Amazon could open up to 400 stores

Amazon is diving into brick and mortar in a big way, with plans to open up to 400 physical store fronts, according to reports.

The news came not from Amazon, but Sandeep Mathrani, CEO of General Growth Properties, during a call to discuss earnings and in response to an analyst's question about mall traffic.

"You've got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400," he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Amazon has declined to comment and it's unclear where Mathrani received his information, but the WSJ speculated it was information gleaned from conversations with Amazon real-estate executives.

Mathrani also pointed to other online retailers expanding into physical locations as a boon to mall operators. Birchbox, Bonobos and Warby Parker are all opening stores to capture new customers.  

Amazon opened its first bookstore in November in Seattle and there has been much chatter about the e-tailer's plans regarding physical expansion. As Amazon expands Prime, speeds delivery times and creates original content, it has captured more marketshare. One estimate has Amazon responsible for more than 50 percent of all retail sales growth.

But Amazon also controls a huge amount of customer data that will help personalize the shopper experience, both online and in stores. It's part of what gives Amazon an edge over traditional retailers still struggling to create compelling omnichannel experiences.

"Our research shows that Amazon is the clear leader in understanding shoppers' preferences and delivering highly-personalized experiences," said Hilmi Ozguc, CEO of Swirl, a beacon marketing solution provider, in an emailed statement.

Roughly 56 percent of shoppers say that Amazon demonstrates an understanding of their individual preferences and needs on a regular basis, while only 25 percent believe that's true of traditional retailers, according to research by Swirl.

"Today's consumers live in an 'always-connected' world and expect no boundaries between the online, in-store and mobile shopping experience," said Ozguc. "With Amazon now betting they can deliver personalization at the brick and mortar level, traditional retailers must master omnichannel marketing in 2016 or risk losing even more ground."

For more:
-See this Wall Street Journal article (tiered subscription)
-See this US News & World Report story

Related stories:
Amazon's big miss might be anything but
Amazon Marketplace grew 40% on Cyber Monday
Amazon captures 50% of retail sales growth
Inside Amazon's urban warehouse
Amazon Fire sales are on fire