GDR’s Babette-Scarlett Schossau paid Amazon 4-star in New York’s SoHo a visit to run the rule over the company’s latest incursion into bricks-and-mortar retail.
Amazon’s latest retail concept is a physical manifestation of its website and everything that’s popular and trending. Amazon 4-star is the brand’s first physical location that attempts to match the breadth of sectors on Amazon.com – and like its predecessor The Amazon Bookstore, all stock is inspired by online data. The name of the store, 4-star, is a nod to that fact that all merchandise is either rated 4 stars or above online, or is a top seller, or currently trending product.
The store, located in one of New York’s most vibrant neighbourhoods – SoHo – is already seeing an influx of visitors, and it was packed when I checked it out.
From the bare interior design, to the utilitarian mix of products and curated sections – such as most-wished-for items and Amazon deals of the day – the store feels like a physical replica of the e-commerce giant’s online offering.
Leveraging customer reviews
“Today, the average rating of all the products in Amazon 4-star is 4.4 stars, and collectively, the products in store have earned more than 1.8 million 5-star customer reviews,” Amazon said in a press release introducing the retail store.
Customer reviews are at the heart of the new store, as its name indicates. Walking through it, one will find anonymous customer review cards next to products. The company has said there is a process in place to ensure the legitimacy of reviews, without providing further details about how it does this.
Online to offline curation
Amazon 4-star is divided into a multitude of sections that are highly reminiscent of how products are grouped together on the company’s website. The first section to greet me as I entered was one titled Most-Wished-For, with products ranging from a Harry Potter Lego set to a Levoit air purifier. Left, right and center more groupings enticed me to explore further. One area, called Amazon Launchpad, was dedicated to “today’s brightest start-ups.” Another was more place-specific, displaying top-selling items around NYC, and the items trending around the area.
There is an entertainment section within the Home & Kitchen area (including seasonal products), a Baby Registry, Fiction and Non-fiction, Devices & Electronics, and a section for children divided into pre-, grade, and middle school. One area featured items Frequently Bought Together, and the list goes on. Much like Amazon.com leads customers onto a path of exploration from one item to another, Amazon 4-star invites visitors to explore.
Today’s Deals are displayed on a screen facing the entrance and also have their own separate section. Bringing an online mechanism into the physical store, products from different categories are strategically placed next to each other alongside signs with arrows and the words: “If you like, you’ll love”.
Amazon private label
Despite a plethora of curated sections, the one manufacturer that stands out the most in the space is Amazon itself. Not only is there and AmazonBasics kitchenware area and a Kindle section, but also an Amazon Devices table featuring Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, and so on. Labels next to them encouraged visitors to try out Alexa with suggested phrases such as “Echo, show me the front door.”
A Smart Home Devices area exclusively displays products that work with Alexa, with signage explaining how to go about creating a smart home.
I was surprised to find a large, clunky display of iRobot’s Roomba vaccum cleaners in the vicinity of Amazon private-label products. But it soon became apparent that their “work with Alexa” status was the main selling point.
Convenience at every turn
Amazon’s new retail space is another of the company’s solutions for the city’s last-minute shoppers, and a chance for customers to explore their options while having the actual physical products at hand. Digital price tags with e-ink displays connect to the internet and stay in sync with Amazon’s online prices. The price tags include the price for Prime members and the regular list price, encouraging customers to start a 30-day free Amazon Prime trial upon checkout.
Payment occurs within the Amazon App, where Prime customer can also arrange free shipping if they don’t want to carry their purchases home. As you’d expect from the e-commerce giant, customer satisfaction and convenience are at the forefront of this brick-and-mortar store location. While the physical space allows for visitors to engage with and explore their curated products, it is also a vehicle for the company to push its own private-label products and get more people to subscribe to Prime memberships.