Photo: Tom Ryan, RetailWire
How does Amazon Books differ from Barnes & Noble as well as the many book chains that have bitten the dust in recent years? Discovery and data.
That’s what Jennifer Cast, VP of Amazon Books, told a group of journalists Tuesday in a tour of Amazon Books’ first New York City store at Shops at Columbus Circle, its seventh store. (See photos on our Facebook page…)
The primary way Amazon is linking data to discovery is Amazon.com ratings. All books on display (except some best-sellers and new books) have ratings above four so customers “know these are great books.”
The ratings are showcased in special “feature” displays throughout the store. The most common shows ratings above 4.5 or 4.8 in themed sections (non-fiction, cooking, etc.).
Other sections include top fiction best sellers by reviewers in the New York City area, top books club picks from Goodreads and an abbreviated selection from Amazon’s “100 Books to Read In a Lifetime” list. Aimed at weekend readers, the “Page Turners” section consists of books read in three days or less by Kindle readers.
The popular “If You Like” section pairs a best-selling book with a suggestion for a similar reading experience. Going beyond “books also bought,” Amazon’s “curators” take in the tone of the reviews, Goodreads’ insights, other favorite books mentioned by those liking the title, as well as data around each author.
Ms. Cast stressed that Amazon’s curators employ “data with heart” in an “art versus science” approach to decide which books to stock. As a result, a number of highly-rated books on the selling floor are far from best sellers. Ms. Cast said, “Those are the kind of books we’re super excited about finding and helping customers discover.”
Other ways discovery is being emphasized is by only shelving books with covers face-out, although that limits the number of books displayed by more than half. Encouraging customers to scan books to see prices also encourages them to read descriptions and other reviews.
While Amazon Books also lets consumers try Echo, Kindle and Fire TV, Ms. Cast said the store capitalizes on “20 years of information about books and ratings from millions and millions of customers.”