After spending nearly 20 years perfecting its ecommerce game, Amazon is on a slow march toward brick-and-mortar retail. So far the company has launched a handful of physical bookstores as well as a concept store that utilizes computer vision and artificial intelligence to replace the cashier.
At this point most consumers can't experience Amazon's brick-and-mortar offerings. Nevertheless, the company continues to add more physical retail services that hint at its longterm intentions, with its latest efforts aimed at the $600 billion grocery market.
On Tuesday, Amazon introduced AmazonFresh Pickup, an online grocery ordering and pickup service available within the AmazonFresh grocery delivery program. The service is in beta for now and only available to AmazonFresh shoppers in Seattle.
In a video describing the service, Amazon says the service is free to Prime members and offers pickup times in as little as 15 minutes after an order is placed. Shoppers can order from a range of grocery staples, including fresh meats, dairy, produce and bread, and then have the items bagged and loaded directly into their car by a service agent. There's also no minimum order.
Amazon is not the first retailer to try online grocery ordering and curbside pickup. In the US, supermarket giants such as Kroger, Walmart, and Publix are experimenting with a combination of online and offline features aimed at easing some of the key burdens associated with grocery shopping. Kroger is the main grocery chain in my neck of the woods and I can say first hand that its online grocery pickup service, dubbed Clicklist, is well executed and a total game changer for the way I shop.
While Amazon's version seems to fall in line with similar online grocery services, the company is likely setting the stage for a time when its grocery capabilities stretch across the country. It's a huge market to crack, but even if Amazon only breaks into the largest metro areas it would still be worth the effort.
"Amazon has cracked the code on a convenient shopping experience and they're quickly extending this into grocery," said Alexis Clarfield-Henry, director of marketing at Unata. "The result will be a redefined set of consumer expectations around how quickly and easily they can get their groceries. And with 68 percent of online shoppers willing to switch grocers for a better digital experience, Amazon is starting to look like more and more of a real threat to traditional retailers."
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