A year after its debut, Amazon Echo is coming to third-party physical stores. GeekWire:
The Echo will be available at Staples, The Home Depot, Sears, Fred Meyer and various other big box and electronics stores. It’s coming to more than 3,000 retail locations across the U.S. in time for holiday shopping. It will cost the same $179.99 as it does on Amazon’s site.
Amazon was already working with Staples to sell the Echo in the office supply chain’s online store, but customers have never before been able to purchase the Echo at a physical location. However, this isn’t the first Amazon-made product to hit store shelves. Staples, Fred Meyer and a handful of other retailers already offer Kindles and Fire TVs to their customers.
The Echo is a new kind of gadget. This makes it hard for potential customers to decide wether this is really what they are looking for. It is a challenge for online retail to sell new categories of products. It is like asking people who have never sat in a car to decide which car they want to buy. So Staples et al are for Amazon what the Apple Stores are for Apple. They help people to get a first look and feel of those products.
This is also an easily overlooked aspect of the first physical book store by Amazon:
Amazon Books also has a series of tech bars that showcase Amazon technology. Available to play with are all the Kindle versions, Amazon TV, and the Amazon Echo. It’s similar to the Apple store where there are plenty of staff members around to explain how things work.
Staples, Home Depot and the other retailers are essentially acting like suppliers here. When Amazon’s gadgets are its aquivalent to stores, these third party retailers are ‘building’ Amazon’s stores by selling Echo and maybe more Amazon gadgets in the future.
If Amazon itself will expand into brick and mortar retail it will be with an Apple Store like concept for its increasing range of devices, “disguised” as book stores. But these partnerships with retailers seem like a far more suitable approach for Amazon. (At least as long as Amazon and online retail as a whole have not put them out of business yet.)