Google’s retail ambitions, Microsoft’s FOMO, and how a group of nerds created the digital revolution
By Maia on Friday, June 22nd, 2018
Google has its sights set on retail
One year on and Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods continues to send ripples through the industry. The last mile has since seen a flurry of interest from e-commerce players: Walmart acquired Flipkart, Target bought Shipt, and Kroger invested in UK’s Ocado.
Now Google wants in on the action. It recently announced strategic partnerships with Carrefour and JD.com to change the way people shop. Both retailers will use Google Shopping, Google Home and Cloud products and each will work with Google AI experts to design new consumer experiences.
But its forays into the last mile are arguably the most interesting for a company that started with such a singular purpose. Its new partnership with Target, Walmart and Costco amongst others makes their products appear in search and voice-activated Assistant before routing through a universal shopping cart – and finally to the customer’s door through its Google Express delivery service.
The lines between digital search and physical fulfilment continue to shrink. E-commerce is pretty much all commerce, and the last mile is increasingly the connective tissue between digital user experience and the overall customer experience. The delivery experience is becoming the customer experience. Exciting times…
Microsoft has a sudden case of FOMO
Inspired perhaps by Amazon Go, Microsoft (an unlikely player in this game) plans to dip its toes in retail, creating its own brand of checkout-free technology. Rumour has it that Microsoft is in talks with Walmart about a possible collaboration. If this is where grocery is headed, it’s safe to assume that Walmart will not sit back and let Amazon dominate the space unchallenged.
But this technology is expensive to build and margins are already paper thin in grocery retail. So will all the investment be worth it? It seems Amazon and Microsoft are placing bets not only on retailers’ desire to provide fast and convenient shopping experiences for their customers, but also serve their need to drive costs down in-store via reduced headcount.
This makes it far easier for stores to act as fulfilment centres located close to the customer. Checkout-free stores means that shoppers and delivery drivers alike can move in and out at pace, collecting groceries for themselves or on someone else’s behalf and walk out without wasting time at the till.
Lifting emotional baggage
by Walter Isaacson
Every story we’ve ever written in The Last Mile has one underlying theme: the digital revolution. This book provides a lucid, thrilling and amusing history of the digital age. From Alan Turing and Steve Jobs to Bill Gates and Larry Page, it explores the patterns and talents of those who led us to where we are today. It’s interesting to see that these very innovators, who powered the movement that revolutionised the way information is stored and moves are now, as explained above, changing the way goods are stored and move.