Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon moves into the Kombucha aisle in a big way

One day we might look back at June 16, 2017, as the day the retail and grocery business changed forever. It was, after all, the day Amazon decided to stop dipping its toes in brick and mortar retail and instead dive in head-first with the announced $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods Market. While the news itself made a big splash with the public, the overall ripple effect could send waves of change across the industry for years to come.

Just take out the Citizens Banks!

The deal gives Amazon a network of 450 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom, many of which are located in affluent neighborhoods and come with a loyal customer base willing to pay a premium for high-quality groceries. It also potentially extends the online retailer’s existing grocery service, Amazon Fresh into new markets while also broadening the assortment of products sold. And almost overnight, Amazon goes from a niche player to a national powerhouse in the $1.4 trillion grocery industry. Combined with Amazon’s well-established expertise in logistics, customer data, and pricing, Whole Foods could become a transformational force in brick-and-mortar as we know it.

So what does it all mean everyone else? Retailers and grocers continue to feel the pressure from shifting consumer habits, with many struggling just to stay relevant. Amazon’s new push into the physical world will likely add to the pressure. Here are five things to watch for as Amazon and Whole Foods move forward:

Flexible distribution

Your local Whole Foods likely won’t change into a massive Amazon warehouse and fulfillment center overnight. But there’s a good chance Amazon’s already thinking about how to leverage these strategically located stores (as well as Whole Foods’ existing network of distribution centers) to get products to customers faster and more efficiently than ever. Especially as the company looks to develop its Amazon Fresh service into a leader in the small, but growing online grocery space. Somewhere between Whole Foods’ in-store experience and Amazon Fresh’s online convenience lies the potential for great synergy – especially when it comes to giving more customers access to the whatever delivery method they prefer.

Experience matters

People don’t just buy products; they choose experiences. And the most successful retailers today understand that experience matters. Whole Foods is a long-time leader in bringing experiences to its stores. Whether it’s through in-store cafes, bakeries, cheese tastings, or coffee roasting, Whole Foods customers have come to expect an opportunity to see, taste, touch, and learn about many products before they buy them. That type of experience remains a tough solve for online-only food retailers. Whole Foods is an opportunity for Amazon to double-down on the ability for customers to experience new products and how to use them. Will it extend these experiences beyond just food products?

Fulfillment-plus

Jeff Bezos was one of the first to propose the idea of delivering orders to a physical location other than a customer’s home or office. Today Amazon Lockers are commonplace, giving customers a secure place to receive orders whenever and wherever it’s most convenient for them. Having an additional 450 Amazon-owned locations could extend the service even further, providing new real estate for deliveries, returns or other shipping services that can’t simply be provided in the back of a 7-Eleven. While there’s no public plans for Amazon shipping centers, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

An industry wake-up call

Amazon’s big jump into the grocery business splashes water on the faces of just about everyone else in the industry. Now it’s up to grocers to innovate and refresh their business models in order to stay afloat. Will it lead to traditional grocers adopting more online shopping and deliveries? Will they be able to compete on more than just price? Clearly, customers will choose the experience that suits them best. They ultimately vote with their wallets. It’s up to grocers to gain a better understanding of all the data behind customer interactions, to be able to match pricing and promotions to a customer’s preferences, and to create experiences that delight and reward shoppers for their loyalty.

The landscape is changing fast – don’t get left behind

It used to be that Amazon was the leader in online shopping and services and Walmart was the king of physical retail. But now Amazon is building bookstores and could soon have its own massive grocery chain, while Walmart gets more aggressive online. Somewhat lost in all the news about Amazon and Whole Foods was Walmart’s announced acquisition of online fashion brand, Bonobos – not to mention its recent purchase of Amazon competitor Jet.com. In their quest to be the primary destination for consumers of all walks of life, both Amazon and Walmart have begun aggressively stepping on each other’s turf.

It’s further evidence the lines have blurred between physical and online retail and there’s no single path to success. It’s no longer just about stores or about prices, delivery speed or convenience. Those who succeed will do so by finding the right mix of products, prices, and technology to surround the customer with consistent, seamless, personalized experiences.

