Amazon Aims to Conquer New Markets with Physical Stores

March 27, 2017 - 4 minutes read

Last week, one of Amazon Prime Air’s drones dropped off a small box of sunscreen at an exclusive robotics conference in Palm Springs. The package was small, but the shipment itself was huge: it was the company’s first public drone delivery on U.S. soil. We are now well on our way to a future where a New York City iPhone app developer can place an emergency order on Amazon and have a drone setting it down on his doorstep in half an hour. But empire-minded Amazon isn’t just interested in new ways of bringing the product to the consumer; the shopping behemoth is now exploring new avenues to bring the consumer to the product with a variety of innovative brick-and-mortar concepts.

Anonymous sources recently dished to the New York Times about some of Amazon’s big ideas for physical stores. As mobile app developers in San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston already know, the online retailer, who has long been an existential threat to both mom-and-pop and corporate bookshops, now has five meatspace bookstores of its own, with five more opening soon. But the scope of its ambitions extends well beyond books, as it always has. The company is looking into creating an electronics store comparable to the Apple Store, but with Amazon’s own devices prominently featured. It is also interested in opening furniture and home appliance stores that would incorporate AR tech so that customers could test how the furniture they are checking out would look in their homes before buying it.

For Amazon, the main draw of cracking into the furniture and large home appliance game is that consumers still hesitate to make those sorts of purchases online. The same problem applies to groceries. Only 3% of all grocery purchases in the U.S. are made online, making it the largest untapped market for Amazon. While AmazonFresh has made some strides over the past decade, the company now seems to be putting its hopes in reinventing the physical grocery store. Two “click and collect” grocery stores, rumored to be called AmazonFresh Pickup, are opening soon in Seattle. The company is also testing its cashier-less convenience store called Amazon Go in its home city, where a hungry on-the-go mobile app developer could swing by, grab a snack, and walk out without having to stop to pay. But Amazon’s biggest ambition (internal nickname: Project Everest) is breaking into the food market in India, which is still dominated by old-school street vendors. The retailer is already in talks with the Indian government and has pledged to put billions of dollars in the project — billions that will easily pay off if the company becomes the major grocer to a nation of 1.2 billion people.

Whether or not its current store concepts take off, Amazon always has a deep bench of ideas on hand that they can throw at the wall until something sticks. Its seems as if the company is not just content to be the ultimate one-stop shop — it wants to be the one one-stop shop.

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