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Thursday, February 07, 2019

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Face Time with the Content Guy: Dust Off Our Souls

This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.

Hi, Kevin Coupe here, and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy, and I want to follow up this morning on the FaceTime commentary I did two weeks ago, bemoaning the fact that some colleges seem to be getting rid of humanities courses and majors in favor of a focus on STEM subjects that a) people seem to want and b) people seem more willing to pay for.

I thought it was short-sighted then, and I think that even more right now.

There was an interesting piece in the Wall Street Journal the other day about a new study from the labor market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies suggesting that while the left brain “is popularly associated with logic and analytic thought; the right, with intuition and creativity,” one has to be careful about putting too much emphasis on one over the other.

That’s because, the survey says, “many of the good jobs of the future … will require being good at using both sides of the brain.

According to the story, “To some extent, that future is already here. Jobs that tap both technical and creative thinking include mobile-app developers and bioinformaticians, and represent some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying occupations.”

The term for just employment is “hybrid jobs,” and the Journal suggests that their growth is twice that of traditional employment. And they pay better.

What Burning Glass found is that “many employers want workers with experience in such new capabilities as big-data gathering and analytics, or design using digital technology. Such roles often require not only familiarity with advanced computer programs but also creative minds to make use of all the data.” And they found that many employers will be better off if they offer existing the employees the ability to have the side of their brain that is being less used further educated so that they can live up to the new demands of the economy.

What this means, I think, is that schools aren’t doing anyone any favors when they focus on science and math-based programs and give less emphasis to the humanities, which is where a lot of creativity is encouraged.

I love the line from Pablo Picasso: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” I take it seriously, and I even think about it when I choose stories for MNB. I am dismayed when I hear about schools that do not invest in them, or make them less important than science or (heaven help us!) football.

There’s a lot of dust out there, sometimes so much that it obscures vision and inhibits heart. To be more effective, more relevant and resonant, we have to do our best to wash it off our souls.

That’s what is on my mind this Thursday morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.

Thursday Eye-Opener: Bus Fare

by Kevin Coupe

Amazon will deliver to you at your home. Amazon will deliver to you at your workplace. Amazon will deliver to you at any of its locker installations. And Amazon even will, in certain cases, deliver to your car.

But now, it has patented a new system for delivering someplace else.

The bus.

That’s right. The Star Tribune reports that “Amazon last week received a patent for transforming public buses into mobile delivery stations. Customers would simply meet the bus at a convenient stop, and pick up their items from a removable delivery module attached to the vehicle.”

The patent application notes that “some customers may not live or work near pickup locations, or may otherwise not want to take the time to travel to one. In addition, some customers may live and work in regions where there are few or no carriers for delivering packages, thus complicating the delivery of items to any destinations near the customer.” Hence, the development of a delivery system that would use public transportation systems to go to them.

The Star Tribune writes that “Amazon’s patent does not specify any financial arrangements that might be associated with fastening its delivery modules to buses, but it would clearly have to pay to do so.” Such arrangements could provide a financial lifeline to public transportation systems that, from some reports, have been losing riders to ride sharing systems such as Uber and Lyft.

Now, let’s be clear. Amazon has a ton of patents, and not all of them have found their way into actual use, at least not yet.

But this Eye-Opener demonstrates how the company thinks, and what is possible.

Could you, would you on a bus?
We will, we will, without a fuss.
In the end, its all about trust,
And, Amazon says, it is all about us.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

From the National Grocers Association...

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Instacart Addresses Criticisms With Shopper Pay Raise

Delivery service Instacart, facing a class action lawsuit alleging that the company “intentionally and maliciously misappropriated gratuities” in order to pay employee wages despite its assurances to the contrary, yesterday tried to stanch the public relations bleeding.

It gave its shoppers a raise.

The company said that from now on, it will pay shoppers a minimum of $7 to $10 for full-service orders and a minimum of $5 for delivery-only orders. In addition, the company said, “Tips should always be separate from Instacart’s contribution to shopper compensation … All batches will have a higher guaranteed compensation floor for shoppers, paid for by Instacart … Instacart will retroactively compensate shoppers when tips were included in minimums.”