Will drone-delivered, organic kombucha come next? Maybe not tomorrow. But all signs point to the dawning of a new age of retail. And it’s only just begun to get interesting.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, eCommerce, Retail, Supply Chain

The Amazon effect…

When I started my “adulting” journey, one of my first jobs was at Forrester Research. It was during the end of the last century, wow I’m getting old, and I had a front row seat to the rise of the internet. Those were the days of irrational exuberance both in the stock market but also with technology. While many of the companies that rode this wave to fleeting stardom, remember the likes of Pets.com where you could order anything for your gold fish, basset hound or pet ferret needed from a sock puppet? Or Webvan which was ahead of its time when it came to the online grocery game. Even a surgeon general Dr C Everett Kopp dipped his toes into the dot com game creating Drkoop.com which tried to make a go at the online medical space. One company that was born of this time but has continued to flourish is Amazon.

Why is this man smiling?

The pioneering eCommerce player who started by selling books and CDs is now a market shaper. Their success was in large part built on seizing on the consumers’ growing hunger and desire to access shopping via the internet, keeping the eCommerce player’s cost down since they bypassed the expensive cost associated with retail real estate. But fast forward to 2017, and it appears that Amazon is now going to be aggressively looking to open physical stores. Gasp. What???

According to a piece in Seeking Alpha, it is rumored that Amazon will be targeting the opening of close to 2000 stores. Supposedly up to 400 bookstores, but also appliance stores, furniture, electronics and others. No small feat to say the least. So why is Amazon jumping into the brick and mortar game when so many other retailers are desperately trying to prune their store trees? The reality is Amazon realizes, as do other pure eCommerce players such as Warby Parker and Bonobos, the experience you can provide the consumer online and via a mobile device has limitations. Consumer expectations have evolved to the point where price is no longer the only driver. They know they can get a competitive price at the touch of their fingers. What they are now looking for are the experiences retailers bring to the table. Why do I shop and give my money to retailer A and not retailer B? Experience plays a large part in that decision making. One simply has to look at retailers such as Urban Outfitters that are looking to add experiences such as enjoying a fresh slice of pizza to the in store shopping experience. Or Restoration Hardware that are turning stores into true show rooms – allowing the customer to have a true experience with furniture and home goods. We already know high end retailers such as Barneys, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom offer such experiences as cafes, salons, personal shoppers to name a few. The shopping experience becomes complimentary to the acquisition of a product.

For Amazon it makes sense to get themselves into the physical store game. First don’t think of Amazon stores as traditional sites to simply buy items. While that will be a major component of the stores, think of them as multi discipline assets. Buying product, picking up product purchased online, returning goods at the store, receiving training or services from the store, even distributed warehousing capacity for Amazon. Second, even if the stores lose money, expect Amazon to push for these stores to be nodes within their digital footprint. Points of data and behavior gathering. How much information can Amazon gather from their interactions with customers in these locations? Finally, is this a marketing gamble for Bezos and company? As certain brick and mortar players struggle with their footprint, is Amazon announcing it will be opening up stores a message to the world declaring that they truly are looking to be the dominant retail giant for years to come?

As a recent headline article in the Economist points out, Bezos and Amazon are trying to create the ultimate customer centric company, but they are also aware that other players are looking to sell something Amazon doesn’t have – that is the experience of physical retail. Traditional retailers still have a card to play, but they better be laser focused on how to differentiate through this channel, because Amazon isn’t standing still.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Retail

A Sky Full of Drones.

Last week the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) published their rules and regulations for the oversight of drone usage within the United States. Many will and have argued that these rules are too restrictive for companies such as Amazon or Google to truly take advantage of the technology. The basic parameters of the guidelines set by the FAA:

  • Drones must be less than 55 lbs in weight
  • Can only fly during the day in good weather
  • Must not fly close to airports
  • Cannot fly faster than 100mph
  • And must be within visible site of the operator

On the surface these restrictions severely limit the dreams of the likes of Jeff Bezos. One of the great opportunities for drones within the supply chain and particularly with the delivery side – is the ability to enhance the last mile portion. The last mile is always a challenge since you have to break down the orders to the individual level. Drones seem to offer a affordable and flexible solution – but not necessarily if the FAA rules are in place. This does not mean there are not some use cases that supply chains can take advantage of immediately:

  • Asset monitoring – this is already taking place in agriculture, oil & gas, mining to name a few. Drones provide the flexibility for activities such as survey work, monitoring of assets, determining crop growth etc. In countries such as Australia, mining companies are already leaning heavily on the pilot-less aircrafts to assist with the activity on the ground. By some estimates the usage can save close to 90% of the $2000 an hour cost for a helicopter.
  • Remote delivery: Logistics firms such as DHL have been able to expand their reach via drones. The ability to connect remote German islands in the North Sea has enhanced the remote locations with a more regular delivery service. Of course these drones are clearly flying outside of site lines of the operator.

