Where’s the Future of Retail Headed? Look At These 5 New Products & Services From Amazon

Amazon Pop up Store

By Tricia McKinnon

Do you want to know what Amazon’s formula for success is? According to Jeff Bezos himself: If you want to get to the truth about what makes us different, it’s this, we are genuinely customer centric, we are genuinely long term oriented and we genuinely like to invent. Most companies are not those things.– Excerpt from the book, The Everything Store by Brad Stone.

True to form Amazon can’t stop inventing and reinventing itself.  Take a look at five 2019 Amazon product and services launches that show that the future of retail still lies in bricks and mortar retail as well as making shopping as convenient as possible.  

1. Amazon is opening 10 “clicks and mortar” pop up stores in the UK in partnership with Enterprise Nation an organization that supports small businesses.  100 small online businesses are participating in the yearlong pilot that will give each company a presence on the high street in the UK.  It will be the first bricks and mortar presence for the businesses and the retailers will sell a range of products spanning homewares, health and beauty, food and drink as well as electronics. The first pop up store opened in St Mary’s Gate in central Manchester earlier this month. That site also has Amazon lockers where customers can pick up their Amazon orders.  

Speaking about the initiative Amazon has said it is: “a new model to help up-and-coming online brands grow their high street presence.”  Amazon has also said: “the up-and-coming brands have all built successful online businesses and now want to explore physical retail for the first time.”  Amazon will report on the results of the pilot so that the data can be included as an input into the UK government’s “Future High Street Strategy” which focuses on how the high streets in the UK can be modernized.  The high streets in the UK have suffered from retailers such as Marks & Spencer and Debenhams closing locations and retailers such as Toys R Us going out of business.  Each businesses will be open for six to eight weeks.  Amazon will not be taking a commission from any of the sales made during the pilot.

2. This May Amazon launched a new service called Amazon Counter where customers can pick up their Amazon orders from other retailers’ bricks and mortar locations in Europe.  The new service marks one of the few instances of Amazon launching a new service offering for the first time outside of the US. To offer this service Amazon is patterning with clothing, footwear and home goods retailer Next in the UK and with bookstore chain Giunti as well as Fermopoint and SisalPay stores in Italy.  Currently customers can only pick up orders at these locations but Amazon is also working on adding an option for returns.   Europe was likely picked to trial this service due to the popularity of click and collect and a higher penetration of eCommerce sales than in other markets.  This service will add to the more than 2,500 Amazon lockers that are stationed across the UK.  

Speaking about the initiative, Next CEO Simon Wolfson said: “in a tough retail environment, our aim is that Amazon Counter will contribute to the continued relevance and vibrancy of our stores.” Amazon is also looking for more partners in Europe ranging from large retail chains to mom and pop stores.

3. Trying to buy that cute dress you saw on your Instagram feed?  Amazon’s new StyleSnap feature, in its mobile app, which launched in early June of this year will let you do that by uploading a photo.  Called the Shazam of shopping the AI powered tool uses machine learning to provide recommendations for similar items on Amazon.com based on a photo a user uploads. Some of the features that are taken into consideration when the tool is making recommendations for similar merchandise are: brand, price range, and customer reviews.  Speaking about the launch of the new feature Amazon’s Consumer Worldwide CEO Jeff Wilke said: “when a customer uploads an image, we use deep learning for object detection to identify the various apparel items in the image and categorize them into classes like dresses or shirts. We then find the most similar items that are available on Amazon.”

4. In April of this year, a year after Amazon launched Amazon Key for in car delivery of packages, Amazon launched Amazon Key for garage.  The new service allows customers to receive Amazon deliveries directly inside of their garage whether they are at home or not.  While this service may seem intrusive it is less intrusive than other Amazon Key services that allow Amazon to make deliveries inside of unattended homes and carsWith 25% of consumers reporting package delivery theft customers may like this new service.  To use the service customers must be Amazon prime members, have a myQ-compatible garage door opener and Amazon Key which is a camera and lock system that can be operated remotely. Customers can watch an entire in-garage delivery from the time the delivery driver arrives until the package is safely delivered inside of the garage.

5. Amazon now has four Presented by Amazon stores.  These stores are kiosks that are located in four malls across the US. They are a place where customers can, according to Amazon, browse a “themed selection of top brands, frequently updated and presented to you by Amazon.” In the past Amazon had 87 pop up stores located across the US that provided a way for customers to test and buy Amazon devices such as the Kindle and the Echo.  It appears that the assortment sold within these kiosks will be broader than what was sold at those popups.