Amazon Wants to Know You Better

Despite the allure of online shopping, more than 90 percent of commerce is still conducted in brick-and-mortar stores — and Amazon wants in.

Company insiders told the Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to offer a checkout system to physical retailers, similar to the popular Square reader that attaches to iPhones and iPads. The credit card readers would be provided by Amazon and would attach to Kindle devices.

The online retail giant has no brick-and-mortar experience, which might cause businesses to hesitate before teaming up with them over a point-of-sale system. But Amazon's got one huge perk in their virtual pocket: the credit card information of over 230 users, which it may angle into some sort of "mobile wallet" that would help speed up the checkout process (think Amazon's dangerously easy 1-Click Ordering system online).

A push toward catching the consumer at the checkout line seems almost anachronistic — wasn't that how the world worked, like, in the '90s? — but the numbers don't lie. "The game of mobile payments is going to be won or lost at the physical checkout, that's where nearly all of commerce is done today," Richard Crone, chief executive of Crone Consulting, told the WSJ.

If the majority of commerce happens at the physical checkout counter, what you buy there says a lot about you. And Amazon wants to know that side of you real well. Commenters on The Verge's coverage of the issue expressed skepticism that a Kindle Checkout System would actually help small businesses instead of solely increasing Amazon's possession of consumer data:

Whether or not small business come out on top, there's no question that a Kindle Checkout System would tell Amazon a lot more about you. What Amazon would do with that information remains to be seen, but if their checkout plans work out, you can expect your online shopping experience to get a lot smarter about where you are, what you like, and how you shop.