These use cases are not necessarily replicable under the FAA rules. However I have to believe that as the technology continues to evolve the FAA will loosen their grip on the regulations. So what could we expect from more open drone rules? If and when the drone rules become more open here are some opportunities that supply chains might enjoy:

  • Smaller window of delivery for certain items. Think of Kozmo.com with drones rather than people on bicycles. Companies from Amazon to CVS to Giant Eagle to Five Guys will be able to deliver a whole host of items to your door at the drop of a hat. Well maybe not that fast. But why couldn’t books or other items from Amazon be delivered within the hour? Or CVS deliver your prescriptions. Giant Eagle your groceries and Five Guys your cheeseburger. Once drones become a more viable delivery extension of the supply chain, look for businesses to take advantage of the new reach this provides into the home.
  • Untethering the consumer from a physical address. Drones, coupled with the explosion of mobile, will allow delivery systems to ignore the limitations of roads and physical addresses. Today deliveries rely on infrastructure such as roads, as well as fixed addresses in order to manage delivery of goods. What happens when you have a drone that has far fewer restrictions? Couple this with a mobile device that is provides the digital location of the recipient. Your mobile can send the drone the exact coordinates, GPS, and the drone can then fly its way to your location. We will not longer have to worry about having a package delivered to our home or office…we can just tell it what time to deliver it to us as it hones in on your GPS coordinates.

I realize these changes are a ways off. But these are examples of how the supply chain will be expanded beyond the traditional links – loading dock, retail store to name a few. These types of digital disruptions will begin to turn  our homes into an extension of our supply chains.

Now I wonder where I should build my drone landing pad…

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Drones, Mobility, Supply Chain

Supply chain strive to achieve precise demand shaping – doubled edged sword

Over the past few weeks I have been meeting with a number of supply chain services companies who are talking about and focusing on developing solutions that will allow users to be laser focused with demand sensing and shaping. This was particular evident during my meetings at NRF in New York. We also have the likes of eCommerce giant Amazon who have patented technology that claims to be able to put on the truck the product you have yet to order because they know that you will order it! All very interesting and exciting for supply chains – these supply chains strive to eliminate or at least control the lumpiness associated with their demand patterns.

However this begets a question – is this necessarily good? For example. The situation I hear often is what takes place at Starbucks. A regular client walks into their local Starbucks, the barista notices them standing in line and knows their preferred order. The customer reaches the cash register and their usual venti, skinny, vanilla latte is already waiting for them. All they have to do is pay and pick up their piping hot coffee.  Sounds lovely.

They know what  you want before you order it!

They know what you want before you order it!

And for the most part maybe that customer appreciates the convenience, and feeling of being so well known that you are the “mayor” of that Starbucks. But what if that customer does not want that skinny vanilla latte? What if the customer wants a hot chocolate one day? Do they dare deviate from their usual order or do they accept the usual order for the convenience?

The same holds true for grocers such as Stop and Shop or Walmart, who let you order online and pick up in store – and will predict what your basket will look like. So all you need to do is drive to the grocery store and pick up your order. There is no need to think too much. Of course the positive is that there are tremendous time savings for the customer if they do not want to contemplate a new mix of groceries. But what if the consumer wants to try a new cheese or kitchen cleaner? If their order is already compiled for them will they get the opportunity to see what else is available? Or do we not want to give them the opportunity? How do we make sure they have the opportunity to browse?

My point is not that supply chain users and vendors should not stop striving to get too smart and more effective when it comes to demand shaping and sensing. However there must be some balance when it comes to how precise and “effective” the supply chains need and want to be with regards to the customer. Yes, we want to eliminate lumpiness and extract those savings from the supply chain. But retailers and other players in the supply chains need to still keep a balance with being very precise with how they manipulate and predict demand with the opportunity for their customers to deviate from their usual demand. Retailers and other customer focused industries need to determine how precise they want to be with their demand shaping and how much freedom they want to give their customers to roam and wander through options.

