Amazon opens an upscale version of the old five and dime in New York — what's the real goal?

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In yet another foray into the brick-and-mortar world, Amazon opened a general merchandise store in New York City on Thursday, offering mostly new and trending items on the company’s website, items which have four or five star reviews or which are top sellers.

“We’re always looking for more ways to engage our customers. A lot of customers like to shop online, but they also like to shop in stores,” said Cameron Janes, Amazon’s vice president for physical retail. 

The Amazon 4-star store will sell consumer electronics, kitchen, home, toys, books, and games, among other items. 

To leverage Amazon’s deep knowledge of what Americans want, peppered throughout the store will be “Most-Wished-For” displays showing collections of products that are most frequently added to Amazon.com Wish Lists. There will also be a “Trending Around NYC” section.

Perhaps most importantly, the store will also sell Amazon devices that run its smart assistant Alexa, as well as accessories that work with Alexa.

It’s located in New York’s SoHo district. Items will feature two prices, the list price for regular buyers and the Amazon.com online price for those with Amazon Prime accounts. 

The price difference varies by product. For some, it might be as high as 40 percent or as low as 5 percent, for some the products will be the same price, Janes said.

The one thing customers can’t do is buy in the store and have the product delivered to their homes, at least through the Amazon employees there. But they’re welcome to buy them on their phones and then have them shipped.

“We’re really agnostic about how a customer gets the product,” said Janes. “Our real goal is to help customers to find product how they buy them is up to them.”

The store joins Amazon’s two other physical stores in New York City, both bookstores. One is near the Empire State Building, and the other is by Columbus Circle. 

It’s part of a larger collection of physical stores that the once solely e-commerce company now runs nationwide. They include 17 Amazon bookstores nationwide, four Amazon Go cashier-free convenience stores, two Amazon Fresh grocery pickup and store sites, dozens of Amazon Pop-Up stores in malls and more than 470 Whole Foods grocery stores.

More: Tour: the Amazon store with no cashiers

All offer Amazon a way to introduce a non-online audience to its offerings and to give even current customers a chance to experience Alexa and the constantly multiplying array of devices the digital assistant is available on.

The 4-star store will help expose more customers to digital assistants and the products that can run it, said Janes. Customers will be able to talk to Alexa, turn on lights and fans, lock and unlock doors.

“Alexa and smart home products are something new in the world. Being able to play with these and see them is great,” he said.

With voice-command believed to be an important part of the future of online sales, Amazon is pushing hard to get customers into its ecosystem early in the hopes that they’ll stay true to Alexa as the technology develops.

 

 

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