Leonie Roderick: Amazon’s first London pop-up should inspire not scare rivals

The digital giant’s decision to move into a physical retail space in the UK for the first time should encourage competitors to take a look at their own offering.

Amazon pop-up

If there is one company that is top of mind for most brands it is Amazon. It recently overtook Google to become the most mentioned company in public corporate conference calls as it spreads its tendrils across the world.

While it started off as a humble book seller, it has now thrown clothes, music, homeware, technology, food, phones and potentially driverless cars into the mix. L’Oréal’s new CMO for Western Europe even suggested it could transform into the next big media conglomerate. The eyeballs and traffic are certainly there.

Having already disrupted the retail industry once, it is now looking to do so again as it looks to find more direct ways to reach consumers. And so it is opening pop-up stores at various locations. This started last year in the US, but the strategy has now come to London.

Entitled the ‘Home of Black Friday’ after one of Amazon’s biggest selling events of the year the pop-up shop looks to entice visitors to browse and try out some of its deals.

The 3,000-square foot space in London’s Soho Square, which is open until the end of this week as an informal countdown to Black Friday, features more than 100 curated products within five themed rooms. This includes a kitchen and living area, a bedroom and beauty parlour, an immersive gaming and technology zone, a kids’ play and storytelling room and a creative workshop space.

There will be workshops hosted by small business owners, master classes and cocktail tastings, makeup tutorials by popular YouTubers and competitions to win prizes.

But perhaps most importantly, consumers are able to purchase the products by scanning a QR code, which will open up the product page on the Amazon app.

A dedicated Prime Now delivery area is in the lobby of the venue, allowing shoppers to have their Black Friday deal purchases available on Prime Now delivered to the pop-up within two hours. As you might have come to expect from Amazon, it’s pretty smart stuff.

Doug Gurr, UK country manager at Amazon, briefly spoke during a press preview last night (20 November). He mentioned kicking off the Christmas shopping season with its Black Friday pop-up shop, and wanting to avoid consumer disappointment that often occurs when people see the items they have bought as gifts on sale after Christmas.

But there are a few other lessons retailers should take away from Amazon’s pop-up. First of all, there is the obvious convenience factor. Consumers are able to inspect a product, and consequently choose between having their item delivered in-store or at home so they’re not lugging heavy bags around.

Then there’s also the factor that a pop-up experience could provide retailers with a bigger amount of flexibility, and allow them to take a test and learn approach – or as CEO Jeff Bezos would say a ‘Day One’ mentality.

Clare Rayner, independent retail expert, tells Marketing Week: “Pop-up as experiences are such an essential part now of our physical retail infrastructure. No one wants to sign up to even a five-year lease, as things change so rapidly.”

The main takeaway, however, is that Amazon’s latest move should encourage the traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers to reassess their offering, and make sure that the customer is placed at the heart of everything they do.

After all, if you’re not almost obsessively committed to delivering and even predicting what your customers need and want, things might start to come unstuck.

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  • tom wright 1 Dec 2017 at 9:41 am

    I doubt it somehow, that major retailers find Amazon inspiring, rather, I think they find them terrifying.

    Much as we love an underdog, and we might root for David in his match vs Goliath, we really, really don’t expect him to win – and let’s not pretend that Amazon vs UK retail is a fight between equals where there is everything to play for.

    The advantages in data, compute, distribution, tax approaches and the knock on impact on pricing, the combination of Prime and unmissable on-demand TV, and even the fawning approach of UK media who have dedicated staff/strategies to cover the FANGs has turned Amazon into the player at the end of a monopoly game who has Mayfair, Park Lane, Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regents Street covered in hotels while the rest of the market has a few houses.

    This is not inspiring, it is depressing.

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