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Amazon to expand grocery concept to Seattle area

Amazon opened this Amazon Fresh grocery store in Naperville, IL, in December. The company has two more in the works for Illinois, and recently announced two stores in the Seattle area.

Just as I got my first look (second-hand, through a colleague) at the Amazon Fresh store in Naperville, IL, the Seattle-based company is making more moves in grocery.  

First, it is cancelling Prime Pantry, a subscription service that delivers pantry items like laundry soap and canned goods, directly to homes.  

Second, the company is reportedly expanding the Amazon Fresh brick and mortar grocery to Washington state. Amazon currently operates five Amazon Fresh stores, four in California and one in the Chicagoland, with two more in Illinois and one more in California currently planned to open soon.  

It’s not surprising to see the concept expand to several markets, relatively quickly. Amazon Go had a similar trajectory.  

What is surprising, at least from the photos, is how … not differentiated the store seems from photos and videos. Sure, it has a techy grocery cart that allows you to skip the checkout, but even Walmart has scan and go technology.   

Sure, it has Alexa stations to answer questions and ask for deals, but the last thing I want everyone in a store to do is hear me argue with Alexa about something a well-versed clerk would know in two seconds.  

We all know this is just the start of what Amazon’s in-person grocery empire *could* be, but, man, I really feel like every move isn’t quite enough to draw me away from my regular routine.  

What’s going to be the *it* factor that sways consumers to break with their usual routine and shop Amazon Fresh instead? It’s not going to be quality. Amazon already owns Whole Foods. I can’t imagine it’s going to be low prices with the high overhead all of this technology brings.  

It doesn’t appear to be freshly-made restaurant-quality meals.  

So far, it’s just a store.  

What I’d really like to see is the obvious connection with what makes Amazon so irresistible to consumers – beyond the ability to pick up an order at a locker (you can do that at Big Lots or Save A Lot) or drop of a return, which you can do at Kohls or Whole Foods.  

Maybe it’s center-store integration with Prime, allowing shoppers to scan an item they’d like to show up at their house later, while they simply shop for fresh ingredients in-person.  

Amazon took an extremely cautious approach to its Whole Foods integration, particularly with online ordering and pickup. Grocery’s digital revolution is moving much faster now.  

Whatever Amazon Fresh’s *it* factor is going to be, I think they need to roll it out sooner, rather than later, because the novelty will wear off pretty fast. 

Just as I got my first look (second-hand, through a colleague) at the Amazon Fresh store in Naperville, IL, the Seattle-based company is making more moves in grocery.  

First, it is cancelling Prime Pantry, a subscription service that delivers pantry items like laundry soap and canned goods, directly to homes.  

Second, the company is reportedly expanding the Amazon Fresh brick and mortar grocery to Washington state. Amazon currently operates five Amazon Fresh stores, four in California and one in the Chicagoland, with two more in Illinois and one more in California currently planned to open soon.  

It’s not surprising to see the concept expand to several markets, relatively quickly. Amazon Go had a similar trajectory.  

What is surprising, at least from the photos, is how … not differentiated the store seems from photos and videos. Sure, it has a techy grocery cart that allows you to skip the checkout, but even Walmart has scan and go technology.   

Sure, it has Alexa stations to answer questions and ask for deals, but the last thing I want everyone in a store to do is hear me argue with Alexa about something a well-versed clerk would know in two seconds.  

We all know this is just the start of what Amazon’s in-person grocery empire *could* be, but, man, I really feel like every move isn’t quite enough to draw me away from my regular routine.  

What’s going to be the *it* factor that sways consumers to break with their usual routine and shop Amazon Fresh instead? It’s not going to be quality. Amazon already owns Whole Foods. I can’t imagine it’s going to be low prices with the high overhead all of this technology brings.  

It doesn’t appear to be freshly-made restaurant-quality meals.  

So far, it’s just a store.  

What I’d really like to see is the obvious connection with what makes Amazon so irresistible to consumers – beyond the ability to pick up an order at a locker (you can do that at Big Lots or Save A Lot) or drop of a return, which you can do at Kohls or Whole Foods.  

Maybe it’s center-store integration with Prime, allowing shoppers to scan an item they’d like to show up at their house later, while they simply shop for fresh ingredients in-person.  

Amazon took an extremely cautious approach to its Whole Foods integration, particularly with online ordering and pickup. Grocery’s digital revolution is moving much faster now.  

Whatever Amazon Fresh’s *it* factor is going to be, I think they need to roll it out sooner, rather than later, because the novelty will wear off pretty fast. 

Pamela Riemenschneider is the Retail Editor for Blue Book Services.