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Amazon and Whole Foods: The new terrain ahead

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We all felt the ground shake earlier this morning with the news that Amazon plans to acquire Whole Foods.

Similar to an earthquake, while living through the experience is shocking, there were ways to predict that it might have been coming, and ways to prepare for it. While the after-tremors of this surprise announcement are being felt far and wide, (and will be for a long time), right now is the time to take a deep breath and realize that the landscape is changing, and that you can navigate through it.

Next week we’ll be delivering in-depth assessments of what this means for the long and short-term, but for today, it’s time for reflection and a renewing of your strength and dedication to the market and the customer.

Here are the facts as we see them: 

This is a game-changer

How many times has the term “game-changer” been used with Amazon? Countless. However, Amazon has been ramping up their entry into the grocery retail market. “Amazon has been steadily breaking into grocery, the largest segment of retail, with AmazonPantry, AmazonFresh, AmazonGo, and most recently their AmazonFresh Pickup pilot. Just yesterday they released a Dash Wand that can not only be used to scan products into a shopping list or cart, but also includes Alexa for find recipes, get product recommendations, and place orders,” said Stephanie Waters, Retail Industry Principal with SAP Hybris, “And now, today, this.”

Stephanie noted, “Some grocers haven’t been overly concerned about Amazon, saying they don’t know how to do fresh and they don’t have stores. That all changed today when they acquired one of the world’s experts in fresh and 465 stores across North America and the UK. The grocery industry will never be the same. We are on the cusp of a quickly moving environment and I think we will see the acceleration of supermarket chains innovating their business models and modernizing their organizations.”

Price wars are coming

Experts in the industry have been aware that a battle was brewing when it comes to pricing and grocery retail, but today’s announcement brings grocery retailers to the front line.

Cutting prices isn’t the answer. You need to deliver an outstanding customer experience and maximize operational efficiencies.

Data: the not-so-secret weapon

Many grocery retailers partnered with Instacart to provide fulfillment services, thereby turning over their customer data to a third-party vendor rather than retaining and using that data. Today should mark a shift in how grocers proceed with this process.

It remains to be seen what impact the Amazon acquisition will have on the Instacart and Whole Food partnership, but taking back control of both the customer experience and data derived from it will be a key element in getting through this disruption in the industry.

Fewer customers walking into stores and ordering online from the retailer equates to lower slotting fees, which means a significant crack in one of the foundations of grocery retailer bottom lines.

Online is the new frontier

It’s hard to believe that there are grocery retailers who haven’t made the leap to online, but they exist. “The news of this acquisition today only accelerates the online grocery forecast which is estimated to grab 20% of grocery by 2025,” said Waters, “retailers who are not online risk losing market share. Period. Full stop.”

Prepare to fight for your customer

Today is a day to recognize that a long battle lies ahead. You have to be prepared to fight for your customer, and you need the tools and strength to do it. It’s time to take a deep breath and assess where you are and where you need to be.

It’s been noted before, but bears repeating over and over: if you evolve your business model to include online retail, but you ignore the customer experience, you have gained nothing, and could even lose customers.

What’s next

Watch this space next week, where we’ll do some deep-dives into what all of this means. In the meantime, know that you can still thrive, and that SAP Hybris can help.

 

 

Jenn Vande Zande
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June 16, 2017
Jenn Vande Zande

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