Amazon Books is better than Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble

Discussion
Feb 19, 2016
Tom Ryan

Amazon Books, Amazon’s only physical store that opened in November, fares favorably not only compared to large bookstore chains but to Amazon.com, according to a study by secret shoppers.

The study involved 10 Seattle agents from Field Agent, a market researcher. Asked where they would rather shop for/buy books, 70 percent chose Amazon Books over specialty bookstore chains (i.e., Barnes & Noble) and 60 percent chose Amazon Books over Amazon.com as well as other online options.

Some of the prototype’s strengths and weaknesses were revealed in the study as well as in Yelp reviews:

Low Prices: Yelp reviewers enjoyed the confidence of knowing they were getting Amazon.com’s low prices.

Instant gratification: Taking home purchases immediately ranked as a big advantage over Amazon.com.

Browsing: Browsing is made easier by front-facing books and walls and tables smartly categorized by themes.

Size: The 7,500-square-foot store offers a curated selection of bestsellers and widely recommended books. On the downside, size limits the selection versus both Amazon.com and large chains. Size also hampers the concept’s ability to offer coffee, provide adequate seating for reading and space for storytelling, book signing events, etc.

Information/reviews: The store earned praise versus larger book chains for carrying only highly reviewed books on Amazon.com as well as displaying review ratings on displays. Underneath each book is a tag where shoppers can read a short customer review with encouragement to read more through the Amazon app. These ranked much lower compared to Amazon.com’s depth of information and reviews.

Scanners: Some were frustrated by the lack of prices on books. Shoppers must scan the item’s barcode with the Amazon app or carry the book to a scan station. A few understood this allows prices to be variable and match Amazon.com pricing.

No cash: The inability to pay with cash proved an annoyance to a few. Some appreciated that using a credit card links all purchases to their Amazon.com account.

Gadget trial: Yelp reviewers appreciated being able try Fire TV, Kindle and Echo in a section located at the center of the store.

Photo: Amazon

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Are you surprised that so many prefer Amazon Books to shopping on Amazon.com or in a Barnes & Noble store? What lessons can retailers take from Amazon Books and apply to their existing stores as well as new concepts?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Only four said they preferred the Amazon store over independent booksellers. Did anyone ask them to compare with the local public libraries (Seattle and King County have probably the best in America)?"
"So, they built a good store. So? It’s nothing any smart book retailer couldn’t do, really. Why do we have to wait for Amazon or Apple to do something before it gets done "right?""
"Not surprised by this field report, considering the 10 mystery shoppers were from the Seattle area and 60% were ages 25-34, a demographic with a high number of Amazon Prime customers."

Join the Discussion!

21 Comments on "Amazon Books is better than Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Gib Bassett
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

I’m not surprised at all. They are taking the best attributes of their online experience and translating that to a physical context. I’m sure the data and information history they have on customers helps a lot here too. That would include understanding really well how customers like to buy books. I’m sure they will translate this into other categories sooner than later. Other retailers should look closely at how their customers like to buy within certain categories and figure out how to enhance those particular experiences. Examining whatever data they have on their customers is a good place to start and then explore testing concepts a lot like what Amazon seems to be doing.

Max Goldberg
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

I have trouble with a study sample size of 10 people. The same goes for the Yelp reviews. Let’s see how the Amazon store fares over time and its sales numbers before drawing conclusions or discerning trends.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

After seeing the list of strengths and weaknesses I am not surprised. Amazon has found a way to create a positive in-store experience. A large selection along with the ability to browse and read consumer reviews is a great advantage. While the selection is great online, the browsing experience is still more satisfying when you can see the physical choices. In addition, consumer reviews are easily available.

Other retailers need to not do what Amazon does, but to figure out a way to enhance the shopping experience in their stores.

J. Kent Smith
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

One word: Irony.

Shep Hyken
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

How can anyone be surprised? It’s Amazon! They test and test. This may work. I love that they are truly integrating the onsite with the online. Any purchase connects to your Amazon.com account. And encouraging the use of the app as part of the main shopping experience is brilliant. It’s not an option. It’s the best way to shop. Check prices, get reviews and comments and more with the app once you scan the book. This brings onsite and online closer together than just about any other retailer.

James Tenser
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Lots of sampling bias here, since Field Agent participants are already innovation-oriented. Also I HATE that they express the results from a sample of 10 individuals in quantitative (percentage) format. Doesn’t anybody at Field Agent understand the principles of statistics?

At least the comments on Yelp! represent qualitative sentiments and description that could be useful to a prospective visitor.

So seven agents from Field Agent said they liked Amazon Books as the preferred option over Barnes & Noble. Meanwhile only four said they preferred the Amazon store over independent booksellers. Did anyone ask them to compare with the local public libraries (Seattle and King County have probably the best in America)?

I was nearly done with this, until I almost fell down laughing when I read the verbatim comment from one of the agents who said, “You cannot overstate the value of discovering a new book by touching and leafing through the pages.” Holy s#!%, have you never visited a store before? If not, how can you possibly be qualified to render an opinion on this one?

Ben Ball
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

So, they built a good store. So? It’s nothing any smart book retailer couldn’t do, really. Why do we have to wait for Amazon or Apple to do something before it gets done “right?” (Or more accurately, done well/better.)

I truly wonder if this limited (Amen to Max!) research doesn’t suffer from a “Hawthorne Effect”, i.e.:

  • Amazon is better;
  • Amazon did retail;
  • therefore, Amazon retail is better.

Don’t get me wrong — I’m a huge Amazon fan and predicted that they would be the most disruptive grocery retailer of 2016 in the RetailWire poll. But this is nuts.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Friends, this is Amazon we are talking about. Of course they are going to test and soon come up with the correct profile and footprint to move forward with. My concern is that this is a test of one location and 10 people. Not exactly a study to gather much significant data, is it?

