ECOMMERCE

Kohl’s to partner with e-commerce giant on in-store shops

BY Marianne Wilson

Yet another traditional retailer is partnering with Amazon, as the online behemoth continues to expand its presence in brick-and- mortar stores.

Kohl's plans to add an Amazon "smart home experience' in-store shop, or "zone," in 10 select Kohl’s locations across the Los Angeles and Chicago areas starting in October. The spaces will allow shoppers to try out and purchase Amazon devices, accessories and smart home devices and services directly from the online retailer.

"We are thrilled to offer a unique new way for customers to try out our lineup of Alexa-enabled Amazon devices, learn more about our smart home services from Amazon experts and then buy those items directly from Amazon — all within Kohl’s stores,” said Dave Zimmer, VP, sales and marketing, Amazon Devices. “Teaming up with Kohl’s provides an incredible opportunity to pair world-class customer and shopping experiences.”

The 1,000-sq.ft. smart home space in Kohl's will provide a hands-on experience where customers can interact with a variety of Amazon devices, including Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Amazon Fire TV, and Fire tablets. The experience will showcase how smart home products – many powered by Alexa – can modernize and simplify home management, entertainment, security and more. It will be staffed by Amazon sales associates.

Customers will be able schedule an Amazon expert to come to their home, evaluate their needs and install smart home products. The in-store zones will also promote Amazon Home Services, which offers access to vetted local services professionals to help with everything around the house from cleaning to plumbing.

"We believe in the power of our store portfolio and know that our future as a best-in-class omnichannel retailer will be driven by how inventive, compelling and unique we can make our store experience,” said Michelle Gass, Kohl’s chief merchandising and customer officer. “Kohl’s and Amazon share a customer obsession and we’ve joined together to leverage each other’s strengths and deliver a great experience customers can only find at Kohl’s.”

Amazon's partnership with Kohl's comes several months after Sears announced it would sell its Kenmore brand appliances on Amazon.com.

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DESIGN/CONSTRUCTION

First Look: Amazon Books, Manhattan

BY Marianne Wilson

Eleven and counting. That’s where Amazon Books stands with the opening of its newest outpost.

Located across from the Empire State Building in Midtown Manhattan, the 5,200-sq.-ft. store is part bookstore and part high-tech electronics store — with a cafe thrown in for good measure. It has a contemporary look, with accent lighting and wood flooring and wood shelves and display tables. The spacious children’s area is accented with carpeting and chairs for lounging. Stumptown coffee and pastries and other items are sold in the cafe, which has both table and counter seating. The cafe is set off from the rest of space with black and white tile flooring.

The new Amazon Books has about 3,700 titles available for sale. The selection is based on Amazon.com customer ratings, pre-orders, sales, popularity on the company’s Goodreads’ book review and recommendation site, and its own curators’ assessments. All books are placed with their covers face-out on the shelves, and under each book is a small card with a review and the Amazon.com customer rating. Most have been rated 4 stars or above.

One of the things that makes the store feel — and look — different from standard book shops is the way its books are organized. Similar to what Amazon does with its online offerings, the books are organized into a variety of sections, with titles appearing in multiple sections. For those who prefer the more conventional approach, there are the standard genre departments, including new nonfiction, cooking, young adult, travel, science fiction & fantasy, self-improvement and more.

In an interesting twist, however, the books are also displayedin such categories as “highly rated” (4.8 stars & above), and “Goodreads’ most-read classics.” Additional categories include “100 books to read in a lifetime,” and “page turners” (books Kindle readers finished in three days or less). One large section makes recommendations based on books that the shopper has already read (“if you like, you’ll love this”).

But books are only part of the merchandise mix. The store also serves as a showcase for all of Amazon’s tech products, from Fire television and the Alexa Smart Home system to Echo and the Kindle e-reader. The items are displayed on tables and stands that make it easy for customers to test drive — and hopefully buy — the products. Several displays are devoted to tech accessories. And there are plenty of associates hovering around to answer questions.

Amazon Books will open two more locations in 2017, at Westfield Century City in Los Angeles, and at Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek, Calif., giving it a total of 13 by the end of the year. The company hasn’t commented on how many bookstores it plans to open in 2018.

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ECOMMERCE

Home Depot adds ‘voice-activated’ shopping to the mix

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The nation's largest home improvement retailer is getting in on the voice shopping game.

Home Depot is joining Google Express this fall, a move that will give its customers the ability to shop just by speaking their orders. Google Assistant, the search giant's online shopping platform, resides on Google’s smart speaker Google Home and other smart devices.

The new option expands Home Depot’s omnichannel strategy, which currently encompasses 2,282 store locations and a digital endless aisle available online and via mobile devices. By adding Google Assistant to the mix, customers will be able to shop via voice on Google Home devices, or the Google Express website or app.

"We're focused on delivering convenience and value as we continue to invest in best-in-class interconnected experiences for our customers," said the company’s online president and chief marketing officer Kevin Hofmann. "Google has been a key strategic partner for us over many years, and we're excited to take our relationship to the next level with the Google Assistant and Google Express."

The move also takes direct aim at Amazon and its Alexa voice-controlled device — especially as the online giant continues to steal more wallet share from the tools and home improvement category.

Last month, Walmart announced it is also embarking on a similar partnership with Google. By teaming up with search engine giant, Walmart enables customers use Google Assistant to shop among hundreds of thousands of items.

Walmart, which is also using the program to bolster its defense against online rival Amazon, said the service will be available in late September.

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