Amazon Chicago bookstore
Amazon’s new 6,000-square-foot bookstore is located in Chicago’s upscale Lakeview neighborhood.

In case you missed it, Amazon.com, the world’s largest online bookseller, has been opening brick-and-mortar stores over the past few years, with the newest opening this week in Chicago’s upscale Lakeview neighborhood.

  • Part bookstore, part electronics store, part coffee shop, the Chicago location is Amazon’s first physical store in the Midwest and the first not in a shopping mall.
  • Amazon is trying to take advantage of millions of Amazon.com customer ratings and reviews and use its big data to offer in-store customers new ways to discover and purchase popular books, both physical and digital.
  • The average book rating is 4.5 out of 5.
  • Although Amazon.com is a digital behemoth, online sales still account for just 8% of all retail sales in the US. A physical store with a human touch could prove to be a smart strategy as it gives customers an opportunity to engage with the brand.

“We started out as an online bookstore 20 years ago — we were founded as a bookstore and we are passionate readers and book lovers,” Jennifer Cast, a vice president at Amazon Books, told Business Insider.

“We also realized we had an opportunity to create a new kind of store and create a different experience in a physical world. Our special sauce is knowing the reading habits and passions of a city through our Amazon.com data.”

Here’s what we saw on our tour of Amazon’s new bookstore, and how the company’s new clicks-and-mortar strategy could influence the way many people buy books.

Amazon says it wants every book in the store to be a great read.

There are 3,800 titles featured at this store, according to Amazon. The books are selected based on Amazon.com customer ratings, preorders, sales, popularity on Goodreads, and the company’s curators’ assessments.

“In today’s world, when you know what you want you can easily go online and buy it,” Cast told Business Insider. “With a physical store, our mission is to be a great place to discover books.

“We said, OK, in a small space you’ve got thousands — not millions — of books. You would want every book in the store to be a great book, given that we have all this data from Amazon.com customers.

“We also have a very skilled and knowledgeable curator staff. That staff looks at that data — we call it ‘data with heart’ because it’s data from book-loving customers — so we started out saying, let’s have a quality bar and let’s say to be in the store — unless you’re a best-seller — you need to be 4 stars or higher, or a new book when you’re not rated.”

The average rating of books in the store is 4.5 stars.

The average rating of books in the store is 4.5 stars.

To stay in the store, a book needs to be 4 stars or higher, as rated by Amazon’s millions of customers, Cast said.

“When our customers walk in, we want them to say, ‘Oh wow, all these books are highly rated by customers.’ We also know that when people come in to look for books, they’re usually looking for, or want to discover, one or two books. So thousands of books is enough books to be able to find one or two books you love.”

Under each book is a review card with the Amazon.com customer rating and a review.

“Our insight into what we could do different was, let’s take this data, let’s give every single book a review, and let’s give every single book a rating,” Cast said. “It’s a very different experience then, and you get a very different level of information just at a glance.

“And with the barcode you can scan the cover of the book, so if you really want to dive in and like reading those 50, 100, 200 reviews and you want to read more, you can easily get to that.”

If you want a data-driven way to discover and purchase physical books, especially popular current titles, this could be your store.

If you want a data-driven way to discover and purchase physical books, especially popular current titles, this could be your store.

“We decided that instead of trying to squish in as many book as we…