In a blog posting, Instacart CEO Apoorva Mehta wrote, “After launching our new earnings structure this past October, we noticed that there were small batches where shoppers weren’t earning enough for their time. To help with this, we instituted a $10 floor on earnings, inclusive of tips, for all batches. This meant that when Instacart’s payment and the customer tip at checkout was below $10, Instacart supplemented the difference. While our intention was to increase the guaranteed payment for small orders, we understand that the inclusion of tips as a part of this guarantee was misguided. We apologize for taking this approach.”

TechCrunch writes that “in addition to the lawsuit, workers have taken to Reddit and other online forums to speak out against Instacart’s paying practices. Since introducing a new payments structure in October, which includes things like payments per mile, quality bonuses and customer tips, workers have said the pay has gotten worse - far below minimum wage. In one case, Instacart paid a worker just 80 cents for over an hour of work. Instacart has since said it was a glitch - caused by the fact that the customer tipped $10 - and has introduced a new minimum payment for orders.”

In its coverage, the New York Times suggested that “the gig economy’s work force is fighting back, and in some cases, it’s winning.”

And, the Times put the Instacart situation in a broader context:

“The victory at Instacart, which will ultimately affect thousands of workers, is just the latest in a string of successful pressure campaigns by workers for gig economy platforms. Drivers for Uber and Lyft in New York successfully agitated for a citywide minimum wage that went into effect this week. Postmates, another high-flying start-up, recently settled a class-action suit with thousands of delivery workers who contested the way the company classified them as contract workers.

“It’s no secret that many modern gig workers exist in a state of permanent precarity, with few legal protections, unstable working conditions and pay that varies based on who’s flush with venture capital money that week. Most gig economy workers are still classified as contract workers, meaning that they aren’t covered by federal minimum wage laws and other labor protections.

“Still, by organizing en masse and expressing vocal opposition to exploitative policies, they have managed to wring some concessions out of the billion-dollar corporations whose labor they provide.”

Instacart CEO Mehta, in his blog posting, tried to put the controversy to rest: “I want to thank you for your feedback,” he wrote. “It’s our responsibility to change course quickly when we realize we’re on the wrong path and we believe today’s changes are a step in the right direction.”

KC's View: If Instacart has been persistently deceptive about this, what else have they been deceptive about?

Like maybe the whole notion that it is serving retailers‘ best interests?

I think the Times observations point to a specific financial reality - as startup companies evolve and grow and continue to seek venture capital, they are looking for any possible advantage that will make their numbers look good, and therefore more attractive to potential investors. This can mean a short-term focus that is not necessarily sustainable, and does not serve all the stakeholders in a business.

That’s strikes me as the case with Instacart. It has a model that makes sense short-term for retailers, because it enables them to get into the e-commerce business quickly and efficiently … in the same way that when Priceline many years ago tried to market a “name your own price for groceries” system that some retailers (Kroger included!) thought could serve as an e-commerce solution. But it is not a long-term solution, because, like the Priceline offering, it erodes a retailer’s value proposition over time.

Here’s the deal. Startup businesses like Instacart can address this by focusing less on their own branding and economic needs, and more on their customers. It might take longer to get traction, but in the end, I think that focusing on customer needs is the best prescription for success.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From The Organic Produce Summit...

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Kroger Expands In-Store Home Chef Meal Kit Presence

Kroger and Home Chef said yesterday that they will expand their in-store meal kit offerings to new cities, “bringing the weekly rotating meal solution to 500 additional Kroger Family of Stores across the country.”

In addition, the companies said, Home Chef “has launched a customizable meal kit feature for online orders, allowing customers to have more flexibility in deciding what’s for dinner by providing the choice to change and upgrade recipe ingredients.”

Kroger introduced Home Chef retail meal kits into its stores last October, and now will have more than 700 stores offering the option.

KC's View: It seems pretty clear at this point that the meal kit business has been new life with the addition of traditional retail to the mix … it is a concept that has a lot of relevance to people, and actually adds relevance to the retailers that offer them. The ability to tie into these businesses, while also customizing the offerings, makes a lot of sense.

