Amazon has finally opened the doors of its hybrid Amazon Fresh store in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles, a futuristic blend of digital and physical challenging traditional grocers that had been put on hold this spring due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Two other Amazon Fresh stores are located in Irvine and Northridge, CA and Naperville, IL, outside Chicago. As was the case with the Woodland Hills location, all three are so-called “dark stores” just used for fulfilling and delivering online orders; no dates have been given for their openings.
“Today we’re announcing the Amazon Fresh grocery store … designed from the ground up to offer a seamless grocery shopping experience, whether customers are shopping in store or online,” said Jeff Helbling, vice president of Amazon Fresh, in a blog post. “We’ve taken our decades of operations experience to deliver consistently low prices for all, and free same-day delivery for Prime members.”
The Woodland Hills location is open initially by invitation to nearby residents, with a broader public opening in the coming weeks. Digital features include an Amazon Dash cart, where customers signed in through a Fresh QR code or their Amazon app can exit through a Dash lane without checkout, using cameras and sensors to tally up the items. So, in effect it’s an Amazon Go lite experience.
New Alexa features help manage shopping lists and are an aid to navigation. Customers can access their Alexa shopping list through the app or on the Dash cart, asking devices located through the store where items are located and checking them off items along the way.
The store is roughly the same size as a Whole Foods location, but the price points are designed to appeal to a broader swath of the public. It will feature a mix of major CPG brands as well as Amazon’s own branded product lines, including snacks and wines.
Unsurprisingly, it offers same-day pickup and delivery, as well as the ability to pick up other Amazon orders or do “package-less” drop off of returns.
MCM Musings: With this hybrid grocery store experience Amazon looks to leapfrog competitors like Kroger, Walmart, Target and Albertsons. All have made major digital investments, but as in other categories they trail Amazon in terms of pure innovation. Where they have it all over Amazon is breadth of doors and operating history. We’ll watch to see how fast Amazon can stand up new Fresh locations, while also integrating some of these features into its 500 Whole Foods stores.