Amazon already delivers soup to nuts with jaw-droppingly fast speeds, especially if you shell out $79 a year for Amazon Prime, which gets you free 2-day shipping on thousands of products, including shelf-stable groceries like snacks and canned goods. Now Reuters is reporting that Amazon plans to roll out AmazonFresh in up to 40 new markets, delivering fresh produce, meat, and other easy spoilers that you aren't used to ordering along with your Kindle books, AA batteries, and new LEGO sets.
AmazonFresh is currently available for Seattle customers in 79 local ZIP codes, offering dry goods, produce, meat, seafood, dairy products, and even specialty items from Seattle favorites like the Pike Place Fish Market. (Unfortunately, Amazon's drivers do not hurl the fish at you from your driveway.) Adding a touch of Seamless and EAT24, AmazonFresh even delivers prepared, ready-to-eat dishes from 14 Seattle restaurants.
Reuters' anonymous sources claim that Los Angeles will get the first AmazonFresh rollout as early as this week, with the San Francisco Bay Area coming later in the year. Chain grocers such as Safeway and Walmart.com already let customers in some markets order groceries online for same-day or later delivery. And the Bay Area also boasts several delivery-focused startups, such as Instacart, which fetches groceries from Safeway, Trader Joe's, Costco, and Whole Foods; and Postmates, which sends runners to nearly any store or restaurant that doesn't offer delivery on its own.
But those services are essentially personal shoppers, picking and delivering items from existing stores. If Amazon has to set up its own warehouses to store a large portion of its perishables, posits Reuters, it could run into issues with spoiled and damaged foods eating into its bottom line.
Of course, Amazon is big enough to not cry over a little spilled milk, and the company has shown by pricing its Kindle e-readers at or near cost that it's willing to offer loss leaders and make its profit elsewhere. For the Kindle example, they make money selling you books and other content, and with AmazonFresh, perhaps the payoff is simply in nudging customers one step closer to ordering everything they consume from one retailer. If this reminds you of infamous dot-com flop Webvan, extra geek points for you--especially if you knew that Webvan is now owned and operated by...Amazon.com.
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