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Industry Drumbeat

From WAFC...

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Panera Shutters Pay-What-You-Can Experiment

The Chicago Tribune reports that sandwich chain Panera is closing the last of the locations where it was testing a pay-what-you can model. The units have been operating in Chicago; Clayton, Mo.; Portland, Ore.; and Dearborn, Mich., and Boston.

The story notes that “the original idea was to allow customers to give a suggested donation for their food in a bid to raise awareness about hunger across the U.S. The funds collected were supposed to cover the store's operating costs while also paying for those who couldn't afford their food.” However, the company found that the concept simply was not sustainable.

According to the Tribune, “The JAB Holding Co.-owned chain said that those who couldn't afford their food, including homeless patrons, were supposed to eat in-store. That was intended to create a feeling of community, but it also highlighted the tensions that arise when private businesses try to be welcoming for everyone.”

KC's View: Too bad … it was an idea that captured the imagination, even if it wasn’t workable in real life. It calls to mind the line from Nelson Mandela, that “a Nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but it's lowest ones.”

Good for Panera taking a shot.

Amazon’s Newest Product Offering: Amazon Cash

MediaPost reports that Amazon has “quietly launched Amazon Cash, a service that allows consumers to purchase products on Amazon without having to use a debit or credit card … There will be two different ways to add cash to an Amazon account. At participating stores, shoppers can either scan their barcode at the cashier or kiosk or use their mobile number to identify their Amazon account, then add cash.”

The move, the story says, is designed to appeal to the 32.6 million households in the U.S. that either don’t use banking services or make limited use of them; the story also suggests that this is an effort by Amazon to appeal more to “African-American and Hispanic consumers, who just so happen to be the most likely ethnic groups to be unbanked, according to an FDIC study.

“Several factors impact this disparity, including lower average household incomes as well as a distrust of financial institutions. Amazon’s message to these consumer groups, however, is loud and clear: ‘being unbanked or underbanked should not be a barrier to using our service’.”

Bricks-and-mortar chains participating in the Amazon Cash program include CVS, GameStop, and 7-Eleven.

KC's View: The move by Amazon to better serve the unbanked and under-banked is just part of its broader competition with Walmart, which always has had a strong connection to that part of the community.

Arguing Against A Costco-Owned Free Video Streaming Service

The Motley Fool has a piece about how Costco seems to continue to believe that launching its own free video streaming service “could build additional value into its warehouse club membership.” Such a plan appears to still be “on the drawing board for Costco,” but Motley Fool is unimpressed, saying that “Costco investors would be better off if it shelved its plans … There's nothing Costco can bring to the table that will improve upon what's already in the marketplace, but it can damage its own finances by doing so.”

Here’s the analysis: “There is certainly no shortage of streaming outlets to choose from. Beyond and Netflix, consumers can also select services from Roku, Hulu, SlingTV, and YouTube TV. And more will be coming soon. Disney is launching Disney+ this year;  AT&T, Comcast, and Apple are considering their own services; and Elon Musk even has dreams of streaming from space. Discovery also keeps teasing one.”

Beyond that, Walmart - recognizing reality - recently decided against launching one that would exist in tandem with its existing Vudu service.

KC's View: One of the observations that Motley Fool makes about the streaming business is that providers such as Amazon and Netflix have differentiated themselves not by streaming other people’s movies, but by producing and acquiring content that nobody else has … it is with originals that they attract customers.

Unless companies such as Walmart and Costco want to get into that business, the upside may be limited.

Short of that, you have to have a strong and direct pipeline to a context provider. One example, Disney, which said this week that when its still-to-be released Captain Marvel eventually is available for home viewing, it will only be available on Disney+, and not on Netflix. (Captain Marvel is expected to be an enormous blockbuster, so this is a big deal … and a line drawn in the sand.)

