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Could Amazon be planning a retail store? As far as unsubstantiated rumors go, this qualifies as “Very Interesting.”

From Reuters: “Kindle-wielding Amazon dips toes into physical world” —

“ Inc is dipping its toes into the physical world as the largest online retailer offers more products in stores that may benefit from hands-on interaction with shoppers.

Analysts said the move may be inspired by the success of Apple Inc, which has hundreds of its own glitzy stores to show off iPhones, iPads and other gadgets and accessories.

Amazon also plans to open a physical store in its home town of Seattle in coming months to showcase and sell its growing line of gadgets, including the Kindle Fire tablet, industry blog Good E-Reader reported this weekend.”

An approach combining what’s worked well for Apple and Barnes & Noble at their retail locations could make good sense for a number of reasons. Speculation? There’s plenty of that, too. From Mediabistro: “Will Amazon Launch Bricks-and-Mortar Stores?

“Why would it make sense to open a physical store to sell digital items? Perhaps to compete with Barnes & Noble’s Nook business, which is known to have better customer service than Amazon because of in-store offerings.

Perhaps it will simply be a showroom to sell items that will later be delivered. imagines such a scenario: “There wouldn’t have to be any inventory, you would simply play with the stuff, talk to a professional and swipe your Amazon Prime credit card (or Amazon phone) and have it at your house in the next 24 to 48 hours.”

CNET (“Can Amazon replicate Apple’s brick-and-mortar success?”) surmises that this could be more of a “small experiment” as opposed to a “big leap.” At least, for now. It’s still a giant leap to go from the online retailing business, which Amazon has perfected about as well as anyone, to the physical retail dimension. But then again, many wondered about Apple Stores about ten years ago, and they seem to be doing OK —

“Amazon at your local mall?
While Amazon won’t confirm or deny any of these rumors, it is worth taking a moment to consider whether it would be a good idea for Amazon to open its own physical stores.

A lot of people think it would. Some say it would be a good way for Amazon to deepen its relationship with customers and also provide both hands-on demos and customer service, much like Apple and Barnes & Noble are doing in their stores.”

A great deal of’s success comes from the user experience (think: “1-Click Ordering” and recommendation algorithms). How the shopping experience at a physical, bricks and mortar Amazon store might look like is a topic that TIME (“The Amazon Store of My Dreams”) discusses. And what kind of store could it be? A bookstore? A Kindle and consumer electronics store?

“I also understand why Amazon itself might like the idea of such an establishment. Lots of people will order a Kindle over the web, sight unseen, but some folks would prefer to try one in person. And while Kindles are available at a bevy of retailers these days–everywhere from RadioShack to airport shops–Amazon has little or no control over the quality of the salesmanship provided by its retail partners. None of them offer an Apple Store-level shopping experience. Or, really, anything as pleasant as Amazon’s own website.

But how should Amazon translate its (mostly) wonderful online experience into a retail environment?”


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I run the ThinkLab at the University of Cambridge, and research digital habits, productivity, and wellbeing.

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