By Sakshi Upadhyay

Last week I went shopping for a dress for a special occasion. While I tried different dresses, I happily chatted with the sales associates unaware that I was giving them all the information they needed to make the sale. In the end, I ended up buying not one but 2 dresses.

Now picture a world where these sales associates know everything about you before you even walk into the store.

Amazon has created such a world with its first brick and mortar store, which opened in Seattle last November and has found a way to use data to its advantage without its customers knowledge. This feat was only possible through its outside the box store design.

The store follows a showroom concept displaying a curated list of books organized under influencing titles – “Most wished for”, “Top pre-order”, “Most recommended”, “Highly rated” etc. – while promising the same price as the website. Instead of listing prices on the book tag, it displays a bar code, star rating and customer review compelling the buyer to log in to the amazon app to see more details. Amazon then uses your purchase history, interests, and personal data to offer you the best deal in order to maximize its sales.

It makes you wonder why the eCommerce giant would feel the need to open a physical store to sell books when it is already doing so on its website. Why would it take on the additional overhead to sell to a smaller audience? One could argue that this is Amazon’s way to get to know its customers better and to build strong personal relations but I believe that this is a ploy to demonstrate this model’s success and pitch how Amazon Web and Data Services can be helpful to other retailers. Currently, many big corporations already use Amazon data servers to record and track customer data but with these additional features they could know your purchasing behavior and be able to judge your purchase intent and willingness to pay at the store level.

These services could equip retailers with a never seen before power of taking out the guesswork in sales and having bespoke conversation with their customers. As I think about data driven purchases, one big question haunts me – Is the future mutually beneficial or a one-sided power play?