This is all going to force a lot of home viewers to make choices … and I guarantee it’ll annoy a lot of people. Will that mean a shakeout at some point? Maybe. But it also suggests that pipelines may et a lot more narrow, which will create some challenges for new players in the streaming business.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Corporate Drumbeat

From Samuel J. Associates...

"It’s a bad time to be in the business of selling groceries, and the headlines are as bleak as you’d expect: "The Retail Apocalypse Is Coming for Grocery Stores" ... "Grocery Retail ‘Bloodbath’ Is Here" ... Conversely, it is a great time — arguably the best time ever — to buy groceries."
- New York Magazine/Grub Street

At Samuel J.Associates, we have a response to this assessment:


We think it is a great time to be selling groceries, whether you are a retailer or a supplier. That’s because a more educated and demanding consumer, no matter the demographic, will reward businesses that are innovative, disruptive, and in touch with what people need, even if they don’t know they need it.

And, we know this: Those businesses require, and are fueled by, great people.

People who don’t just get the job done, but who set the tone in an organization, establish cultural and business priorities, who build teams, and who are able to not just adapt to competitive realities, but see the future and thrive in it.

And yes, ignore dire warnings about a "retail apocalypse" and see opportunities.

At Samuel J. Associates, we have a winning record of connecting great talent and innovative businesses ... as well as innovative talent with great businesses. We exceed your expectations so that you can do the same thing for your customers.

No bull.

Click here to find out more.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

The MNB Walmart Watch

• Forget pop-up stores. Walmart now seems to be investing in pop-out stores.

CNN has a story about how Walmart is creating a rolling showroom that serves as a mini-store from which it can demonstrate its online mattress and bedding brand, Allswell. “Beginning in New York,” the story says, “Allswell will head to major cities to introduce the brand to new customers and gain their feedback.”

The move by Walmart is seen as a sign that “a physical presence remains a key retail component for online brands,” and follows in the footsteps of similar brands, such as Casper and Tuft & Needle, that also are investing in bricks-and-mortar operations as a supplement to their e-commerce businesses.

The tiny home on wheels is “a four-room, 238-square-foot showroom. It has a living room, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen area that customers can explore and shop.”

Allswell is a homegrown digital brand for Walmart, introduced a year ago and until now “only sold through its own website, Walmart's main site, and on Jet and Hayneedle.”

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Corporate Drumbeat

From Webstop...

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Industry Drumbeat

From City of Hope...

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Industry Drumbeat

From FMI...

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• The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that Kroger “is offering up to $1 million in grants for ideas that will help it achieve its mission to prevent food waste.” It made the commitment while launching its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Innovation Fund, which is designed to “eliminate hunger in the communities it serves by 2025 and to eliminate waste across the company, including food waste.”

According to the story, “Kroger will award grants from $25,000 to $250,000 per project in this first open call for ideas. Applicants are required to submit a letter of intent by March 4 detailing their ideas and solutions to prevent food waste.”

“Achieving Zero Hunger | Zero Waste requires creative ideas and scalable solutions to disrupt the food system as we know it,” says Jessica Adelman, Kroger’s group vice president of corporate affairs.

• The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Ahold Delhaize-owned Giant Food Stores, which has just opened its first urban format, Giant Heirloom Market, in Philadelphia, has announced plans for three more such stores in the city - in the University City, Northern Liberties, and Queen Village neighborhoods.

Company president Nicholas Bertram tells the Inquirer that “while the new stores will include many of the successful products featured at the recently opened 2303 Bainbridge St. location, they will also adapt to each neighborhood … The University City location, for example, will have more grab-and-go meals and breakfast options, and intends to accept the Drexel University and University of Pennsylvania student cards, the DragonCard and PennCard, as payment.”

“It proves that we are serious about serving Philadelphians. We’ve already got a strong e-commerce business, we love our store on Grant Avenue [in the Northeast], and we love our business in the suburbs,” Bertram says, noting that with the Heirloom Market format, “we’re flexing our innovative muscles a bit more than we have in the past.”

Reuters reports that JC Penney will “stop selling major appliances, including fridges and washing machines, and revamp the layout of its stores in a bid to focus on apparel to boost profits. The company also plans to largely halt selling furniture, which will now only be available in select stores in Puerto Rico and on J.C. Penney websites.”

