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Q&A With Amazon's VP of Physical Stores, Cameron Janes

Amazon is a leader in commerce that originated online yet now includes over 100 physical store locations. Their most recent physical stores include three Amazon 4-star stores located in the Soho neighborhood of New York City, a suburban town just outside of Denver, Colorado, and the college-town of Berkley, California. These stores join Amazon Books, Amazon Pop-Up and Amazon Go – collectively making up unique, customer-centric experiences that have been brought to life thanks to online driven data and customer-focused research.

ASD Market Week recently had the opportunity to connect with Cameron Janes, Vice President of Physical Stores for Amazon at their newly opened Amazon 4-star store in Lone Tree, Colorado, where ASD Live host Nicole Leinbach Reyhle interviewed Janes about how Amazon is redefining physical retail, why customers are always are the core of all their decisions and much, much more. Discover what Cameron Janes had to share with ASD and what you can gain from his expertise for your own retail business. 

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle: Amazon’s continued growth into physical brick-and-mortar retail has confirmed – for those who were skeptical – that physical retail is definitely not dead. What made Amazon decide to open these new Amazon 4-star stores?

Cameron Janes: Amazon cares about our customers and wants to be where our shoppers are. These stores deliver on that by supporting customers with products that have been identified as best-sellers via online sales data – then provides them an assortment in a variety of categories based on sales data. We sell everything from toys to home goods to books and more in our Amazon 4-star stores, and it’s all based on data of best-selling items sold online.

Reyhle: I love that this concept is directly based on past sales, ultimately helping to strengthen your product curation based on historical data. What else can you share about how data is applied to your inventory selection at each of your Amazon 4-star stores?

"We sell everything from toys to home goods to books and more in our Amazon 4-star stores, and it’s all based on data of best-selling items sold online." -Cameron Janes, VP Physical Stores of Amazon

Janes: Our inventory assortment is based on data but is all human approved. The data is generated based on customer purchases and online reviews, with the average rating of 4.4 stars being applied to every item sold at our Amazon 4-star stores. We even offer review cards and ratings in real-time at our stores via digital signage, helping customers gain a stronger understanding of the inventory.

Reyhle: What a fantastic way to merge online and offline shopping experiences. I love that. It’s clear that you have a core focus on your regional customers, as well, based on my experience within your Lone Tree, Colorado location.

Janes: We do, yes. In each of our Amazon 4-star locations, customers will find products curated specifically to their regional market. In our Colorado location, for example, we feature “Trending Around Denver” items that have been top-performing items sold in that area. We’re able to change this frequently based on sales data to proactively accommodate local customers and ultimately better support each unique, local environment.

Reyhle: It sounds to me that customer insight is used to help make every decision Amazon makes in curating their inventory.

Janes: That’s exactly right. Our stores are built around customers and will continue to operate with consumers at the core of every decision we make. The curation of our inventory represents what our customers are not just buying, but also loving.

Reyhle: Reacting to customer data is so valuable for any retailer. Beyond data, though, what factors influence your decisions on where you will open future Amazon 4-star stores?

Janes: Whether it’s in a mall like our Colorado location or is free-standing such as our Soho store is, we just wanted to be where our customers are. Data, of course, helps us identify this. We had the added benefit of gaining data from another Amazon store in the same mall as our new Amazon 4-star store at our Colorado location. Amazon Pop-Up already existed here, so we benefited from having established data on the local demographics in this particular area.

"Our stores are built around customers and will continue to operate with consumers at the core of every decision we make. The curation of our inventory represents what our customers are not just buying, but also loving." - Cameron Janes, VP Physical Stores at Amazon

Reyhle: Do you ever factor in competitive stores in your search for potential new store locations?

Janes: We don’t focus a lot on the competition. It really is about our customers and what they want and where they are.

"Our employees are trained to put customers first… always." -Cameron Janes, VP Physical Stores at Amazon

Reyhle: That’s a great perspective. Keeping customers top of mind can only help you excel in best supporting them. Undoubtedly your employees are a big part of customer support, as well. What can you tell us about how you train your employees and what expectations you may have from them?

Janes: Our employees are trained to put customers first… always. It really is that simple. What matters to Amazon is customer obsession. We obsess over their experiences and want the employees within Amazon 4-star to do the same.

Reyhle: What a great approach. Can you offer any insight on how your employees are trained on the inventory in your store? With such a vast assortment, there is a lot to know about.

Janes: It’s a responsibility for our employees to know about our inventory so that they can make sure our customers end up with the right products based on what they need. Our store design even supports this, as well. In each of our Amazon 4-star stores, customers will find easy-to-navigate floor plans that also allow for our employees to see throughout the store and more easily identify where customers are and how they can best support them.

Reyhle: Based on my experience at your Colorado store, it was clear to me your floorplan is unlike traditional store layouts. Then again, this just reinforces Amazon’s approach to not focus on the competition.

Janes: We designed our stores with our customers in mind. Basically, our merchandising is simple because it doesn’t need to be complicated. We answer the most obvious questions that customers want to know through our signage and there’s a clear line of vision throughout any point of our store.

Reyhle: Having a clear line of vision and a clarity to who your customers are seems to be a formula for success at Amazon. Well done! I am definitely enjoying the Amazon 4-star experience and look forward to what’s next from Amazon.

Janes: Thank you. It really does come down to the customer being at the center of every decision we make. We’re still learning and we always will be.

To learn more about how you can excel at retail, attend the renowned educational seminars at ASD Market Week in Las Vegas. Retailers can register for free here. 


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