In this file:
· Why 21st century trustbusters are picking on Amazon
· Amazon Fresh, the future of grocery store shopping
· Kelly Evans: Don’t count Amazon out
Why 21st century trustbusters are picking on Amazon
For the Seattle behemoth’s third-party sellers, the rules are always shifting and the house always wins.
Katie Wilson, Opinion, Crosscut
November 19, 2020
Last week, European Union regulators filed antitrust charges against Amazon. U.S. regulators may not be far behind. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission partnered with state attorneys general to investigate Amazon’s online Marketplace, and the company is reportedly also the subject of an inquiry by the Washington state Attorney General’s Office. Joe Biden’s victory portends greater scrutiny of Amazon and Big Tech starting in 2021.
But what exactly is Amazon supposed to have done wrong? And what could happen to the company if the accusations stick?
Amazon is a heavyweight in many industries, but the company’s dominance is most visible in the realm of e-commerce. When U.S. shoppers search for products online, they tend to start with Amazon — and end there. According to the House Judiciary Committee’s report on competition in digital markets released last month: “Although Amazon is frequently described as controlling about 40% of U.S. online retail sales, this market share is likely understated, and estimates of about 50% or higher are more credible.” For many businesses, selling through Amazon’s Marketplace has become a near necessity to reach potential customers. A 2020 survey estimates that Amazon is the sole source of income for 37% of its third-party sellers worldwide.
The largest constellation of complaints about Amazon centers on how it treats these sellers. For one thing, Amazon prides itself on being the cheapest place on the internet. Do your wares appear elsewhere than Amazon for even a smidge less? Amazon just removed the “Buy Now” and “Add to Cart” buttons from your listings, forcing customers to go through additional, less intuitive steps to make a purchase. Want to sell through Amazon Prime or win the coveted Buy Box, which makes you the default seller for a particular product? Better sign up for Fulfillment by Amazon and pay up for warehouse space and shipping services. Want your stuff to appear prominently in search results? It’s time to start buying ads. Did Amazon’s algorithm suspend your account or delist your products for no reason you can fathom? The dispute resolution system is opaque and unreliable, but you can pay extra for a dedicated account representative to help you out. And if you do really well, Amazon might use your data to launch its own nearly identical products, which somehow seem to stay just a little cheaper and a little more featured than yours. The rules are always shifting and the house always wins.
Some of these complaints aren’t only about squeezing sellers. They’re also about Amazon leveraging dominance in one industry — its online seller platform — to gain what might be considered unfair advantages in others — in this case, logistics and retailing its own product lines. In a similar vein, Amazon’s command of e-commerce and its lucrative cloud computing business, Amazon Web Services, give the company extremely deep pockets. Amazon can afford to sustain losses in newer ventures indefinitely, enabling the practice of predatory pricing:
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Amazon Fresh, the future of grocery store shopping
Arturo Flores, Lariat News/Saddleback College
The world’s largest online retailer, Amazon, has now made its move into grocery shopping and produce. They first introduced grocery food delivery in Europe in early 2017 and in the United States later that year, allowing customers to order groceries to be delivered to their door or for pick up right from your phone in a matter of hours. It was a novel concept and since then they have continued to improve by adding more stores and features to the service, making it a better experience for customers.
This year has kickstarted the implementation of their new Amazon Fresh grocery stores and the second and biggest location in the world opened up in Irvine on Oct. 22. Its stand out differences from other grocery stores are their fully automated Amazon Dash Cart, lower prices on food from their kitchen and bakery and constant deals on many national brand items. There is also Amazon Alexa integration that helps find items around the store from designated kiosks and track shopping lists customers make through the Amazon app that checks off items as they shop.
As customers walk in they have a choice between two carts, the regular cart you use at every grocery store or their new Amazon Dash Cart. The Dash Cart has some impressive technology behind it and is a smaller cart that fits around two to four bags and is made specifically for shorter grocery stops.
The back of the cart has a screen and a QR scanner, the scanner will read the QR code on the Amazon app in order to link with the customer’s Amazon account to start shopping. The main basket has sensors and cameras all around the cart so that as soon as an item is placed in the cart the item appears on the screen indicating that an item is being purchased. Items that are not wanted simply can be removed and the sensors will detect the action and take it off the total at checkout.
Each item of produce has a code that is inputted when it’s placed in the cart, which measures the weight and then charges the customer accordingly. The Alexa kiosks are located throughout the store in case customers are having trouble finding an item, they can simply walk up and say for example, “Alexa, where can I find canola oil?” The Alexa kiosk then shows various options and the aisles each item is located, alongside an image to help identify the item easier.
To conclude shopping simply walk through one of their designated Dash Lanes and payment will automatically be processed and a receipt will be sent to the customer’s email. It’s a new, fast and convenient way to shop when people want to get in and go without waiting in line.
Other features and services include their own Amazon Customer Service and Returns Center, where orders from either regular Amazon products or Fresh orders can be picked up or returned for free. There’s also a full serviced butcher, carvery, deli and bakery and food bars with pre-packaged food both of the hot and cold varieties, as well as Amazon’s pre-packaged meal kits from their Amazon Kitchen service that can be made at home.
“It’s cool but nothing I’d get used to,” said Alexander Angeles, a local Lake Forest resident. “Call me old fashion but this whole Alexa stuff and sensors is too much, it’s not really necessary but it’s cool I suppose and prices ain’t bad.”
It’s a unique spin to many of the standard grocery stores around the county, the technology they have on offer made to make shopping even easier and faster is definitely something to pay attention to.
“It’s awesome honestly,” said Amani Faten, a local Irvine resident...
Kelly Evans: Don’t count Amazon out
Kelly Evans, CNBC
Nov 18 2020
Amazon caused quite a stir yesterday by launching its own online pharmacy.
Pharmacy stocks all suffered; Walgreens was the worst performer in the Dow and the S&P 500, down nearly 10%. CVS fell more than 8%. Drug distributors like Cardinal Health and McKesson were down more than 5%. And GoodRX, which only IPO’d a couple of weeks ago, plunged 22%.
That’s because Amazon isn’t just launching a pharmacy, it’s also launching a discount card that can be used at some 50,000 locations, including Walgreens and CVS. As Raymond James analyst John Ransom noted, “At the time of the [GoodRX] IPO, the narrative was that Amazon wouldn’t be a near-term competitor because pharmacies would be reluctant to work with them. This clearly changes that narrative.”
Still, it’s a “double negative” for the drug retailers, Ransom said, because it means (1) more people with discount cards, and (2) more mail order/online competition. It feels to me like the drugstores are hedging their bets; partnering with Amazon on the discount cards could increase foot traffic for now even as Amazon starts shifting more of the pharma business online longer-term.
Now, some were brushing off the Amazon move yesterday by pointing to its 2017 acquisition of Whole Foods, which is close to being viewed as a flop. It’s apparently been a tough year for Whole Foods, which relies on huge food bars that aren’t viable in a pandemic. One research firm (Numerator) estimates they’ve lost 4.5 million households since March; foot traffic is reportedly down 25% year-on-year, according to Placer.ai. Grocery consultant Bill Bishop calls the acquisition a “strategic error” for Amazon.
But I say, don’t count Amazon out just yet. Because I’ve been only a sporadic Whole Foods shopper at best over the past few years, but lately I’m going hog-wild. And it all comes down to the fact that they have lowered prices--and now, I’ve discovered “Prime Now.”
Suddenly, my grocery shopping couldn’t be easier...