retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to some of the observations I made yesterday about the Instacart acquisition of Unata, one MNB reader wrote:

I think you raise excellent points about why retailers should be worried outsourcing their customer experience - their core value in the marketplace - to a company like Instacart. But I also understand Instacart made the acquisition and I understand why it could work.

The key question that every retailer needs to ask themselves today isn't just, "How can I differentiate myself from e-commerce (especially Amazon)." They need to be asking themselves, "How can I take the most compelling qualities of the e-commerce experience and deliver that value to my customers, through my existing physical stores.”

There are lots of reasons e-commerce has been successful: the convenience of shopping when and where you like. Access to additional information, like ratings and comparative prices, is built in. Saved payment instruments for speedy checkout. Remarketing ads (the ones that follow you around after you visit a site without making a purchase). Abandoned cart reminders. Personalized messaging. Subscribe and save. People who bought this also bought that. And so on.

I don't know which of these are the magical ones and which of these are just nice to have. I don't know even *how* one would provide some of these as a bricks and mortar retailer. But I suspect that the folks at Instacart and Unata have ideas and if they can execute then they'll continue to find a willing audience in the legions of rightfully-terrified supermarket execs.

Regarding our story about how CVS has pledged to stop ‘materially altering’ all of the imagery associated with its beauty products as a way of being more truthful with its shoppers about what is achievable and what isn’t, one MNB reader wrote:

I think this CVS move is totally on-strategy with its broader health initiatives. They quit tobacco even though it was profitable. They made the decision to remove the candy counter, even though those impulse buys had great margin. This is simply an extension of those physical health policies to mental health.

CVS looks like it’s playing the long game in health and wellness. I applaud their leadership for making these tough decisions and standing for something bigger.

KC's View: