Amazon 4-star opens today at the SoNo Collection in Norwalk – its first store in Connecticut and just its 10th overall.
“We’re always experimenting on behalf of our customers and listening to their feedback,” Drew Sheriff, director of Amazon Physical Stores, told the Business Journal. “Through our experience with Amazon Books, we know that customers love shopping a physical store where they can find highly rated products, and they asked us to extend that approach to categories beyond books.”
The 4,500-square-foot SoNo store, which will employ on average 20 people on a seasonal basis, is meant to be “a fun, easy place for customers to shop and discover something great,” Sheriff said, “so we only carry the most loved products from the top categories across Amazon.com, and the selection continually changes.”
As indicated by the store’s name, everything in its inventory is rated four stars and above by customers, is a top seller, or is listed as “new and trending” on Amazon.com. Included throughout Amazon 4-star are cards featuring quotes from actual customer reviews.
The store’s device section allows customers to “test drive” Amazon devices and accessories, including Echo and smart home accessories that work with Alexa, with staff on hand to answer questions.
Digital price tags alongside every product show the price and Prime price, as well as Prime member savings, average star rating and the total number of reviews a product has received.
The fact that Amazon – regularly cited as a culprit for other brick-and-mortar retailers’ financial troubles – has gotten into the physical store game has been a regular source of comment; besides 4-star it also operates the aforementioned Amazon Books (21 stores to date, including two in Manhattan), Amazon Go convenience stores (25, in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle) and five pop-ups.
“Online shopping is a great option for customers, but many still want to shop in the real world too,” Sheriff said. “We opened Amazon 4-star to help customers discover new products and feel confident buying them. We will constantly be experimenting with new categories, updating the assortment frequently, and responding to customer feedback.”
Jose Mendoza, an assistant professor in Sacred Heart University’s marketing and sport management department, likened what Amazon is doing with 4-star and its other physical endeavors to what Apple does with its Apple stores.
“It’s all about providing a customer experience,” Mendoza said. “In the case of Apple stores, they look more like showrooms than stores. And physical contact is still important – there are some products that people still want to touch and feel before they make a purchase.”
Mendoza said both Amazon and Apple are trading on their “strong brand equity. I would expect more online retailers to do the same thing in the future.”
And Amazon’s ability to draw upon its Connecticut warehouses – including an 855,000-square-foot fulfillment center in North Haven and a planned distribution center in Trumbull – will allow it to maintain its same-day and next-day shipping offers, something Mendoza said mom-and-pop stores running low on particular items will have difficulty competing with.
As for choosing the SoNo Collection – whose Apple store is scheduled to open on Feb. 15 – Sheriff said, “We want to meet customers where they are and are always looking for new locations. The SoNo Collection is a great shopping destination and we look forward to seeing how customers respond.”
In addition to the 10 existing 4-star stores, Sheriff said Amazon plans to add locations Friendswood, Texas (outside of Houston), Broomfield, Colorado (near Boulder), and Lynnwood, Washington (outside of Seattle) this year.
“Beyond that,” he added, “I’ll have to ask you to stay tuned.”