Whole Foods and Amazon — What Should We Expect?

“The Future If,” a global community of business leaders, authors and futurists who explore what our future can look like IF certain technologies, ideas, approaches and trends actually happen. The community looks at everything from AI and automation to leadership and management practices to augmented reality and virtual reality, the 4th industrial revolution and everything in between. Visit TheFutureIf.com to learn more. This week’s discussion about Whole Foods and Amazon was started by Blake Morgan.

What can be expected when two huge retailers join forces? That’s the question on a lot of people’s minds and one of the reasons our community wanted to discuss Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods. This move is a game-changer in how we shop and get our food, and effects could easily spread to a number of different areas.

At first glance, the acquisition might not seem like a natural fit — after all, Amazon is a huge online retailer and Whole Foods is the place you go for organic and fresh food items. However, Amazon’s move to purchase Whole Foods for $13.7 billion could be beneficial for both sides. Amazon’s niche is making things easier and better, and it always builds with its customers in mind — what do people want to be easier and better than getting groceries? Amazon has leading technology, and Whole Foods has a strong customer base and hundreds of retail stores around the world. As community member Cari Ray points out, Amazon now has the potential to extend its reach into larger metropolitan areas where Whole Foods doesn’t have a store front.

Bringing these two companies together opens the door for lots of possibilities. Here are just a few that resonated the most with the community and that are a good mix of possible and innovative.

Amazon already has wallet-less payments that it uses in its Amazon Go stores, where customers can walk in, grab what they need, and walk out without having to go through the typical checkout lane. It seems very likely that Amazon could bring that technology to Whole Foods, which would be a huge change for the grocery and retail space. Can you imagine doing all your shopping without having to wait in line? It almost sounds too good to be true. Community member Ed Szall points out that the move could also position Amazon to be the primary online payment provider. “By making the move into the premium grocery market, Amazon will further expand their user base of online customers who have a credit card preloaded into their database,” he says. “By offering a service which will exclusively use Amazon’s payment system, users may deviate away from other competitors who offer online payment solutions such as PayPal or Google Wallet.” This could potentially set Amazon up for a move into online banking and connect Amazon with affluent customers to purchase some of its newer and more tech-savvy products, like Echo and drone delivery.

Then there’s the potential for grocery delivery, something Amazon has already been moving into with Amazon Fresh. It faces some competition and might not have the smoothest interface, but partnering with Whole Foods could make Amazon the top in the market. With grocery delivery, Amazon could potentially turn Whole Foods stores into showrooms of the products, but the actual items could be delivered straight to your house via Amazon. There’s also potential that small local farmers could send their products with nearby Amazon orders, creating a super convenient farmers market of sorts, according to community member David Kenny. The idea seems like a great combination of Amazon’s strengths and the desires of Whole Foods’ target market. Jamie Jacobs suggests using Amazon to deliver Whole Foods’ prepared foods, which are some of its most popular offerings. “I could definitely see a disruption in food delivery of prepared healthy food, ready to go, no preparation, or little preparation needed,” she says. “I love that I almost never go to the market thanks to Amazon Fresh, and this might guarantee I absolutely never do because I can get those specialty products and prepared options on demand.” If Amazon can nail down prepared food delivery, it could pose a serious threat to services like Blue Apron or Sun Basket.

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods definitely moves it forward in the grocery and retail space and poses some interesting ideas for how things could change across the industry in the future. We might not be dreaming if some of these ideas come true.

Jacob Morgan is a best-selling author, speaker, and futurist. His new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to his newsletter, visit TheFutureOrganization, or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If…and join the discussion.

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