For years, retailers have been haunted by the thought of Amazon using its technological prowess to squeeze them into powder. That battle has mostly played out on Amazon’s home turf, the world of online shopping.
If those experiments work — and there is no guarantee of that — they could have a profound influence on how other stores operate. Over time, they could also introduce new forms of automation, putting traditional retail jobs in jeopardy. At the same time, locating those stores close to customers’ homes could also help Amazon further its ambitions of delivering internet orders within hours.
The company is exploring the idea of creating stores to sell furniture and home appliances, like refrigerators — the kinds of products that shoppers are reluctant to buy over the internet sight unseen
These would not be your average Home Depots: Amazon has considered using forms of augmented or virtual reality to allow people to see how couches, stoves and credenzas will look in their homes,
Amazon is also kicking around an electronics-store concept similar to Apple’s retail emporiums, according to two of the people familiar with the discussions. These shops would have a heavy emphasis on Amazon devices and services such as the company’s Echo smart home speaker and Prime Video streaming service.
And in groceries — a giant category in which Amazon has struggled — the company has opened a convenience store that does not need cashiers, and it is close to opening two stores where drivers can quickly pick up groceries without leaving their cars, all in Seattle. It has explored another grocery store concept that could serve walk-in customers and act as a hub for home deliveries.
Overseas, Amazon is quietly targeting India for new brick-and-mortar grocery stores. It is a vast market, and one still largely dominated by traditional street bazaars where shoppers must wander from stall to stall haggling over prices and deliberating over unrefrigerated meat sitting in the dusty open air. Amazon’s internal code name for its India grocery ambitions: Project Everest.
Last week, Amazon opened its fifth physical book store in Chicago, and it has five more announced locations under construction.
It is possible that some of the store ideas will never see the light of day.
“We are always thinking about new ways to serve customers, but thinking is different than planning,”
One big desire many customers have is that they want to see fresh fruits, vegetables and meat in person before buying them. The relatively high cost of home delivery — Amazon charges $15 a month for its Fresh service, on top of a $99 annual Prime membership — is another barrier.
Online grocery delivery accounts for only about 3 percent of the market in the United States, though it is closer to 10 percent in Britain
Joe Thompson, a former general manager in Amazon’s retail business, sees physical retail as key to Mr. Bezos’s outsize ambitions for the company. "I can’t help but feel that, in Bezos’s mind, he wants to be the first trillion-dollar valuation company,” said Mr. Thompson, who is now an executive at BuildDirect, an online home improvement store. To do that, he said, Amazon would have to “crack” a couple of “completely underpenetrated markets online.”
Amazon’s current market value is bobbing around $400 billion.
A growing number of established grocery retailers are experimenting with this “click and collect” approach to shopping, including Walmart, Kroger and others.
the company has been developing technology for automatically detecting when a customer pulls into the parking lot so orders can be brought to them more quickly.
A few miles away from its other Seattle stores, on the ground floor of one of its many office towers in the city, the company is testing Amazon Go, a convenience store concept stocked with beverages, sandwiches and prepared meals, which are put together by chefs in a kitchen that is visible from the street.
“Amazon is wonderful at frictionless commerce,”
“I’ve probably been in 30 boardrooms of retailers in the past year,” Mr. Galloway said. “I would say the No. 1 topic of conversation is Amazon.”
India could represent another big market for Amazon in physical retail. The company, which has vowed to spend billions of dollars on its efforts in the world’s second-most populous country, recently sought approval from the Indian government to open online and physical food stores in the country, The Economic Times reported in February.
“What appears to be clear is they haven’t yet zeroed in on a format they’re willing to massively scale,” he said. “This is a company that the moment it figures out something that works, it puts nuclear energy behind it.”