Amazon and the Grocery Experience
It’s Prime Day on Amazon!
For those that don’t know Prime Day is a one-day only global shopping event exclusively for Amazon Prime members to get major discounts on products. If you aren’t a prime member you can start a free trial, and if you’re a student you can get even more perks. In honor of Prime Day, I thought I’d write a little something on Amazon and their recent acquisition of Whole Foods.
A couple weeks ago it was announced that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion dollars, a negotiation that happened over the course of about 6 weeks. Personally, it takes me 6 weeks to decide if it’s worth spending $400 on a new T.V. I can’t imagine negotiating that amount of money that quickly, but then again finance has never been my strong suit.
My strong suit is in people-centered design, and so I want to discuss how Amazon might transform the grocery experience.
In the past, despite being an online shopping giant, Amazon has struggled to compete in the grocery industry simply because many of us like to purchase fresh produce in person. This habit could change over time, especially as food delivery services become more reliable and trusted, but for now brick and mortar shops are continuing to dominate over online sales when it comes to fresh produce. Amazon could be the one to change this, disrupting another major industry.
More and more we’re seeing innovative ways that technology is influencing the grocery experience from online ordering and pick-up, food delivery services, and meal kit services like Blue Apron and Plated. All of these services are trying to solve people-centered challenges.
Here are some of the considerations for addressing the challenges of the grocery experience:
Convenience- making it faster and easier to purchase your groceries
Simplicity- taking the confusion out of shopping for specific recipe ingredients
Healthy- making it easier to eat and choose healthy options
Affordable- making produce cheaper and more affordable
Quality- providing fresh, safe, and desirable produce
Accessibility- providing fresh produce in food deserts and all other areas
When you start to look at the challenges we are trying to solve and considerations we are trying to meet, you realize that we aren’t just trying to improve the shopping experience, but the entire eating experience.
That experience starts with the question:
What am I going to eat today/tomorrow/this week/etc?
That question prompts the need for apps to help us decide, or to understand what’s healthy, or what’s in season/fresh, or what we can afford, or how much to make, or when, where, and how we will get our food. These are all challenges and questions that get considered on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This is where I think Amazon could flourish in re imagining the purpose of a grocery store— a place to not only purchase produce, but a one stop shop to answer these questions and more.
As a brief side note, I want to mention Hungry Harvest here as a great example of solving for challenges beyond just the shopping experience. They package and deliver "recovered produce" as well as donate some of their produce to help fight hunger, essentially providing three solutions in one: providing a fresh produce delivery service, preventing food waste, and fighting hunger. I hope to see them grow and expand with their cause.
Amazon has already introduced how they envision technology aiding in the process of the shopping experience with their Amazon Go trial in Seattle.
The Amazon Go beta store is their initial prototype in bridging the gap between technology enabled and traditional retail when it comes to the grocery experience. One quote I reference often is:
“We must not sacrifice relevancy on the altar of creativity.” — Lee Clow's Beard
Many people still prefer traditional grocery stores for produce, and may not be ready to dive head first into a completely online experience. When you introduce something new and creative, making it relevant to an already understood experience helps in gaining acceptance. Amazon Go pushes the envelope just enough while still being relevant to the grocery experience we are accustomed to.
Amazon Go may help to improve the when, where, and how for the process of acquiring food, but what about the other questions that go into so much of the planning of what to purchase? Some people have expressed concern that Amazon’s “just walk out technology” will eliminate many jobs, such as cashiers. That may happen, but what sort of jobs will it be replaced with? What sort of jobs cannot be automated, or could be but we just prefer the human to human experience?
I envision grocery stores to evolve beyond just the place you go to shop, but a place you go for advice.
What if when you walk in you are greeted by a personal food connoisseur that can help you plan the perfect dinner party, or shop for your family of four on a budget, or simply help you find what you’re looking for quickly? What if through their app you can select meal plans and place restrictions based on cost or dieting so you don’t mistakenly exceed your budget, or to prevent you from impulse buying that chocolate cake? One of the most powerful phrases that drives innovation is “What if…” Four years ago Amazon started with the question of: “What if we could create a shopping experience with no lines and no checkout?” This question and their response might disrupt an industry. But with that disruption I think comes a new question: What if the grocery store was more than a shopping experience?
Design Leader and Strategist M.F.A, Design Thinking and Leadership