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At the Queens Center Shopping Mall, in New York. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty

When Amazon announced the closure of all 87 of its pop-up stores in the U.S., it seemed to signal a failed experiment, but temporary shops can be a proving ground to test different physical experiences and gather data.

Why it matters: The pop-ups likely gave Amazon's strategists proprietary data and insights as the company prepares to open more brick-and-mortar outlets like Amazon Books, Amazon 4-Star, and Amazon Go convenience stores.

Between the lines: Pop-ups are being leveraged by different entities for different insights. Brands ranging from IKEA and direct-to-consumer Outdoor Voices to tech giants like Google and rock legends Guns ‘n’ Roses are opening pop-up stores. The Amazon pop-ups merged mobile commerce and store display, creating a dataset on sales, foot traffic, and home-delivery.

  • These insights will likely inform stock and the design of Amazon's physical stores. For instance, products and store features that performed well in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, could work in similar neighborhoods such as Wicker Park, Chicago, or Hayes Valley, San Francisco.

By the numbers:

  • Launching 87 pop-up kiosks allowed Amazon to test consumer reception in 21 states while experimenting with different retail environments, such as Kohl’s stores, Whole Foods, and shopping malls.
  • In the larger scheme of Amazon’s physical retail strategy, it’s a relatively small investment. The company reportedly plans to open 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.

Yes, but: Pop-ups tend to be small spaces with limited inventory, which means they serve a different purpose than showrooms or stores. Retailers can leverage pop-ups as outposts to introduce products to new audiences, or to handle pickups and returns. However, they don't give the full picture of how a brick-and-mortar might perform in a given neighborhood, what to stock consistently, and how to grow and retain foot traffic.

The bottom line: Retail is trending towards smaller chains, better store designs, and greater diversity of services and experiences. Brands, including Amazon, are working to offer consumers the convenience and experience of a physical location — one that has been informed and optimized by data on consumer preferences.

Amit Sharma is founder and CEO of Narvar, which provides customer engagement software and data analytics for retailers. He previously led retail initiatives at Apple, Walmart and Pottery Barn.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Here come Earmarks 2.0

DeLauro at a hearing in May 2020. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to restore a limited version of earmarks, which give lawmakers power to direct spending to their districts to pay for special projects.

Why it matters: A series of scandals involving members in both parties prompted a moratorium on earmarks in 2011. But Democrats argue it's worth the risk to bring them back because earmarks would increase their leverage to pass critical legislation with a narrow majority, especially infrastructure and spending bills.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
56 mins ago - Energy & Environment

UN says Paris carbon-cutting plans fall far short

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Nations' formal emissions-cutting pledges are collectively way too weak to put the world on track to meet the Paris climate deal's temperature-limiting target, a United Nations tally shows.

Driving the news: This morning the UN released an analysis of the most recent nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — that is, countries' medium-term emissions targets submitted under the 2015 pact.

Biden condemns Russian aggression on 7th anniversary of Crimea annexation

Putin giving a speech in Sevastapol, Crimea, in 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

President Biden reaffirmed U.S. support for the people of Ukraine and vowed to hold Russia accountable for its aggression in a statement on Friday, the 7th anniversary of Russia's 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Why it matters: The statement reflects the aggressive approach Biden is taking to Russia, which he classified on the campaign trail as an "opponent" and "the biggest threat" to U.S. security and alliances.

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