Leave a comment

Filed under Demand Shaping, Supply Chain

Digital disruption on verge of taking out historic retailer

The 94 year old retailer, Radio Shack, is on the verge of no longer being in existence. Sad, but another example of digital disruption in the retail supply chain. Radio Shack was one of the leading retailers when it came to cutting edge electronics. I remember as a kid going there to get a new tape recorder (yup I played my first Van Halen cassette, 1984, on a tape recorder from Radio Shack) or when cordless phones came out, Radio Shack was the go to place to acquire such technological marvels. There is a picture circulating around social media about all the technologies you could have at Radio Shack in the 1990s…that are all now contained in that device we carry in our pockets – the smart phone (see below). Talk about digital disruption.

As the rise of Amazon took place in the 1990s, electronics being sold more widely and consumers becoming more digitally savvy, Radio Shack found itself in a difficult situation. The store’s footprint was too small to carry the wide array of SKUs that a Best Buy or Circuit City could (not that is necessarily a long term advantage as the latter is out of business and the former struggling) and it could not compete with the online force that Amazon had become nor the discounting that the likes of Target and WalMart offered. Not a great place to be for Radio Shack.

Everything on this page is now in your smart phone...talk about digital disruption

Everything on this page is now in your smart phone…talk about digital disruption

So now the stories are that Sprint may take on or co-brand some locations. Makes sense for the telecom giant as they look to increase their reach with their brick and mortar stores. Unlike Radio Shack, Sprint only needs to carry a very focused and smaller inventory – just mobile phones and tablets. Wireless providers like Sprint and AT&T benefit from having some brick and mortar for sales but also lean on them for service and customer support. The more intriguing option is the one where Amazon would swoop in and purchase some locations. Interesting.

This comes on the heels of Amazon opening their first brick and mortar store, something I wrote about a while back, click here for post. Does this make sense for Amazon? Some are pointing out that Amazon could use these stores to showcase products. Not sure I agree with that. Amazon already has that…it is called Barnes and Nobles, Target, Best Buy, REI, Toys R Us, Dicks Sporting Goods, Home Depot etc…why would they add a cost layer to get something they already have? They could use the locations for pick up and returns. Hmmm, that I might see as a more viable option. Radio Shack stores have an average of 2,426 square feet, a little bigger but similar footprint to UPS stores. UPS stores range from 800 to 1800 square feet. The Amazon/Radio Shack stores could provide similar services: receiving and holding orders or processing returns. With this level of service, Amazon would not have to worry about carrying SKUs at these locations nor having a large staff to manage need to manage the retail aspect. Could they also act as smaller distribution centers (DCs)? Why not. As Amazon is also looking to expand their own transportation fleet – in such deliveries as grocery – these smaller outlets could also be staging areas for some inventory. They may even have their own drone delivery assets at each physical location. Don’t laugh too loud, this might be closer then we think!

One topic we are covering in 2015 is the transformation of the consumers’ home into an extension of the retailer. Amazon moving into Radio Shack locations would allow the online giant to move in this direction. It could give users of such services as Zappos who are used to getting multiple sizes and colors delivered to their home to try on and then return, an alternative channel from which they can return their items. This move might allow Amazon to get a little bit closer to their consumers.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Drones, eCommerce, Retail, Supply Chain

Amazon – increases the pressure on retail – 1 hour delivery

Amazon announced earlier that in New York City…okay in one zip code of NYC – 10001 – it will offer 1 hour delivery of tens of thousands of items for customers in that zip code. Click here for press release. This service will be for those customers to are Amazon Prime members and cost an additional $7.99 (2 hour deliver is free), another “perk” for paying to be part of the cool kids on Amazon.com. It would appear that the new Amazon store on 34th street will be tasked with handling much of the distribution for these potential customers. While the 1 hour delivery is limited to this area code for now, the retail giant plans to expand to other cities in the near future. I wonder if Boston is on their list of potential target cities…hmmm.

