Aldo Agostinelli

Amazon, the ecommerce giant (valued at $397 billion), is planning to open convenience stores where Amazon Prime users can pick up their fresh weekly shop.

It is not yet official, but the news appeared a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal (Amazon to Expand Grocery Business With New Convenience Stores) and was picked up by The Guardian, so it seems to be more than simply a rumour. Pictures of the active building site in the Ballard area of Seattle seem to validate the news, together with the planning documents and boxes full of building materials labelled “Amazon”, published on GeekWire.

Pictures of the active building site in the Ballard area of Seattle seem to validate the news.

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The company refuses to comment on what it defines as mere speculation, but the evidence collected so far suggests that the project, code named “Project Como”, is already well on its way.

The Wall Street Journal has reported that Amazon’s grocery store will offer the same products as big supermarkets such as Lidl, but will only stock products ordered online via Amazon Prime online, on smartphone or via instore touch screens.

This last detail leads suggests that the company, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, is developing a new marketing strategy that is moving from virtual to reality: the aim is to attract commuters, housewives and all the people that still prefer visiting local brick and mortar stores to online shopping.

It suggests Amazon is developing a new marketing strategy… moving from virtual to reality. 

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The opening date is still uncertain. Someone hypothesize it will be ready in 6 months, others think it will takes around a year. However, Amazon’s book stores are already a reality: they launched in Seattle last year, with new openings planned in San Diego, New York, Portland and Chicago.

At the moment, however, all sources are reporting that the fresh food pick up service will be available only for Prime clients. That means the virtual subscription will be still necessary. We don’t know yet if client can also register for Prime via the touch screen panels at the stores.

And in Europe? Supposedly, if “Project Como” is a success, the same kind of shops could also open in Italy.

It’s certain that Amazon views Italy favourably: following London, Milan was the second European city where Prime Now was launched. Currently it is active in Milan and 34 others towns around the cities. 15 thousand products are available for one hour deliveries to home or office address, with a delivery cost of €6.90.

It’s certain that Amazon views Italy favourably: Milan was the second European city where Prime Now launched.

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The e-commerce giant has also approved an Italian investment plan worth about €500 million to open three huge distribution centres next year. A distribution site of 61 thousand square meters at Passo Corese, 30 km from Rome; a sorting centre in Avigliana, near Turin; a new R&D centre working on AI and Alexa, Amazon Cloud’s virtual assistant, supported on Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Tap and Amazon Fire Tv, in Turin are all in the pipeline.

All these elements lead me think that Italy won’t be forgotten when it comes to Amazon opening grocery stores in Europe. But the timing remains uncertain: it  seems highly unlikely they’ll be here in the next three years.

What do you think about Amazon’s new project? Do you think it’s useful? Would you use it or would still prefer to visit a traditional convenience store?  

Share your opinions here and tweet me at @AgostinelliAldo.

Aldo Agostinelli