Amazon.com is giving customers a new visual way to shop with a function dubbed Scout, one that has launched with a heavy emphasis on home furnishings and housewares.
Scout and the company’s AmazonGo, an automated convenience food concept, have generated intense recent media interest, as observers speculate about what might be the e-tailer’s next big move in a retail marketplace it has been central in realigning.
On the Scout landing page, which featured furniture at the top, Amazon asks to give thumbs up or thumbs down on pictured items. The page offers a range of items, with coffee tables currently prominent. As consumers register a positive or negative response to a given item, the choices offered in the segment listing change as Amazon hones down on the tastes of the consumers scouting. Choices are made strictly based on the image, with no pricing or other product information available.
Clicking on an item takes consumers to the product page, giving them the option to purchase.
Scout is an Amazon approach to visual marketing and shopping such as has become popular with many consumers who turn to Pinterest as a means of exploring the market as they weigh their tastes against product availability.
In addition to furniture— where, in addition to coffee tables, segments featured included end tables, console tables, living room chairs, sofas and coaches, area rugs, beds, and ottomans— product categories on the Scout page at launch were Home Décor, Lighting, Kitchen & Dining, Patio and Bedding.
Media reports on the Scout launch, including one on CNBC, pointed to an Amazon statement that characterized Scout as a fresh way to shop, one that gives customers the chance to quickly browse their way through millions of items, refining the available selection they see based on visual attributes.
Amazon Going Forward With Go?
In a similar vein, reports about Amazon potentially opening as many as 3,000 of its no-cashier AmazonGo convenience stores roiled retail markets, according to Bloomberg. Amazon currently operates four such operations.
In a research note, Morgan Stanley analyst Brian Nowak said Amazon might need to push in the grocery sector to maintain its growth momentum. He viewed the AmazonGo venture “bullishly” if the media reports on a 3,000-store growth plan prove correct, given the reality that market gains will be more asset intensive going forward. The cost for a 300-unit AmazonGo expansion would run between $500 million and $3 billion, Nowak estimated.
A major Go growth initiative would suggest that Amazon has become more confident in the store concept in terms of share of wallet and return on investment benefits it would accrue. Nowak added that investment in AmazonGo would have benefits beyond sales including more knowledge of the grocery customer as well as quick-serve meal shoppers. It also could prove a vehicle for Amazon to expand in the pharmacy sector.
Still, given the ease of shopping in competitive retail formats, Amazon’s intent with the cashierless store is uncertain. Nowak suggested as such, saying all considerations of the impact AmazonGo might have on the market are predicated on what Amazon does and the company has not made a major statement on its intent. In the company’s second quarter conference call, Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky described the company’s current work with the Go concept as “experimenting.”
Amazon did not respond to an inquiry about the Scout and AmazonGo initiatives by post time.
UPDATE: Amazon.com replied to HomeWorld Business queries shortly after the initial post about developments involving its Scout and AmazonGo appeared online. A spokesperson indicated that Amazon is considering expansion of Scout but would offer no information about additional categories that it might include in the program at this time. As for the expansion of AmazonGo, the spokesperson confirmed that all four stores that had been under development, including that at 113 South Franklin Street in Chicago, are in operation, adding, about the expansion reports involving the store concept, “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”