Apparently Amazon is now using the stores to encourage customers to sign up for Amazon Prime. Geekwire reports that Amazon is celebrating the one year anniversary of the launch of the Seattle Amazon Books with a new pricing policy.
When the store opened, Amazon charged the same price in the store as it did online, but now the low prices are a perk reserved for Prime members paying $99 a year. Everyone else now has to pay the list price for any non-Amazon hardware sold in its stores.
According to Geekwire, that could be a considerable markup:
There are no price tags on the books at Amazon’s store, as customers can either scan the book at a kiosk or use Amazon’s app to find out how much each product is. But based on a handful of titles I scanned today, the discounts range from 6 percent to upwards of 40 percent. The kiosks clearly show how much you’d save if you were a Prime member.
The new pricing policy reportedly started in August, and have already taken effect at the stores in Seattle, Portland, and San Diego. Amazon is also in the process of launching to two more bookstores in Chicago and Boston.
When I first read this I wondered if Amazon was simply making it easier for non-members to find the price; they might not have Amazon's app on their smartphone and thus finding and paying the list price would be easier than taking each book to a kiosk.
But looking at how the kiosks highlight the price disparity, it's clear that Amazon's goal is to get visitors to sign up for Prime. (Also, there's no reason to assume only Prime members will have the Amazon app; I for example have the latter but not the former).
Amazon is even promoting Prime with large signs around the store:
Amazon isn't the first B&M retailer to tie its discounts to a membership program; many supermarket chains and other retailers offer discounts with a free membership card, and Borders and Barnes & Noble even charged for their membership programs.
So in a way Amazon is copying their competition while going one step better; the Prime membership is worth getting.
That said, I still have two questions. How would you prove to the cashier that you have a Prime membership?
Also, how much do you want to bet that the receipt for non-members will highlight how much they could have saved?