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[13 comments]

AmazonFresh shoppers get a remote control

April 11, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an excerpt of a current article from Commerce Anywhere Blog.

Once again proving that Amazon is a technology company that happens to do commerce, the Seattle giant has released Amazon Dash, a new tool for shoppers. Chances are you heard about their recent set-top box, Fire TV, but the Dash didn't get much hoopla. That's because it complements their Fresh program, which is only available in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Think of Dash as a remote control for your shopping list that you leave in the kitchen. When you pour the last of the milk in your coffee, grab dash and scan the carton's barcode. Or better yet, just say "milk" into Dash's microphone. Items are added to your online shopping list, then when you're ready to order, you make a few adjustments and check out. Amazon Fresh delivers your items the next day.

[Image: Amazon Dash]

In a similar vein, I introduced Grocery IQ, a mobile app, to my family to manage our grocery list. It's nice because we can all add to a centralized shopping list. When my wife does the shopping (in a physical grocery store), she checks the items off the list as she goes. We can actually monitor the list in real-time. (Warning: that also means the kids can add items as you're shopping so the list never shrinks — real funny kids.)

Amazon has made this process even easier by providing a dedicated device instead of (actually, in addition to) a smartphone. And of course it's hardwired to Amazon's shopping cart. Brilliant, as usual.

FINANCIALS:     [NASDAQ:AMZN] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

What do you think about Amazon Dash and the overall opportunity around scan/voice grocery list compilers? How should grocers respond?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How receptive do you expect consumers will be to using scan/voice grocery list compilers such as Amazon Dash?

Comments:

All I can say is: It's about time. The now decades-old Andersen Store of the Future finally looks like it may become accessible. Guess that wasn't all I can say.

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Dan Raftery, President, Raftery Resource Network Inc.

It's very cool and convenient technology, for sure. The challenge will be attracting more than just busy professionals who appreciate the convenience of the technology and have the patience for or are accustomed to using delivery for grocery needs.

I think Amazon has been placing "lockers" in certain retailers to facilitate direct pickup or return of items ordered online, and grocers could respond by offering to host these lockers if not also serve as fulfillment centers for Amazon orders. How that jibes and works with whatever inventory/warehousing/fulfillment centers Amazon staffs could be a coordination challenge. But it would help attract hesitant or "indifferent" consumers to the service while giving brick/mortar grocers an opportunity to play an important role.

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Gib Bassett, Global Program Director for Consumer Goods, Teradata Corp.

Well...I'm OK with David's use of the word "brilliant," but not for the technology, rather for the wherewithal to build a dedicated device to distribute/market to customers.

Any app can do what this device does and it would be no challenge to build. The interesting part is that Amazon is distributing a tool that people (if it's successful) will be trained to reach for - in essence giving Amazon the de facto grocery list purchase. Even if ten other grocers create apps that are just as capable, they will be locked in one or more family member's phones, out of site, and will have little differentiation.

If (a big if) Dash catches fire, it can become a habitual ritual thing, like in some families, where there's a ritual of whoever wakes up first puts the coffee on. That would be brilliant.

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Ken Lonyai, Digital Innovation Strategist, co-founder, ScreenPlay InterActive

Retaining customers is what's it's all about and this is another win for Amazon. Just as Prime brought consumers closer to Amazon, so will Dash. With Prime, consumers no longer had to worry about shipping costs. With Dash, they no longer have to worry about shopping lists. Just speak or scan what you want and it will arrive on your doorstep tomorrow. It's simple, easy to use, and efficient.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

The imagined benefits of having digital shopping lists have now been unlocked with this device; suggestions for optimized order quantities, optimized ingredient recommendations for the shopper, and forecasting benefits for Amazon.

Things like this become doable as well: "Amazon, what can I make with the food I currently have at home or what additional items can I order to make the most of what I have?"

When one is customer-centric and creative, then the obvious makes itself known. I think grocers need to match this - just as the world adopted one-click ordering. Brilliant is a good choice for this thing.

Vahe Katros, Consultant, Plan B

It's funny, but this concept occurred to me just the other day as I was typing my grocery list onto my iPhone. I though how much easier it would be if I could scan the items I needed to buy onto my list.

Since many shoppers already rely on portable technology to keep track of many aspects of their lives, it seems like a logical and seamless transition to scan your shopping list. Not only is this a good idea for Amazon, other e-retailers should follow their lead.

