How ironic is it that Amazon is now opening brick and mortar stores

“Where on earth is he?”, exclaimed my 85-year old grandmother for the million time in an hour. Frustrated with her constantly loitering in the balcony and disturbing my hard-earned weekend novel reading time, “Who?” I asked. “The Amazon delivery guy!”, she replied as a matter of fact. Later, when my mother filled me in as to how my grandmother, who could never quite understand how to use the TV remote even after repeated lessons from all of us, learned how to use the web just to order a massaging pad from Amazon, I was surprised. And, she is not the only one. There are plenty of senior citizens out there who formerly treated the internet as an alien species, but now are ardent netizens all for the purpose of online shopping.

There is massive change in the ecommerce waves. Stores that were formerly shutting down their physical stores in favor of building their profiles online, are now getting back to putting up stores in prime locations in the city. As for Amazon, the ecommerce giant touted to being the world’s largest online retailer, that opened up its first ever brick and mortar bookstore in University Village, Seattle, back in November, 2015, is it really ironic that it come to terms with the very kind of business and independent stores that it helped put to rest in a grave or it just another stroke of strategic brilliance from Jeffery P. Bezos, the founder and brains behind Amazon? Let’s take a look…

It all started with the internet bloom of 1994

At the age 30, Bezos was another one of those finance guys working diligently at the Wall Street. When he stumbled into the startling statistics that web usage was growing at a rate of 2300 percent a year, the master entrepreneur quit his job and with little funding from his parents, started Amazon.com, that spewed out $20,000 dollars in sales within just 30 days. The e-store then went on to bury many small physical stores and a number of chain retailers. Now, a $61 billion dollar retail giant that owns many popular channels like Junglee, IMBD, PlanetAll, Zapos and Shopbop, Amazon is reverting to physical stores. What caused this major shift in ideologies? Is it popular demand that finally brought Amazon to the kind of shopping windows that it caused to shut down or was it just the stroke of a genius aiming to capitalize a market even before the others realised there is one?

From ‘click-and-mortar’ to ‘brick-and-mortar’

To say that online shopping has grown by leaps and bounds is an understatement. Multiple channels for shopping, including tab and mobile-specific applications, indicate that there is a great love for online shopping not just in urban cities but in rural areas and villages as well. So, why then is there a need for a major giant like Amazon to set up a physical store? Well, it’s quite simple, actually! Human interaction!

With everything going digital, including shopping, there is little or no need for a person to talk to another. At work, there is usually a messenger application or two to talk to your colleagues and friends without ever having to look outside your desktop window; and at home, well, there’s just no time. Also, there is a growing sense of disconnect from the world. Despite the many predictive algorithms and tailored marketing content aimed at specific customers or sections of customers, there is still that sense of looming disconnect hanging above our heads.

I remember the times when I used to visit this old bookstore around the street corner. Metallic shelves filled with books, both old and new, the pleasant but faint odor of old books mixed with fragrance of fresh prints was something of a luxury I always reminiscence about when I talk of books. Now, I just shop at the kindle store — one, it’s cheaper to just buy a book and read it on a tab, and two, I can carry it around with me, especially during long flights when I’m forced to wait at the lounge. But despite the many comforts, kindle book shopping can never match the easy wisdom of the bespectacled, grey-haired gentleman who quietly introduced me to my first love, Enid Blyton, when I was a kid; nor could it match the safe escapade the bookstore provided when I simply needed some time away from the world.

And, it’s not just books. How many of us can relate to the immense joy of walking home with those paper shopping bags hanging by the arm? The nostalgic feeling of talking to the sales lady, having her give you tips about what was in or out, instead of just getting it all from some blog, and that almost-ecstatic feeling of touching a piece of fabric, feeling every grain, every stitch before making a purchase, and the joy of looking at aisles in the grocery stores and trying out the latest pack of chocolate-flavored noodles — well, the pleasures of actual shopping are just too many.

Clicks Vs Bricks

Products across categories are now hopping their way out of stuffy storage houses to roomy, luxurious and air-conditioned retail shops! From clothes to groceries, spectacles to toys, products from different categories are enjoying the shelf life for a second time now.

While the stats are still unbiased as which side takes the cake, there is but a clear shift in what people want, their choices and shopping trends. And, it not just something exclusive to Amazon.com. Gap, one of the major retail giants in the affordable clothing section, opened up shops, not just in the US, but across the globe in a massive expansion move that left analysts stunned. As did their higher-end sister concern, Piperlime, selling exclusive designer clothes and accessories. Frank and Oak — the Canadian menswear retailer, JustFab shoes, Warby Parker — the fashion-forward eyewear brand, and popular fashion jewelry label BaubleBar are also few of the stores setting up stores in major malls and popular shopping hubs.

So, when it comes to clicks vs bricks, there is just no clear winner yet! And, as for Amazon, we just have to wait and see if it’s just pure irony or sheer brilliance!

Hi! I’m Sai. Dreamer, foodie, animal lover, book fanatic, introvert & addicted to TVseries, criminal minds. When not writing, I love playing with my pup, Megha.