Move over books and groceries, Amazon’s latest foray into physical retail is focused on fashion.
The e-commerce giant announced Thursday that it will be launching Amazon Style, a store blending the company’s technology expertise with some shoppers’ lingering desire to still be able to touch and try on items.
The first location will open later this year in the Glendale area of Los Angeles at The Americana at Brand, a shopping, dining and entertainment complex.
The effort is the latest by the 27-year-old Seattle-based company to disrupt legacy, brick-and-mortar retail. And it’s another bid to take a chunk of the gigantic apparel and footwear market.
The tech giant has already been innovating for years in the fashion space: GeekWire tested the company’s “Outfit Compare” tool in 2017 and we tested Prime Wardrobe as a new way to shop for and try on clothes in 2018. It also has a sizable private label clothing line.
Amazon last year surpassed Walmart as the No. 1 apparel retailer in the U.S., according to Wells Fargo research, which estimated $45 billion in revenue for Amazon’s apparel and footwear revenue in 2021.
The L.A. mall Amazon set its sights on already features an Amazon 4-star store, as well as traditional retailers such as Nordstrom, J.Crew, Nike, Urban Outfitters and more.
Simoina Vasen, managing director of Amazon Style, said in a blog post that “Amazon Style brings together the best of shopping on Amazon — great prices, selection, and convenience — with an all-new in-store shopping experience built to inspire.”
That experience leans heavily on Amazon’s technology and the desire to know more about each customer.
Amazon Style is designed to feature a less-cluttered array of display items on the floor rather than giving over space to racks or stacks of inventory. Shoppers looking for women’s and men’s apparel, shoes and accessories can use the Amazon Shopping mobile app to scan QR codes to see sizes, colors, overall customer ratings, and additional product details.
Shoppers can tap a button in the app to have an item sent to a fitting room or directly to the pickup counter if they don’t need to try it on. Once inside that “reimagined fitting room,” another larger screen allows shoppers to “continue to shop a seemingly endless closet of great styles” without leaving.
Shoppers can rate items, request different styles and sizes and get new selections delivered from a heavily stocked back of house. Amazon says the quick delivery to fitting rooms by human employees is facilitated by the same technologies and processes employed at its fulfillment centers.
Personalization is key. Machine learning algorithms produce real-time recommendations for customers as they shop and scan items. Customers can also get a more tailored and refined experience by sharing style preferences, fit and more.
“Personal styling used to be expensive and feel exclusive, but with Amazon Style’s sophisticated technology, unique store design, and thoughtful curation, we’ve made it easier than ever for customers to discover items they’ll look and feel great in,” Vasen wrote in her post.
Items scanned at Amazon Style are saved in the Amazon Shopping app so that customers can purchase at a later time. Customers can shop millions of apparel items on Amazon.com, request delivery to Amazon Style, and try on items in a fitting room. Returns can be made in store. And Amazon Style will also feature the Amazon One palm-scanning technology for faster checkout.
Amazon says employees will still be needed to provide customer service, deliver items to fitting rooms, merchandise the store, help customers at checkout, manage back-of-house operations, and more.
Other retailers have certainly adopted enhanced technology and services in an effort to keep up with the modern demands of busy shoppers. People are increasingly turning online and away from physical stores for everything from eyeglasses to clothing to groceries.
Amazon is only speeding that process as the prospect of the tech giant moving into any particular retail sector often strikes fear in legacy players.
Amazon first made a move into brick-and-mortar retail with the opening of its first physical bookstore in Seattle in 2015. In 2017, Amazon purchased Whole Foods and revealed its ambitions in the grocery business. Amazon now runs dozens of Amazon Fresh grocery stores and Amazon Go convenience stores. The company also has 4-star locations that sell customer favorites, as well as numerous themed Pop Up stores offering top brands.
Amazon Style is reminiscent of a startup that was launched in Seattle 10 years ago — by a onetime Amazon executive. It was all powered by robots and smartphones.
Hointer was Nadia Shouraboura‘s high-tech answer to streamlining the modern clothing shopping experience. Much like Amazon Style, customers browsed a less-cluttered display floor and scanned a QR code to have items quickly delivered to a fitting room. Checkout was also seemless.
Hointer opened stores in Seattle and Silicon Valley and lasted about six years before becoming part of Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers.
In a November 2020 GeekWire podcast on the future of retail, Shouraboura and other experts discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic and technology were combining to reshape the industry.
“Over time, what we’ll see is a lot more experiences where you go to the store, you still touch and feel — you experience the product,” Shouraboura said. “But a lot of other muck you do in a store is going to go virtual. Your checkout will be much simpler, and online versus in store will be much smoother. So I’m very excited.”