
In an ironic twist that can be read as either the evolution or devolution of the nation’s reading habits depending on one’s perspective, the store sits in a spot once home to Borders, which Amazon helped put out of business in 2011, and was once the second largest book merchant in the U.S. Today, Barnes & Noble is the country’s last standing national book chain.
How things have changed. A whopping 41% of all traditionally published print books sold in the U.S. are now bought online, according to Author Earnings, and in 2016, 55% of all trade book purchases in the U.S. were Amazon sales.
And as Barnes & Noble struggles, it wouldn’t be a stretch to posit that just as Amazon continues to silence the sounds of footsteps in bookstores (replaced by the thud of delivery box drop-offs), it has a good shot at shaping what’s left of the storefront book buying experience as it continues to open bookstores.
Crowdsourced Book Buying
The store echoes emerging shopping habits, shifts that become more pronounced as younger consumers gain spending power. (Millennials, for one, have already displaced baby boomers as the nation’s biggest buying group.)
More than half of millennials and their younger Generation Z counterparts use social media to solicit opinions while shopping, and more than 40% have made a buying decision based on feedback from their network, which is made up mostly of their peers, according to a new consumer survey by HRC Retail Advisory.
Echoing that shift, the Amazon store is built around social selling, touting a book’s merit and popularity via data crowdsourced on its site.
Store displays and shelf tags are festooned with customer-review metrics like, “95% of reviewers rated this item 5 stars,” “books with more than 10,000 reviews on Amazon,” and “fewer than 10 reviews as of 5/10/2017" — as if to serve as a warning.