Kai Clarke
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

This is a disjointed perspective. The real question here should be how many people would buy books in the bookstore instead of purchasing them online. Amazon’s online success has already addressed this issue — and it is very clear….

Doug Garnett
Guest
Doug Garnett
3 years 3 months ago

Not really surprising to see this result. The analysis work was done among those who had chosen to shop there. That makes them self-selected to prefer the Amazon store on average. (This is an exaggeration. But this work looks a bit like standing outside a US stadium after a soccer game and deciding that the majority of Americans prefer soccer to American football. Not exactly reliable.)

What would be more interesting would be a broader population survey including those who have shopped there and rejected it.

Lee Peterson
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Let’s face it, retailers with stores are not innovative. And besides that, they move really slow even when they are. I’ve felt all along that Amazon opened this book store to say to Barnes & Noble, “Hey, THIS is how you do a store for today’s customer.” Someone at B&N should send Bezos a thank you note.

I also don’t think, despite rumors, that Amazon will open an army of physical stores — they’re just not that dumb.

Peter Charness
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Localizing assortments and putting out a curated collection that meets the customer needs. what a surprise — not.

Vahe Katros
Guest
Vahe Katros
3 years 3 months ago
I recently visited a showroom concept store and was reminded of how valuable it is to go and see and feel a store for yourself … and of the wisdom of Les Wexner and “walking the mall.” My guess is that a store visit is on every retailer’s plan if they are in this area, so here are some thoughts to plan your visit — but let me warn you that planning this trip might be costly and there are experts who know how to really do this. I’m not that expert, so I am violating some rules of engagement here. Visit early and be a true observer (send your most intuitive and empathetic) and leverage Amazon’s kind gesture to allow us to visit their home. There is a vibe to new stores, so be sensitive to the inflated enthusiasm by early adopter visitors who “predicted this for years.” Visitors will be curious as they try to make sense of something new and that will yield some interesting signals. Unlikely future shoppers (hard core book buyers?)… Read more »
Karen S. Herman
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Not suprised by this field report, considering the 10 mystery shoppers were from the Seattle area and 60% were ages 25-34, a demographic with a high number of Amazon Prime customers.

I see this store as a novelty for customers that are helping to shape the future concept store of Amazon through their feedback, purchases and in-store browsing habits.

It is too early for take-aways.

Ken Morris
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

It is no surprise to any retailer that the store adds a dimension to the shopping experience that transcends a 2 dimensional web transaction. The store is theater and as such affords an organization the opportunity to appeal to all 5 senses to increase the pleasure of an in-store experience.

I believe it is important to take cash … you never want to dictate payment method if you can avoid it. I assume Amazon is offering an endless aisle concept given the limited selection at this pilot location but I’m not sure from what I know.

I believe Amazon will roll-out the concept and increase the product types beyond the book category.

I guess it’s back to the future … again!

Arie Shpanya
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Amazon Books is providing a truly omnichannel experience, combining the best of online and brick and mortar. Shoppers are able to experience products and get Amazon’s (generally) low prices — what’s not to love?

This should reinforce the fact that shoppers want it all and prefer retailers that provide it. Amazon aims to be the most customer-centric company and other retailers that also make this a priority will see the results.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Okay, this is Field Agent’s semi-professional shoppers — 10 of them! Other than their preferences — or not — there’s not much to be learned here beyond earlier RetailWire discussions. To review:

1. Since every book is highly rated/reviewed, other than the “curation” common to all stores, there is nothing here “paralleling the unparalleled selling” Amazon does online. See: “Selling Like Amazon… in Bricks & Mortar Stores!

2. The center of the store is a helpful focus on Amazon technology, but a faint shadow of an Apple store.

3. The kids books section rates highly in my book.

As I have noted before, representing the Amazon BRAND in major metro areas could be of significant brand value. And introducing kids early to Amazon books is a positive — whether of much direct business value or not.

W.R.
Guest
W.R. "Russ" McAfee
3 years 3 months ago

Attention all brick and mortar publishers and book sellers: Amazon has something you might want to look at. Knock-Knock. Helllooo. Anyone home?

Kris Kelvin
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Um, that’s what physical bookstores are like. Have these 10 “field agents” never set foot in one, prior to this “study”?

I’m genuinely baffled by the enthusiasm expressed both in the article, and in many of the comments.

Shilpa Rao
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Everyone likes the experience of visiting a store, experiencing the books, and maybe chatting person to person with other book lovers and helpers in the store. Nothing can take over instant gratification of taking your buy home, and knowing it’s the best price tops it all. It’s the experiencing of discovering books that draws customer to the store. Brand name, curated selection and best prices drives the customer through the door.

Chris Weigand
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

I’m intrigued by the reader reviews, as we’ve discussed this at length for other products at retail. But confused by the last sentence in that section “These ranked much lower compared to Amazon.com’s depth of information and reviews.” What ranks lower? Did the printed out reviews work or not work?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Only four said they preferred the Amazon store over independent booksellers. Did anyone ask them to compare with the local public libraries (Seattle and King County have probably the best in America)?"
"So, they built a good store. So? It’s nothing any smart book retailer couldn’t do, really. Why do we have to wait for Amazon or Apple to do something before it gets done "right?""
"Not surprised by this field report, considering the 10 mystery shoppers were from the Seattle area and 60% were ages 25-34, a demographic with a high number of Amazon Prime customers."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is it that other retailers will emulate what Amazon Books is doing and apply it to existing stores and new concepts?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...