This should come as no surprise as Amazon continues to act as the 800lb gorilla when it comes to retail and supply chain. The idea of such rapid delivery is also not a new one. Anyone remember Kozmo.com? During the dot com boom that cool .com company could be seen in many an office lobbies delivering everything from ice cream to the latest CD from TLC. Alas they could not solve the issues of having to carry such a wide array of inventory with order runs that could not cover the carrying costs, delivery costs etc. So should we expect Amazon to fare better? Maybe. The have a couple of factors in their favor that Kozmo.com did not:

  • Years of experience with running distribution centers – unlike Kozmo.com that really started as a company leveraging bike messengers to pick up small orders and deliver them, Amazon is a well oiled machine when it comes to understanding the nuances and challenges of running DCs with large arrays of SKUs. Their move into the 34th street location was seen by some as curious. But for Amazon it was clearly just the ability to place another potential distribution hub closer to its target audience.
  • Vast amounts of buying behavior data for those Amazon Prime members in that zip
    Just this little slice of the Big Apple

    Just this little slice of the Big Apple

    code…and else where for that matter. Amazon has years of historic data for those that sit in the 10001 zip code (about 20,000 people). And as we all know, Amazon is very good at figuring out what to suggest for our next purchase and even claim to know what to put on the truck before we even order it. Of those tens of thousands of items that could be delivered in that zip code, I have a feeling all the purchase data being analyzed in the Amazon cloud has identified the 1,000s (maybe only hundreds) of most likely items that are most likely to be ordered for those customers.

  • A war chest that Kozmo could only dream of. I think it is safe to say that Kozmo.com could only dream of one day having the war chest Amazon can dip into. With over $5b of cash on hand, Amazon can afford to lose money on their delivery model as they work out the details. And unlike Kozmo.com, Amazon is only servicing one part of Manhattan. I bet the bike messengers from Kozmo.com would have appreciated that much more!

What cannot be under-emphasized is the impact this will have with regards to firing another salvo across the bow of the retail world. Just like with other bold moves – think drone delivery – this  move by Amazon is as much to test out a new fulfillment and commerce model as it is to cause ripples through the retail world and beyond. The digital disruption it will create is  disproportional to the actual disruption, but it will force companies and supply chains to once again figure out how to combat Bezos and Amazon.

I wonder how de Blasio will feel once Amazon looks to fly drones up and down 34th street.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Drones, Retail, Supply Chain

The 800lb supply chain gorilla continues to disrupt with payment services

Amazon announced today it was going to jump right into the deep end when it comes to physical, in-store payment systems. They have unveiled a mobile payment service for brick and mortar stores. Taking direct aim at other mobile POS systems – Square, Paypal as well as Google and Apple. From the reports, Amazon will look to undercut other mobile payment systems – taking 2.5% of transactions versus 2.7% for the likes of Square – to grow their market presence. They are giving merchants an introductory rate under 2% to build that beachhead (feels like a credit card invitation – 0% APR and then only a slight bump to 33%).

In the online world, Amazon already knows how to handle and secure credit cards. They are also well versed when it comes to mobile payments as their iOS and

Coming to a brick and mortar store near you...

Coming to a brick and mortar store near you…

Android apps’ success has demonstrated. The natural progression was to push into the brick and mortar space – where 90% of retail transactions live. In the near term I am not sure that Amazon will do more than offer a secondary maybe even tertiary option. Brick and mortar retailers could view the Amazon system as letting the fox into the hen house. It would be understandable if these brick and mortar players do not flock to embracing Amazon and their payment systems. But I am sure that the favorable financial set up will force a large number of players to give it some serious consideration. Whether or not Amazon is widely successful with this venture is secondary to what the eCommerce 800lb gorilla is doing with regards to their overall supply chain disruption.

A quick look at what Amazon has been doing to become the 800 lb gorilla in supply chain:

  • Acquired Kiva Systems to add sophisticated robotics and automation to their massive distribution centers.
  • Gobbled up the likes of fabric.com, CDNow, Zappos, Pets.com to constantly expand their ability to offer a wide array of inventory.
  • Pushed out a tablet and now a mobile phone under the Fire umbrella. Both of which are really hand held sales terminals for Amazon to leverage.
  • Started pushing last mile grocery delivery in certain markets with their AmazonFresh offering.
  • Even leaking that they are thinking of delivering via drones.

This is in addition to their deep experience in the online retail world. Taken together and you have the 800 lb gorilla that is disrupting the supply chain jungle. Add to this the news of them pushing into the payment space and you see Amazon gaining access to POS data from brick and mortar, coupled with all the data they have on consumer online buying. Amazon is quickly aggregating vital data sources on how consumers buy, where demand is being generated and how it impacts the retail supply chain.

So now Amazon is dabbling in last mile logistics, continually working on more efficient warehouse management, putting portable POS systems in consumers’ hands and now putting POS systems in the retailers’ hands.

That 800lb gorilla might have added another 50lbs of lean muscle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Current Events, Mobile payment, Retail, Supply Chain