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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Amazon has reached staggering heights and revolutionized shopping in the U.S. and beyond, but CEO Jeff Bezos still sees a threat: the physical stores he has supposedly vanquished.
Axios' Erica Pandey reports: For all the hoopla around e-commerce, physical stores continue to command some 90% of the retail pie in the U.S. — and will for at least another decade, experts predict. That has left Amazon and other online retailers preparing to set up their own physical stores, with the aim of capturing as much of the remaining pie as they can.
The big picture: Big chains have shuttered stores, but U.S. physical retail is alive and well.
By the numbers:
But the big players in both worlds are betting that the future of retail will be a hybrid of online and offline, pairing the perks of each model. Large Chinese retailers have been at this for years, and now Amazon is embracing the strategy too, opening its third Go store in Seattle earlier this month and planning 3,000 more by 2021.
"You don't get a full picture of your consumer if you're only online or offline."— Alibaba spokesperson Brion Tingler
There is logic to the hybrid strategy. In a physical store, you can touch what you're about to buy and take it home right away. Online, you can order something delivered to your door with a single click.
An example is the cashier-less corner store, like Amazon Go, where you grab your snacks and just walk out. Machine vision takes care of checkout.
Reality check: Unmanned stores and smart checkout are already mainstream in China. JD.com has 20 unmanned stores, including one abroad in Indonesia. And Alibaba owns and operates 64 futuristic supermarkets.
Amazon’s top wishlist products at the new NYC store. Photo: Erica Pandey/Axios
The key advantage to brick-and-mortar stores is that they can control shoppers' experience. And physical stores are leaning into this advantage, thinking carefully about cool interior design or top-notch customer service to make the schlep to the store worth it, Erica writes.
"We're not trying replace Nordstrom's or Macy's. ... We're trying to emulate retail as it was 100 years ago. It's about an experience that has been specifically curated for where you are."— Neighborhood Goods co-founder Matt Alexander
Amazon doesn't intend to be left in the dust. Just yesterday, it opened a store in New York City called "Amazon 4-star." The shop features goods with 4-star ratings or higher on the site, and swaps out the offerings based on what's trending locally.
Photo: Elizabeth Sallee Bauer/Getty
It was one thing after another all week, so here are the top stories you might have missed from Future.
1. The 53% ride-hailing pay cut: Monthly ride-hailing incomes have plunged
2. The quest for a U.S. policy on AI: Congressmen challenge their peers and Trump
3. Why academics are creating deepfakes: In the mind of the scientists
4. The race for the next billion cars: Who will be the next trillion-dollar company?
Photo: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía
Trump's 19th century grand strategy (Charles Kupchan - Foreign Affairs)
Driverless independence for older drivers (Laura Fraade-Blanar - Axios)
Maya was sprawling (Ben Guarino - WP)
The likeliness of a new Brexit referendum (James Blitz - FT)
AI to detect if you'll awaken from a coma (Dave Gershgorn - Quartz)
The moment of activation. Photo: University of Tokyo
The strongest-ever controlled magnetic field was activated in Tokyo earlier this year, showering a containment room with sparks for its brief lifespan: 1/1,000th of a blink of an eye.
Why it matters: Powerful magnetic fields allow scientists to study the movement of electrons, enabling research into fusion, a future source of clean energy.
The field was measured at 1,200 teslas — a unit of magnetic field strength — which is about 400 times the strength of an MRI, according to IEEE Spectrum.
The magnetic field’s 100 microseconds of existence may seem fleeting, but it’s actually a major record, according to a statement from the University of Tokyo.
Go deeper: Watch the fireworks as the University of Tokyo field is activated (YouTube)