Tired of sifting through endless racks of clothing in search of the right size, color and fit?
The 30,000-square-foot Amazon Style debuted last week at The Americana at Brand mall in Glendale, bringing the e-commerce giant’s one-click shopping technology to a brick-a-mortar concept that might change shopping habits yet again.
Or, it just might be a “soulless retail experiment,” says one retail analyst.
Amazon is experimenting anew with Southern California shopping appetites as it shifts from cashier-free supermarkets to a clothing store that’s designed to be intuitive, high-tech and personalized for each customer.
Look, try it, buy it
At the company’s first-ever Amazon Style, the clothing racks display just one of each item. Behind the scenes, there are hundreds of thousands of shirts, dresses, pants, purses and other accessories poised for customers to try on.
When shoppers find something they like, they scan an electronic tag on the hanger using the Amazon app on their phone, which adds the item to a virtual shopping cart.
From there the dress, pants or purse is sent to one of the store’s 40 fitting rooms, each of which are equipped with touchscreens allowing shoppers to request different sizes and colors. Shoppers are notified on their phone when their fitting room is available, and the in-room touchscreen allows them to rate items and shop for additional merchandise without returning to the showroom floor.
If they don’t need to try it on, customers can also opt to send an item directly to a pickup counter.
A personalized experience
Amazon says its machine-learning algorithms are designed to generate real-time recommendations for each customer as they shop. As shoppers browse the store and scan items, the technology then recommends other picks for them.
“You can also check out our ‘Look Book,’ which is a collection of outfits curated by social media influencers,” Amazon Style Vice President Simoina Vasen said. “We have top brands throughout the store, and some are online products that were never available in physical stores before.”
The store is not entirely run on autopilot. Employees deliver requested merchandise to the fitting rooms, placing merchandise inside a locked closet from the rear. Once items are placed, the closet unlocks for the smartphone-wielding shopper.
Eighteen of the fitting rooms are on the store’s first level and another 22 are upstairs. The clothing is ferried to the upper level via three elevators before being delivered by staff to the various fitting rooms.
Customers check out at the front counter by scanning a QR code or by using a palm reader, both of which are linked to a credit or debit card on file.
Amazon wouldn’t reveal if, or when, other Amazon Style locations might open.
“We’re unable to share details on our future roadmap,” a company spokeswoman said. “For now, we’re just focused on our store here in Glendale and finding out what customers think.”
Bob Phibbs, CEO of The Retail Doctor, a New York-based retail consulting firm offered a guarded reaction to the store concept.
“Amazon has a lot of money to try things out,” he said. “This is really just a lab experiment for learning about consumers.”
Phibbs has no doubt that Amazon Style will generate a buzz among consumers. But the overall shopping experience?
“It actually looks like extra work to me,” he said. “You’re scanning merchandise and waiting for it to be delivered. It’s a soulless retail experiment.”
Technology at work
As Amazon expands its brick-and-mortar footprint, technology is playing a big role.
The company recently expanded its Amazon Fresh footprint in Southern California with new grocery stores in Mission Viejo, La Verne and Murrieta that feature the company’s “Just Walk Out” technology.
Customers who opt for Just Walk Out shopping can enter the store by scanning the in-store QR code in their Amazon app, using Amazon One or by inserting a credit or debit card to open Just Walk Out gates.
Once inside, anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to a virtual cart, and anything a customer puts back comes out of it. When they’re finished shopping they scan or insert their entry method again to exit and they’re good to go
The three new stores boost the total to 14 Amazon Fresh locations in Southern California and 30 across the country in California, Washington, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.