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When Does the ‘Human Touch’ Matter in Retail?

When Does the ‘Human Touch’ Matter in Retail?

Knowledge@Wharton

In a 2012 interview that aired on CBS This Morning, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezoswas asked by journalist Charlie Rose whether the e-commerce giant would eventually open bricks-and-mortar stores. “We would love to, but only if we can have a truly differentiated idea,” he said. “We want to do something that is uniquely Amazon. We haven’t found it yet, but if we can find that idea … we would love to open physical stores.”

Nearly three years later, Bezos apparently found that unique idea in Amazon@Purdue. Opened on February 3, Amazon’s first staffed store is located on the campus of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., a town with a population of about 30,000, skewing male and boasting a median age of 23. An open-layout store accented with the cheery color of Amazon’s flagship orange, it is a place where students can pick up orders for anything from computers to macaroni and cheese, as well as receive and drop off rented textbooks and other school gear. More stores are coming: Amazon is opening a second one this spring at the Purdue Memorial Union building on campus. Also on tap are campus stores at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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