Data-driven everything: Amazon Books store in NYC

One of the things that is definitely very different in New York, compared to Spain, is the delivery scene. Everything can be delivered to your door, and everything, actually, is. People get everything delivered to their homes or offices: from dinner to groceries to fashion to cleaning products. It’s not that delivery is not common in Spain – it is, just not as much and not for everything. I had never seen the amount and variety of packages and delivery drivers that you see in New York in any given apartment or office building.

I jumped into the trend very soon when I moved here and even bought my bike online. And although I love the experience of visiting brick-and-mortar stores, specially in new cities, there’s one item that I’ve bought online for the longest time now: books. The convenience of finding any title, in any language, with the best price, is unbeatable. Being a long time Amazon customer, I didn’t want to leave New York without visiting their first NYC brick-and-mortar store at Columbus Circle.

When they opened, The Guardian reported that the store served in large part as an ad for Amazon Prime. It does. If you’re a Prime member, you can enjoy member discounts while you shop on an tablet using the Amazon app. They don’t take cash, but you can pay by card if you’re not a member or don’t have the Amazon app on your phone. Other than that, the experience is pretty similar to shopping at any other bookstore chain. Except for one thing: the data integration.

Data-driven everything

The store leverages Amazon’s 20 years of book-selling data in many different ways:

  • Data-driven curation:
    Most of the books in the store either received four-star ratings and above on the site. The selection also include titles from lists of best sellers, and a hand-curated selection of new, yet-to-be reviewed titles.
  • Data-driven displays:
    A table in the best location of the store features the “Highly Rated” books: rated 4.8 stars and above on the site.
  • Data-driven product info:
    Every title is accompanied by a customer review, the number of total reviews and a star rating are displayed under each book on the shelf.
  • Data-driven recommendations:
    It wouldn’t make sense to not integrate one of the best Amazon features to their brick-and-mortar efforts: in a specific shelf, best-selling books are displayed together with other recommended titles for each of them.
  • Data-driven selling points:
    The “Page Turners” section is supported by real data, too: the amount of time it took Kindle readers to finish the books.

This article by Recode features some extra pictures if you want to have a more detailed look at the store. And some closing paragraphs that I loved:

But it also doesn’t have anything really special going on — not yet, at least.

While Apple is trying to turn its stores into “modern-day town squares” where people hang out and learn creative skills, this very much feels like a straightforward, nice-enough bookstore.

There’s no café, not really anywhere to sit and read, nothing special about the fixtures, a very boring magazine selection and a collection of books that feels blandly standard — not the sense of opinionated curation you’d find at a boutique like Brooklyn’s new Books Are Magic.

But that’s always been what Amazon does best: Predictable, good value and reliable for the masses.

And hey, now there’s a bookstore in the mall again.