Amazon has not been shy about rolling out changes at Whole Foods since purchasing the upscale grocery chain in 2017 for $13.7 billion. The store, which some shoppers nicknamed "Whole Paycheck," has been transforming in a variety of ways, some more noticeable than others. From price cuts to selling Amazon gadgets in-stores, here's a look at the store's ongoing evolution.
A Year Later: What's Changed at Whole Foods Under Amazon?
Amazon began testing its new free, two-hour delivery back in February and has since expanded the offering widely. The service is available exclusively to Amazon Prime members. Simply go onto the Amazon site and place your Whole Foods order, and voila, the purchase will soon be at your doorstep. As an added bonus, the service is not limited to Whole Foods deliveries. Though options vary depending on which Prime Now city you happen to live in, in some places the two-hour delivery service also includes retailers such as Bristol Farms, Keg N Bottle, Fresh Thyme, and more.
Folks who like using a credit card to do their grocery shopping can now earn 5 percent cash back benefit when using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa at Whole Foods. Amazon credit cardholders who aren't Prime subscribers won't miss out on the discounts entirely. They receive 3 percent cash back on purchases at Whole Foods with a standard Amazon Visa.
Who doesn't love a sale? Particularly at Whole Paycheck. But if you're an Amazon Prime member, you now get an extra 10 percent off sale items. The savings are available at all U.S. Whole Foods locations, including Whole Foods Market 365. "This encourages Whole Foods shoppers to sign-up for Prime if they're not already members, and roughly 60 percent of Whole Foods shoppers are already members so there's high existing crossover," explained Carlos Castelán, a former consultant for Whole Foods and now managing director of The Navio Group, a management consulting firm. "It also brings existing Prime members into Whole Foods. It's a great example of Amazon bringing its unique flywheel to Whole Foods to drive traffic and repeat visits."
After the initial takeover in August, one of Amazon's first moves was to cut prices, in some cases by as much as 40 percent. Then there was another round of price cuts in November. Among the brands that are now cheaper: Siggi's Yogurt, Chobani, and Tom's of Maine, as well as the store's own 365 Everyday Value label.
The day the acquisition of Whole Foods was completed, Amazon began selling its voice-controlled speaker system at some stores. For instance, at a Brooklyn location, the Amazon Echo was positioned as the "Pick of the Week."
Not an Amazon Prime member? Not to worry. Amazon has thought this through as well when it comes to the changes being implemented at Whole Foods. You can now sign up right in the store. "I went in other day, and I've already got a prime membership, but if you didn't they give you the opportunity to become one right away," said Peter Edlund, a Houston-based e-commerce expert at DiCentral. "That's lucrative. It's a bit of a cash cow, the enticement of being able to get a discount on your food shopping as a Prime member."
Selling the Echo at Amazon was merely the first step. Some Whole Foods stores also began selling a variety of additional Amazon tech products, such as Fire TV, Kindle e-readers, and Fire tablets. As an added bonus, a major discount was offered on such items during the week leading to Black Friday.
In a handful of locations, Amazon temporarily opened pop-up stores inside Whole Foods to allow customers a chance to test products before purchasing. The pop-ups appeared in mid-November in select locations such as Chicago, Denver, and Pasadena, California. Keep your eyes peeled for the pop-ups again this winter.
Don't live near a Whole Foods? No problem. Not long after its takeover of the store, more than 1,000 Whole Foods items became available on Amazon, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry, and Prime Now.
Amazon is clearly a fan of Whole Foods' high-quality private-label products as they have been expanded for distribution online via Amazon and AmazonFresh, Castelán says. "Given Amazon's focus on private label in its own business, we should expect to see a boost to owned brands at Whole Foods over the long-run," Castelán said. Whole Foods' owned brands include Whole Catch seafood and Whole Paws pet foods.
Did you enjoy walking around the store sampling items from brand reps? That is now a thing of the past. Whole Foods locations no longer allow such representatives to visit stores and promote products or check on how things are being stocked and displayed.
Want to pick up your latest Amazon order while doing food shopping at Whole Foods. In some locations that's now possible thanks to the installation of Amazon lockers. Not only can you pick up an item from the lockers, you can also use them for returns. Amazon initiated its locker concept long before the Whole Foods acquisition, offering them at thousands of locations across 50 major metropolitan areas. Their addition at Whole Foods, however, was a brilliant move that led to a rise in shoppers making quick trips to the food stores, translating into a boost in sales.
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