“"Optimizing the allocation of store space will enable us to prioritize and focus on the company's legacy strengths in apparel and soft home furnishings, which represent higher margin opportunities," the company said in a statement.

• The Associated Press reports that a new outdoors-oriented online retailer, Highby Outdoors, has been launched by former employees of Cabela’s, which was acquired by Bass Pro Shops for $4 billion in 2017.

According to the story, “Highby Outdoors is owned by former Cabela's employees Matt and Molly Highby, and he says all of the company's employees formerly worked for Cabela's. The new company will sell online only for now but hopes to later add retail locations and catalog operations.”

Bass Pro Shops is suing the Highbys, “alleging their plans for Highby Outdoors violated noncompete agreements. Bass Pro lost its bid for an injunction to stop the Highby Outdoors launch.”

• The New York Times reports that the city of Key West, Florida, “voted this week to ban the sale of sunscreen containing chemicals believed to harm coral reefs,” a move that “will ban sales of sunscreens containing the chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate. The legislation will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.”

According to the story, “The law’s supporters see it as a crucial step toward protecting the great treasure of the Florida Keys: the world’s third-largest barrier reef ecosystem, which runs nearly 150 miles, hosts thousands of species of marine life, and attracts divers and snorkelers from around the globe.”

Similar bans have also been enacted in Hawaii and the Western Pacific nation of Palau, as well as certain parts of Mexico.

Executive Suite

• SpartanNash announced that it has hired Lori Raya, formerly of Albertsons/Safeway, to be its new Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer, effective February 18.

Raya comes to SpartanNash after more than three decades with Albertsons/Safeway, most recently serving as Division President of Albertsons from 2015-2018, and before that serving as Division President of Vons.

Raya will be assuming the CMMO position from Larry Pierce who will be retiring.

Editorial continues after a word from our sponsor...

Industry Drumbeat

“RETAIL 2020: What’s The Future (WTF)?” - A New Presentation by Kevin Coupe

In this fast-paced, interactive and provocative presentation, MNB's Kevin Coupe challenges audiences to see the fast-evolving retail world through a radical new technological, demographic, competitive and cultural prism. These issues all combine to create an environment in which traditional thinking, fundamental execution, and just-good-enough strategies and tactics likely pave the path to irrelevance; Coupe lays out a road map for the future that focuses on differential advantages and disruptive mindsets, using real-world examples that can be adopted and executed by enterprising and innovative leaders.

Constantly updated to reflect the hand crafted news stories covered and commented upon daily by MorningNewsBeat, and seasoned with an irreverent sense of humor and disdain for sacred cows honed over 30 years of writing and reporting about the best retailers and retail strategies, “RETAIL 2020/WTF” will get your meeting attendees not just thinking, but asking the serious questions about business and consumers that serious times demand. See a sample at left…

Here’s what Lori Stillman, Executive Vice President - Analytics, Insights and Intelligence, Advantage Solutions, has to say about a recent appearance:

"Kevin joined us as a moderator and facilitator for a two-day client executive event we hosted. His role in the success of the event went far beyond his time presenting and sharing his great wisdom and content. From the moment our planning process began and we selected Kevin as a key part of our program, he dove in and worked with our team to review session topics, ideate on programming and help ensure our overall event delivered on the goals we had established. His quick wit, deep industry knowledge and ability to synthesize conversations into key take-aways enabled us to hit a home run!”

And, from Joe Jurich, CTO of DUMAC Business Systems:

”Kevin recently participated in and spoke at our Annual User Conference.  Our group consisted of independent retailers, wholesalers, and software vendors – a pretty broad group to challenge in a single talk.  While his energy, humor, and movie analogies kept the audience engaged, his ability to challenge them to think differently about how they go to market is what really captured them!  Based on dinner conversations afterward, he appeared to have left everyone thinking of at least one new approach to their strategy!”

Want to make your next event unique, engaging and entertaining? Contact Kevin at , or call him now at 203-253-0291.