'RetailRetell'

I hope Fresh Direct is reading this. Wow! What convenience. No more making shopping lists, handwritten or otherwise. Touch "send" and the groceries come.

How should non-delivery grocers respond? They have only one choice. Provide the shopper with a similar app. Shopper touches "send." When the shopper gets to the store, the groceries are packed and ready to go.

This one is a "no-brainer"!

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

The hardware heyday marches on. Comparing Amazon Dash to an app is apples and oranges. Apps often get lost or forgotten once the initial shine has worn off, whereas Amazon's latest gadget will be a dedicated fixture in shoppers' homes. Although most households would probably prefer not to add more "remotes" into their tech mix, Amazon could kick off a movement toward dedicated devices. The advantages are just too tempting. Either way, Amazon got there first.

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Carol Spieckerman, President, newmarketbuilders

Scan/voice list compilers have several hurdles to overcome. First, there is still a relatively small customer segment who is willing to shop online for home delivery. The perceived price premium and fears of a quality concern (usually unsubstantiated) are the greatest barriers to consumer acceptance. You don't get up to bat until you have overcome those issues.

Now, for consumers who have adopted shop online with home delivery, scan/voice compliers for grocery lists are a great idea, and will drive increased depth of purchase and frequency among those customers.

Scan/voice compliers are not an answer, just one piece of the pie.

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Mark Price, Managing Partner, M Squared Group, Inc.

If it makes a consumer's life easier, and this would mine if I ordered from Amazon Fresh, then its a win win.

98%+ of grocers are ill prepared to compete against Amazon Fresh so when it starts to roll out nationally, they will be adversely impacted. Amazon has been planning this for many years now and the only grocer I am aware of that comes close to thinking like Amazon in terms of using technology to enhance its business is Kroger.

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Bill Davis, Director, MB&G Consulting

If you haven't tried FireTV yet, go out and find a way to try it. Or buy it for "research." The voice recognition is outstanding and has instantly changed the way I search for streaming content and where I choose to consume it.

Same will be true with Dash - the ease and simplicity of use will have a loyalization effect, converting bigger and more frequent baskets to Amazon Fresh. It may even pull in new users just to try it.

As for app vs device, consider the steps:

APP
1. Find phone
2. Unlock
3. Find app (2-3 swipes/taps?)
4. Find scanner, open
5. Scan
6. Checkout

vs. DASH
1. Find Dash
2. Scan
3. Checkout

This should put all of retail back on its heels. As fast as the industry is racing to catch up to Amazon, Amazon is racing to stay two steps ahead. Retailers should not be looking at Amazon in terms of what they need to try to "keep up with." Rather, consider your core shopper and core reason for being, and innovate around that. It's still early days!

Daniel Silverman, Vice President, Business Consulting Services, Clavis Insight

Sharable grocery lists are a great idea. It should be tied to the store loyalty app on the phone - not on a separate device. Who wants to carry and use yet another device. Not I! It should also be used to shorten checkout times.

Christina Ellwood, Vice president, Marketing, Brickstream

Like the device itself, the opportunity is cool on the surface, hollow in the middle.

First, hardware is hard. Add this to the Internet of Lost Things (credit to Adrian Gonzalez). Devices get misplaced, especially with a stick more portable than a remote control. Plastic wands break, especially around the heat, liquids and powder in most kitchens. There's no screen, which makes it easy to forget what you ordered today or yesterday.

This means a smartphone is a necessary ingredient, not some passe old school way of mobile shopping.

Second, Dash will face the same limits as Amazon Fresh. People shop multiple grocery stores. Amazon won't have those Trader Joe's wines or Whole Foods take home dinners. Shoppers like to see and feel categories like produce, baked goods, and ready to eat meals. Families don't like paying the Amazon Fresh premium for a cool factor.

This means over time Amazon needs to add more thoughtful targets than the mass nuclear family represented in the marcom. This uniquely solves problems for busy professionals, elderly and/or disabled.

Dash is another armament in the battle between grocery convergence and divergence. Convergence is driven by consolidation, loyalty programs, and convenience devices (before Dash there were mobile phones, one-click shopping). Divergence is fueled by specialty chains, new formats, and online delivery for smaller retail. Amazon simultaneously facilitates both of these trends.

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Dan Frechtling, Vice President, Global Product Management, hibu, PLC

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