Did Amazon Pantry outlive its usefulness?

Discussion
Photo: Amazon
Jan 11, 2021

Amazon.com last week discontinued its single large box service known as Amazon Pantry. The service had been seen as a way to sell less expensive household items online that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to ship.

As part of the move, thousands of products previously available under the Pantry banner were folded into Amazon’s main retail site.

Launched in 2014, Amazon Pantry was initially called Prime Pantry and reserved for Prime members. Users filled a single box with non-perishable household goods based on a formula of weight and size and paid a delivery fee of $5.99. Each Prime Pantry box could hold four cubic feet of merchandise, or 45 pounds. The box arrived in one to four days.

In 2018, Amazon converted Pantry into a $5 monthly subscription service. The updated service offered unlimited Pantry orders each month for orders of at least $40 worth of merchandise.

The program promised savings through bulk shipping with no bulk or multiple purchases required. Pantry also eliminated the need to visit stores for regularly purchased items. The program’s marketing pitch stated, “Skip the trip to the grocery store and let us do the heavy lifting.”

Since the launch, Amazon has significantly expanded its grocery reach, acquiring Whole Foods in 2017 and launching its Amazon Go and AmazonFresh concepts. In 2019, Amazon Fresh delivery became a Prime perk rather than a monthly fee. Free delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods, often within a two-hour timeframe, are available for orders over $35.

An Amazon spokesperson said in an email to Bloomberg, “As part of our commitment to delivering the best possible customer experience, we have decided to transfer Amazon Pantry selection to the main Amazon.com store so customers can get everyday household products faster, without an extra subscription or purchase requirement.”

Programs such as Target’s Restock and Kroger Ship work similarly to Pantry, although Target’s program is currently unavailable.

The discontinuance comes amid aggressive moves to speed grocery delivery amid the pandemic. In early December, the Walmart+ subscription plan eliminated the requirement for a $35 minimum purchase to qualify for free next-day and two-day shipping.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Has Pantry’s business model, based on bundled online orders of household essentials, become outdated? What do you think drove the decision to discontinue the service and can an online essentials stock-up scheme work for other retailers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I suspect that the problem with Amazon Pantry was the complexity. "
"People don’t yet think through online purchasing in the same way they build a brick and mortar shopping list. Will this change over time? Without a doubt..."
"Recall Amazon is the king of trying new initiatives, separating the wheat from the chaff. Amazon Pantry is today’s chaff."

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13 Comments on "Did Amazon Pantry outlive its usefulness?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Amazon’s Pantry model is just one of many and simply put, the lack of consumer interest killed it. Ultimately, the key issue is how people shop for goods. I suspect that most shoppers don’t differentiate between essential packaged goods and other grocery items, and so it didn’t make sense to treat these items separately. There’s an endless list of possibilities for why this program may not have been successful but, the point is, it wasn’t for Amazon — but that doesn’t mean other players couldn’t necessarily make it work.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Marketing Strategy Lead - Retail, Travel & Distribution, Verizon
9 months 10 days ago

I suspect that the problem with Amazon Pantry was the complexity. Consumers would likely want to maximize the space in the box and it would result in a lot of trade-off decisions. With many simpler options from other grocers, consumers shifted their spending due to convenience.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust

There is probably room for essentials bundling if Amazon can use data to find patterns in usage cycles. But realistically, I use paper towels at a different frequency than Windex. Why wait for my bundled order if I can order one item and get it here in an hour?

What drove it is Amazon noticed people would rather purchase single items on demand than wait for bundles. And the incentive wasn’t great enough to get them to wait. But now Amazon knows with little money lost and maybe some knowledge gained.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The problem with Amazon Pantry was that you had to hit a minimum to “fill the box.” But at the same time you could go to regular Amazon and get most of the very same items without constraints.

We run out of mayonnaise. We go to Amazon and order a jar of mayonnaise. Later in the day, we run out of dishwashing liquid. We go to Amazon and order dishwashing liquid. No fuss, no limits, no “box” to fill.

Like everything online from buying to returns — the name of the game is convenience, convenience, convenience.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

I tried to use Pantry but never actually ordered and had anything delivered using Pantry. Having two different delivery processes when ordering several items was frustrating. I am glad there will only be one delivery service. I have found the process of having some items available for a low price and shipping when over $25 (or whatever the limit is) to be fine because I understand that it is expensive to ship an inexpensive item by itself. However, having to order a whole box of only Pantry items was too restrictive.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust
Amazon Pantry was a bit clunky to use. Shoppers had to focus on filling the box, I suspect in many cases with stuff they may not have needed or wanted at that particular time. Consumers prefer to make purchases on their terms. Add in shipping costs, these days the metric is free shipping. With the rise of curbside there are lots of ways to get the same products, without fees, and in quantities and on the schedules consumers want. Basics especially are something that when you need it, you need it then, not a few days from now. I believe consumers lost interest jumping through all these hoops to make the service work. One note for retailers, adoption of subscription models for fulfillment of basics has not really come to mass yet. I think most consumers have not shown that they really like automatic shipping and payments. Retailers will need to do more to figure out a better replenishment model for individuals and some sort of seamless approve/not approve process for orders to move the… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

There were are number of structural flaws to the Pantry program from its inherent complexity to the fact that Amazon subscription selling already takes care of “pantry restocking” without transferring excess inventory to the consumer’s home. So, yes, it served its purpose and it’s a fine time to retire it. Other retailers will have all the same problems. People don’t yet think through online purchasing in the same way they build a brick and mortar shopping list. Will this change over time? Without a doubt, and we may well see a reincarnated Pantry program emerge in the next few years.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

Simply stated the Amazon Pantry model required too much customer work to fill a box. Plus other online options made it easier to order and receive products. Customer disinterest and attrition killed Amazon Pantry. Recall Amazon is the king of trying new initiatives, separating the wheat from the chaff. Amazon Pantry is today’s chaff.

David Leibowitz
BrainTrust

Focus group of one here — I tried the service and found it confusing since you had to order through another shopping cart interface. It also appeared to cannibalize the narrative of “subscribe and save” which is prevalent on most Amazon product pages.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

I do not think this is outdated — Amazon just finally accepted it’s a very bad way to sell goods to consumers when online.

Imagine — it’s hard enough to envision making good use of something like this when you can hold and heft and size the things you’re selecting. Now, try to do that online?

THEN, let’s ask: How much real advantage to Amazon would this have provided? It’s minor and tiny.

Tiny consumer value plus tiny value to the merchant? Time to close it down.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

I am an avid Amazon user and have barely ever used Amazon Pantry, mostly because it was too inconvenient for me as a consumer. One of the biggest strengths of Amazon is the ease of shopping for everything under the sun and getting it delivered in as little as a day or two. An Amazon customer is conditioned and expects this ease when they shop. Pantry simply didn’t fit into this expectation.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

Amazon Pantry wasn’t convenient and it wasn’t simple. Consumers didn’t like it. End of story.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Any time one sets an arbitrary price for something — and “free” is in its own way the ultimate example of this — there’s always a chance that someday, someone will eventually decide to “rightprice” it … or discontinue it.

This concept was — if you’ll forgive the pun — an “outside-the-box” idea that was high on creativity, but probably didn’t make much sense from a business point of view.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I suspect that the problem with Amazon Pantry was the complexity. "
"People don’t yet think through online purchasing in the same way they build a brick and mortar shopping list. Will this change over time? Without a doubt..."
"Recall Amazon is the king of trying new initiatives, separating the wheat from the chaff. Amazon Pantry is today’s chaff."

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