The following Supply Chain Matters guest blog is contributed by  Jim Wetekamp, Chief Executive Officer of BravoSolution. This is part of a series of invited guest commentaries relative to the acquisition announcement from Amazon regarding intent to acquire Whole Foods.

 

The Amazon-Whole Foods acquisition is arguably the biggest, most ground-breaking deal of 2017. It will change the retail game as we know it today, and spark a tremendous shift for procurement and supply chain teams.

The reasons Amazon bought Whole Foods for $13.7B are clear: the vertical integration establishes a brick-and-mortar presence for the eCommerce giant, expands its distribution network, and finally breaks Amazon into the grocery market – a long-time pursuit for CEO Jeff Bezos. For Whole Foods, access to new technologies that will modernize the in-store grocery shopping experience and accelerate supply chain efficiencies will likely have measurable impact on the bottom-line. Think warehouse robots that can move inventory to where it needs to go much faster, and Amazon Go type checkouts that make the purchase process instant and digital for consumers.

Though the extent of the integration between the two entities is still very unclear, we can assert the acquisition will inevitably transform the first and last miles of the grocery supply chain.

Three areas of impact for procurement

 Backend technology will become much more sophisticated across the entire supply chain industry. The acquisition will likely be a trigger for additional investment into Amazon’s procurement technology. Between AI-enabled online ordering with Echo and Dot for industrial procurement, Dash goods ordering services with single item push-button replenishment, and improved inventory tracking with Internet of Things (IoT) enabled logistics — including smart-containers and drone technology — there is a long runway for Amazon to work with from a technology perspective. The procurement and supply chain space will benefit from the windfall of this innovation, getting a glimpse of what is possible and having a successful model to reference, which will propel the industry forward in digitization.

The health and organic food market will also change. Consumer demand for healthy, natural and organic food offerings has skyrocketed and many grocery stores have been giving Whole Foods a run for its money by offering healthy options at prices that won’t break the bank. The scale and efficiencies offered by Amazon’s ownership and technological expertise will likely help Whole Foods capture new cost savings and pass the benefit onto consumers in the form of lower prices. Grocery procurement teams need to be cognizant of this and identify strategies that will help them keep pace with these efficiency gains and lower costs structures so they can continue to compete on price. Amazon was already a big threat to both traditional retailers and online ordering platforms such as Instacart and Peapod, and this acquisition is poised to help it gain even more ground.

Amazon’s previous investments in aircraft and tractor trailer leasing coupled with  ocean freight booking also pave the way for a continued transformation of inventory management, logistics, and distribution. With leadership in the online shopping experience, proven capability for order fulfillment and an established home delivery network, many believe there’s no stopping Amazon from solidifying its position as an envied supply chain leader. This could have positive implications for the entire supply chain industry.

As Amazon expands its grocery delivery capabilities, it will face the same challenges the industry has been grappling with for a while now, such how to safely, affordably and reliably deliver perishables, and may end up finding a solution that others can adopt. This would open an entirely new realm of possibilities for all players – it’s an issue all grocery brands care about and a development everyone will be paying attention to in the fallout of the acquisition.

There’s also the obvious impact on suppliers. As the in-store and online experiences get better for shoppers, so do sales figures, which benefits both the buying organization and the suppliers that sell into them. More sales means more revenue, and more profit and business opportunities for both parties. Additionally, the acquisition may spark even more demand for organics and sustainable food items by opening up access to more consumers. For suppliers, this means more emphasis on sustainability, quality and transparency.

It’s tough to say for certain what the specific implications of this acquisition are for grocery and retail procurement teams at this point, but the residual impact will be game-changing. As Amazon vertically integrates and its supply chain gets even bigger, it will shake up even more industries and cause major shifts in how procurement teams act and innovate.

 

© 2017, The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group and the Supply Chain Matters® blog. All rights reserved.