Now back to regularly scheduled editorial...

Your Views: Value Propositions

We had a story the other day about disruptive changes in the hotel business, from which we drew business lessons for retailers. It prompted one MNB reader to write:

What if more hotels offered actual in-room coffee makers and not crappy coffee, Kuerigs pods, or none at all - forcing you to buy room service? What if there was an actual room fridge that fit more than overpriced mini bar beers?

What if more hotel, even chains, were more unique and reflected the community, and offered unique dining options that were out of the ordinary? What if room service didn’t incur a ridiculous surcharge?

I seldom stay at hotels anymore unless it’s just for a night or two as a quick getaway or on the way to somewhere else. And even then we look for small, quirky boutique hotels or inns. (and I’m no Millennial - LOL) I want a place with a kitchen or kitchenette so I can make my own coffee and buy delicious foods from the area to enjoy for breakfast, at a minimum - sometimes dinner too. I want a place to spread out and lounge, away from crowds. Most hotels, even upgraded suites, don’t offer much in the way of in-room coffee or comfortable lounging areas. Plus, it’s hard to beat the price of VRBO and Air BnB even for luxury stays. I can travel with friends, stay in a neighborhood, and have a unique experience far below what it would cost for even a middle-of-the-road hotel - but even if it cost more or the same, it would be worth it.

Regarding some of the new problems being encountered by Instacart, MNB reader Tracy Lape

The Instacart situation brings to mind the third party installation/delivery for big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, carpet companies, etc.  They are the last phase of the consumer purchase and can enhance or ruin the customer experience. And they don’t even “work for the company” that the product was purchased from.  My experience is that the last phase is typically NOT enhanced.  In an effort to save money, the companies put their reputation on the line and hope for the best.  Down the road the companies that will come out ahead will need to find a way to motivate the “third party” to represent them well.  Or someone needs to develop a third party company that excels in customer service and sells that service to multiple companies.  Higher pay for better customer satisfaction?

MNB reader Karen Shunk chimed in:

I saw your item on Instacart employees taking to social media, and I wholeheartedly agree with your comment regarding the risks to retailers who may end up being tarred by the brush of a labor dispute they are only peripherally involved in.
I shop for groceries in a store that is a hub for Instacart activity. I have been concerned about this for two reasons: one is that having what amounts to a lot of warehouse pickers in the store degrades my experience as a shopper. (Anyone who has been in a grocery DC knows to stay out of the way of a determined picker.) Second, the Instacart employees *always* seem to be under the gun, so they must be under a lot of pressure from the company to fill orders. It just doesn’t seem like a great gig, so I am not surprised many of the employees feel as though they are treated poorly.
If retailers wish to do online order fulfillment from stores (the new holy grail), it shouldn’t diminish the experience of people who actually come into the stores, and they should strive to do business with partners who treat their employees well.

One MNB reader had some observations about Amazon Go:

OK, I admit it . . . I’m an old guy and I don’t buy into a lot of “current forces” going on around me culturally/societally. I see them, but I just choose NOT to participate. Case in point . . . Smart Phones. Yes, I have one. And the only reason it gets updated is when I change carriers/plans. And I consciously try NOT to use it because it’s an invasion into how I have lived my 71 years. I resent it, actually. I’m only saying this because I want to comment about the new AmazonGo location at the Ogilvy Transportation Center in Chicago.

How could I not notice? They carved out a space where a Bath and Beyond and a GNC once stood, and built their store. I walk past it every morning. It’s in the path of a stream of anywhere from 500 to 900 commuters advancing and narrowing specifically towards a pedestrian bridge over Canal Street heading into the Loop. I know, it’s a daunting challenge to walk in the opposite direction, as I do. So there it is, right in their path.

I rarely see anyone in it. I admit, I don’t stop and analyze it’s functioning. But it truly puzzles me. Could it be because it doesn’t have a checkout that people just move in like “Stealth Shoppers,” grab their stuff and split? Kind of like shoplifters . . . But honestly, with all the hubbub . . . wouldn’t there be more activity? I mean, I’ve never seen more shoppers than there are helpful staff standing around. I was anticipating at least a small crowd of people looking over merchandise. But nothin’! I just see rows and rows of stuff . . . and those employees, whatever they’re called, Retail Assistants, Clerks, maybe even Security . . . because it all happens so fast I don’t even see what goes down.

