Amazon pop-up blurs online, offline retail lines

Amazon opening a fashion pop-up in London’s Baker Street last month told us a lot about the future of retail.
14 November 2018

Amazon Fashion Hosts Pop Up Shop Live, Baker Street, London. Source: Twitter/@MMXRetail

The online titan’s temporary brick-and-mortar play, which showcased a different curation of men’s and women’s fashion items and top brands every other day, drew in the crowds.

It did so with a mix of in-store events creating a buzz, the exploration of new product verticals, fast-changing merchandise on the shelves and by blurring the boundaries between online and physical retail.

Clearly, the scope for experimentation in a pop-up shop is wider than in most retailers’ existing estates, but it should at least serve as industry inspiration.

This energy and attention to the experiential side of retailing that modern consumers (aka the Instagram generation) crave was layered into the shop, notes Branwell Moffat, Director of Commerce Consulting at Envoy Digital.

There was the Pepe Jeans denim customization expo on the inaugural night, followed later in the week by other brand collaborations, DJ and live band performances, and a panel discussion hosted by Vogue beauty and lifestyle director, Jessica Diner.

Getting consumers into stores through the use of great content and events— the sort of material that can also be well repositioned online— is a skill that many retailers are looking to refine. It resonates with people, and it gives shoppers things to talk about and a connection with the businesses offering it.

Tapping technology

Not forgetting its e-commerce and technology platform roots, Amazon enabled customers to purchase products in-store or virtually using its SmileCode scanning technology via the Amazon mobile app.

Amazon Fire tablets displayed the entire curated range for the week, even though the whole range wasn’t there ‘in the flesh’ at any one time. This link between the online and the physical, and the provision of an ‘endless aisle’, is something many retailers are adopting.

Never standing still

It hasn’t been a fashion retailer for very long but is incredibly confident in its positioning within the space— and it’s already one of the world’s largest fashion sellers. For years there, it had no physical presence, aside from its huge warehouses scattered around the globe, but now it’s getting out into communities with its Whole Foods ownership, Amazon Go stores, and pop-ups.

Add in the decision to keep shuffling its product range at the temporary store, and you see how it’s captured the zeitgeist in terms of consumers always looking for the new and the undiscovered.

It is not fair to compare the company’s ability to launch new products and offer fresh services to customers with what seems like relative ease and a never-ending budget with traditional retail. It is, fundamentally, a technology outfit that happens to sell things after all— and that doesn’t make for a fair match-up.

But that’s not to say retailers can’t look to emulate what the Seattle-based behemoth does in certain areas, or at least use what it is doing as inspiration to improve their own customer propositions.

Combining the different sales channels and ensuring there is a natural free-flowing journey between what is offered in a store and online in terms of brand experience, range, and service capability is the secret to retailers bringing customers with them in this new digitally-enabled age. Getting the right infrastructure in place should begin now, if it hasn’t already.