Amazon Clicks & Mortar: Marketing stunt or a sign of things to come?
Should retail be worried about Amazon making serious moves into bricks and mortar? BLACKBX CEO Patrick Clover takes a look
This summer, Amazon opened a new pop up ‘Clicks & Mortar’ store in Edinburgh – the city I call home. Seeing the Amazon brand plastered around Waverly Mall shopping centre alongside the likes of Superdry and New Look was slightly surreal, but it didn’t feel like an anomaly either. No, it feels like the beginning of something much bigger. Nine more Amazon pop up stores will be popping up in the UK this year, while its purchase of Wholefoods and vision for a checkout-less future send out a strong message to the market. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Amazon seeks to conquer the high street in the same manner it has ecommerce.
I worry for the high street stalwarts, who are having a tough enough time as it is, but it’s hard not to admire the way in which Amazon has gone about its bricks & mortar debut in Edinburgh. The company also offers a few pointers as to how traditional retailers can act now to beat them at their own game utilising data and technology.
It’s no accident that Clicks & Mortar launched during the Edinburgh Fringe, when the city’s population virtually doubles overnight. For four weeks every year, Edinburgh is heaving with young, influential and cash rich potential customers. This is any marketer’s dream scenario and Amazon understands the value of good marketing better than most.
Events like this are also a great way for Amazon to win hearts and minds on the high street, claiming to be supporting budding online retailers. It’s a good message but I’m extremely cynical of the notion that Amazon is helping anyone other than Amazon. I’m sure I’m not alone in that POV. Amazon is no friend of the British high street and never will be. I believe that one of the main purposes of these pop up stores is to distract from the negative headlines that have always surrounded the business. Be it Amazon’s employment policies, tax record or its impact on the high street.
It’s a shame these stores are much more than just a marketing stunt, however. Data has always been at the heart of Amazon’s business model and these stores are a great trial for what works and what sells on the high street market vs online.
Amazon has its sights set on bricks & mortar retail, and now is the time for retailers to respond before it’s too late.
Time to act
Think about how traditional UK retailers reacted to the emergence of ecommerce. They were dismissive, they were defensive, they were reactive rather than proactive, and they were painstakingly slow. Retailers can’t afford to make the same mistakes again if they want to thwart Amazon’s high street domination. They must act now and act fast. They must fight data with data. Combat technology with technology.
Ultimately UK stores need better digital tools to compete with the likes of Amazon and provide a more rewarding shopping experience. Amazon probably understands shopper behaviour better than any other organisation on the planet right now. Stores must seek to know their customers better if they want to compete, and I think this is a common failing among many fallen giants like Woolworths and BHS.
First and foremost, shops need to stop prioritising quantity over quality. Prior to GDPR, most retail databases were overflowing with names and contact info – most of which was out of date or not fit for purpose. People were contactable but didn’t want to be, nor did they care about hearing from these brands. These email databases couldn’t be used to create meaningful personalised campaigns, the numbers just looked good on paper – a classic case of the emperor wearing no clothes.
In practice, retailers usually need to reach customers multiple times with a relevant promotion before they act and make a purchase. The priority for any bricks and mortar business today, therefore, should be creating lists with people who genuinely want to hear from them and creating multiple targeted, personal and creative campaigns for them. Likewise, retails must support these campaigns with social media activity so that they are always in the thoughts of their customers – staying there long before they walk down the high street and long after.
It’s guaranteed that the novelty of seeing Amazon on our high streets will wear off quickly in the years ahead. What’s less certain is the future of their high street rivals and soon to be neighbours if they don’t act now. It’s lunchtime and Amazon is hungry, better hide your lunch.