Amazon’s Whole Foods Buy Should Bring Convenience

You will likely see a whole new level of convenience, breadth of offerings and even innovation as Amazon purchases Whole Foods. And these benefits for you will not be confined to the Amazon/Whole Foods teaming.

“This was a very exciting announcement because I think consumers will be the ones to benefit,” said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing at DealNews, of the $13.7 billion purchase. She predicts competitors will improve pricing, loyalty promotions and other inducements across a wide range of categories to try and keep customers from defecting to Amazon for pantry staples, dry goods, and even fresh food.

Reshaped landscape
Consumers can look forward to more than just extra cash in their wallets when they leave their local grocery stores as competition alters the grocery store landscape. They might see completely overhauled stores — smaller footprints and larger assortments of exclusive brands, which is the successful German approach already invading the United States. Lidl opened its first U.S. stores and Aldi is planning to add another 900 American stores and remodel the majority of its 1,300 existing ones. And Amazon’s stepping in with its tech heritage could completely refashion grocery stores from how they are laid out, to what products are offered, to how shoppers gather their purchases.

Customer focus
While all of the attention is going towards what Amazon is expected to do — add significant technology, for instance — one beneficiary will be the consumer who likes the old-fashioned, non-Amazon shopping experience. The Main Street grocers and supermarkets will maintain their devoted following as people increasingly shy away from techno-powered lives that is Amazon’s focal point.

Personal connection
Many of us — more and more — crave the personal connection that only specialty retailers who are authentically part of the local community can deliver. When time allows, or we simply want to get out of the house and mingle, many of us increasingly favor shopping for food at our local stores, not impersonal big business conglomerates that offer products online. Who doesn’t like to squeeze fresh produce or choose their own cuts of meat at their local supermarket and perhaps run into a neighbor? While they may be forced to tinker with prices and perhaps give the store a better look, the Main Street supermarkets will be making themselves more appealing to us.

Today success at retail is more about how you sell, not what you sell, some analysts say. Over the next 10 years, independent grocers and supermarkets stand to thrive as customers of all ages push back against a one-size-fits-all approach to mass retail and the sameness that it fosters. Customers are seen seeking smaller, community-based stores for different reasons, based on their socioeconomic and demographic outlooks, including the rapid rise in the ranks of affluent households.

Industry improvements
Still, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods (and the improvements it is expected to inspire in delivery and potentially cheaper prices) indicate at least one future direction of grocery. It will likely force other grocery players to raise their own standards, which benefits us. Following Amazon’s lead, any grocer can make substantial improvements to their customers’ experience in stores by melding online and in-store approaches. However, not all grocers want to do this and they don’t have to, as a way of appealing to shoppers who like doing things the traditional way.

Room for variety
In other words, Amazon will be among one model of grocery shopping to emerge and stands to get a good share of shoppers. But there will be plenty of room for grocers of all types and leanings to keep us satisfied.

Resources: Forbes, The New York Times, CNBC, NBC News, USA Today, CNN