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EDITORIAL Amazon Fresh store shows us what’s in store for all physical retail

Amazon Dash Cart: part of the new world of digital-physical retail (Image: Amazon)

Amazon Dash Cart: part of the new world of digital-physical retail (Image: Amazon)

This week we got a glimpse at what Amazon’s first Fresh store looks like – and perhaps a snapshot of where all grocery retail is heading – as it opens the doors on its Woodland Hills store in LA.

And it is the wildest dreams of any nerd: Alexa is everywhere, even in the shopping trolley (more of which anon), the app plays a central role in ordering and navigating and it also looks to introduce a mix of known brands and some less-well-known foods all under one roof.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is the omni-channel nature of the ‘store’. While on the face of it the store looks like a grocery store – albeit one from a near-future Netflix sci-fi series yet to be made – how Amazon wants to use it offers an insight into how all stores are likely to be as we move through the pandemic and out into a new world of retail.

Customers can go in, grab a cart, shop and leave. They can also while there use their app to order tailor-made items from the deli and pizza counters. They can use Alexa to help them find items and find things that compliment what they have bought, search out recipes and pretty much anything else that you can do with Alexa.

The stores are also going to be click and collect hubs for online orders and, for Prime members, they will also be used to make same day deliveries. It is using store real estate as both shop and local distribution centre.

Oh, and you can collect your Amazon non-food deliveries from there too.

This approach is what all retailers need to start to consider. The store is useful – and many shoppers do still want to head to a retail location to do shopping of all kinds – but that store has to work harder to justify its costs. Here in the new ecommerce-dominated era, the store has to be equal parts store of the past and store of the future and it has to be an integral part of the ecommerce paradigm.

For years we have talked about mobile being the glue that holds physical and digital retail together, but it is finally now a reality as it is the tool that makes the two work in harmony – and is creating a new way to shop. The idea that a shopper physically shopping in the Fresh store can use their app to order a pizza to be made for them to pick up as they swing down the deli aisle is a delicious example of this. Just think of what further things can be done?

Which brings us to the Amazon Fresh Dash Cart. Not only has Amazon reimagined the grocery store, but it has, naturally, pimped the shopping trolley that goes with it. Amazon has added the image recognition tools that it trialled in its Amazon Go checkless stores and built them into the trolley.

Now all you have to do is put the items in the trolley and it logs them, totals them and, when you leave – having not had to queue – it charges them to the card on your Amazon account.

If they can crack putting the shopping in the car, then unloading it and putting it away in the house then I for one will move to LA simply for more convenient grocery shopping.

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