Or is that the object? In and Out. (Maybe that should have been the name, except it’s already taken). I see their orange posters all over for “Sign Up for the Amazon App!” So what’s the message? “I dare ya’?”

Your Views: Passing Judgment

From MNB reader Dan Jones, regarding Instacart’s recent troubles:

I understand why grocers leverage Instacart.  And I also understand the risks of losing that connection.  Here is a simple thought – if an Instacart employee gets a tip for delivering products from “Retailer A” Retailer A should match that tip.  That would ensure a focus on the service in the last mile, and set the retailer apart for the disgruntled Instacart employees. 
It might take some negotiation regarding current contracts – but worth the effort.

Not a bad idea. Not what Instacart did, but this could be a nice addition.

Regarding one particular part of Amazon’s business model, MNB reader David Fowle wrote:

I have to wonder.... Amazon's push for replenishment shopping could be a huge win for them, and not so much for consumers... Hit the button when you need more laundry detergent, and you get another box of whatever you normally buy, but if a comparable brand is on sale, too bad you missed it. 

As a shopper, I like trying products that are on sale (which Alexa won't tell me about), and stocking up when my favorites are on promotion (which currently helps Jeff Bezos' profit margin). I'm sure not going to buy produce online - I like to know that the avocado I'm buying is going to be perfect for tomorrow's guacamole. 

I am a Prime member, and use Amazon often for many items not easily available locally, but I doubt grocery shopping will ever be primarily online for me…

And, from another MNB reader, who wanted to follow up on his email yesterday saying that he was unimpressed with one of the Amazon Go stores in Chicago:

OK, so I’m admitting to being somewhat of an idiot because I didn’t really see what went on and passed judgement.

So, I felt guilty forming an opinion without more observation and today I stopped at a railing across from the AmazonGo store, and watched what happened when a train came in. Sure enough, the hordes swarmed out onto the mezzanine and past AmazonGo. It wasn’t a huge crowd, maybe because of the ice storm, but I’d guess it was still 3 – 4 hundred.

8 people went in. Yes, Stealth Shopping . . . grab your stuff and split. Just as anticipated.

So there, Mr. Bezos, it does work! I see it’s appeal.

If it were a ubiquitous 7-11, you’d have to wait for checkout, and I suppose if you were the 8th person, you’d have to wait maybe 4 or 5 minutes.

Is that worth it? Is that what the buzz is about?

Or is it their stuff? I haven’t been in, but it sure looks like the same stuff everybody else carries.

Price maybe?

Does it just boil down to something else you can do with a phone?

I don’t know. I don’t get it.

OK, I guess I’m just old.

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Industry Drumbeat

A Freshly Crafted ‘Retail Tomorrow’ Podcast

Some call it BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store). Some call it click-and-collect. No matter what you call it, this segment of e-commerce, while it presents challenges, also is an enormous opportunity for retailers that want their bricks-and-mortar stores to remain relevant, and who want to satisfy an established consumer need. (And when you put two things together, it can do magic, believe it or not.)

In this special Retail Tomorrow podcast, recorded at Google’s New York City offices during the recent National Retail Federation (NRF) Show, we convene a panel of experts from a wide range of fields to open our eyes to the possibilities.

This Retail Tomorrow podcast is sponsored by the Global Market Development Center (GMDC).

Pictured below are our panel members, from left:

• The Content Guy.
• Lee Peterson, EVP of Thought Leadership at WD Partners.
• Ben Conwell, Senior Managing Director & National Practice Leader of the E-commerce Fulfillment Group at Cushman Wakefield.
• Jeff Baskin, EVP, Global Partnerships at Radius Networks.
• Dror Cohen, Chief Of Staff of Waze Ads at Waze.
• Chris Lydle, Retail innovation Lead for Google.


PWS 51