As the dominant digital retailer, Amazon has clearly upended the "bricks and mortar" retail industry. It played a significant role in the downfall of Sports Authority and the bankruptcy of Toys R Us, and its influence is at least partly blamed for disappointing performance for scores of others retailers.\nBut despite owning up to 44% of all digital sales, Amazon has made several moves in the area of retailing via physical stores.\nAbout a year ago, Amazon unveiled Amazon Go, an interesting concept store it opened near its headquarters just outside Seattle. The store utilizes a variety of technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI) and sophisticated computer vision to innovate the grocery shopping experience. Customers can enter the grocery store, take items off the shelf and then just walk out of the store with them. Technology takes care of tracking the items and processing payment \u2013 without lines, cashiers or even scanning. \u00a0However, to this day Amazon's experimental store remains open only to Amazon employees, and despite multiple confirmed reports of different locations where Amazon was planning to open more full scale Amazon Go locations, nothing has yet materialized, apparently due to "technical difficulties."\n\n\n \n\n\nNevertheless, over the last year, Amazon has made several commercial-scale forays into \u201cbrick and mortar\u201d retailing, including its acquisition of Whole Foods, and its deal with Kohl\u2019s, whereby in certain areas, Kohl\u2019s stores will accept Amazon returns.\nMost recently, Amazon opened a chain its own branded book stores, named Amazon Books, which is currently in 13 locations nationwide, including New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and Chicago, with more on the way.\nThe Amazon bookstore omnichannel experience\nWe recently visited a local Amazon Books location, which opened in June 2017, in the Garden State Plaza shopping center in Paramus, New Jersey. It\u2019s a cute little bookshop reminiscent of a small B. Dalton or Hudson Booksellers. \u00a0However, based on the current customer experience, Amazon has a long way to go to capitalize on the type of vision represented by Amazon Go or even to catch up to some of the current omnichannel leaders like Best Buy and Walmart.\nHere is a rundown of the current state of the \u201comnichannel experience\u201d at Amazon Book Stores.\nBuy online\/pickup in-store\nOne of the biggest surprises about the Amazon Books experience is that it is somewhat detached from the online experience. \u00a0As of the date of this article\u2019s publication, for example, there is no "buy online and pick up in the store" option, as offered by many retailers including Best Buy, Staples and Walmart. \u00a0You must pick products from the shelf and purchase from the cashier directly at the store.\nAdditionally, Amazon doesn\u2019t provide the capability to allow Amazon.com online consumers \u00a0to see whether a title is sold at a nearby Amazon Books, let alone whether it's in stock - a popular feature offered by retailers such as IKEA. When we asked the store about this, we were told with great energy and enthusiasm that we are free to, "call the store anytime and check what they have on the shelf."\nAmazon also doesn't use the local store inventory for the fulfillment of items that are out of stock on Amazon.com nor does it notify shoppers of the option to contact the local store to inquire about the availability of an item. For example, a customer recently ordered a Kindle Oasis on Amazon.com. \u00a0The next day the customer received an email notice that it was backordered by a week. Even though the customer\u2019s delivery address was less than ten miles from an Amazon Books location, no mention was made of this fact or the possibility of getting the item more rapidly from the store. \u00a0A quick call to the local Amazon Books confirmed that the product was in stock at the physical store. \u00a0Had the customer not thought to check, she would have waited an additional week for the product.\nBrowsing\nSo, what about the shopping experience? It's fairly traditional. The store does have kiosks that allow you to scan books to check for pricing. However, the kiosks do not provide the level of detail about a book available at Amazon.com. For example, you cannot access reviews or receive suggestions of comparable titles\nOf course, you can use the Amazon app to scan the barcode of any book and pull up all the info on Amazon.com, however, you can also use the Amazon app to do this at any bookstore or library, so this is not specific to the Amazon Book Store. \u00a0We also noticed that he app does not appear to recognize that you are at an Amazon store, even if you join the Amazon WiFi network before using it.\nAmazon Prime members do get a discount at Amazon Books. \u00a0Non-Prime customers pay full MSRP for books whereas Prime members are charged whatever the prevailing price for the item is on Amazon.com. The Prime prices are not displayed, however, requiring customers to scan the barcode with the Amazon app (or at a kiosk) to see the price.\nDespite needing to scan to see the price, you cannot then create a cart and pay via the app. You still must wait in line and hand your items to a human cashier. \u00a0There is no form of self-checkout.\nPayment\nThe checkout process is also fairly traditional, a far cry from Amazon Go. \u00a0A friendly cashier will ring up your books just like at Barnes & Noble. You can pay via your Amazon.com account-linked credit cards if you wish, but the process is rather clunky. You first have to download the Amazon app, then use the app\u2019s search feature and scan a QR code taped onto the counter at the store. Next, the app will ask you which stored credit card you wish to use and then the app will present a second QR code on your screen which the checkout person needs to scan using their laser scanner. \u00a0Its arguably easier to use Apple Pay or even just whip out a credit card from your wallet. In fact, be sure to bring one if you don't have an Amazon account because the store doesn't accept cash.\nReturns\nPurchases made in the store do appear in your Amazon.com order history. \u00a0Even if you don\u2019t use your Amazon account to pay for a purchase, when \u201cchecking out\u201d at Amazon Books, you are asked for the email address for your Amazon account on the pin pad device (but interestingly not your password). \u00a0If you provide this, your purchase is added to your Amazon.com order history, but not immediately, it appears to take a day or so to appear.\nHowever, the benefit of this is strictly informational since you cannot return an item purchased at an Amazon Book store via the "mail it back" option offered if you purchased the item from Amazon.com. Store items can only be returned to a physical store. Furthermore, items purchased on Amazon.com cannot be returned to a physical store, even if the same item is sold there.\nIt's certainly way too early to judge Amazon\u2019s long term omnichannel strategy based on the current limitations of the thirteen Amazon Book Stores, \u00a0and it would be unwise to underestimate either their completeness of vision or their ability to execute. However, at the moment, many other retailers are ahead of Amazon in this area and potentially have the opportunity to use that lead to avoid ceding further ground to Amazon - and perhaps win back some market share from consumers for whom a comprehensive omnichannel experience is a priority.\nThe race for digital transformation for all retailers is on. \u00a0Amazon is in the race but is not at the front of the pack, as the current iteration of the Amazon Books experience demonstrates. Perhaps this is yet another reason to pick up speed.