Published on: June 20, 2019
This commentary is available as both text and video; enjoy both or either ... they are similar, but not exactly the same. To see past FaceTime commentaries, go to the MNB Channel on YouTube.
Hi, Kevin Coupe here and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
I want to refer you to the new Retail Tomorrow podcast that we posted here on MNB a few days ago. Not just for purposes of promoting what I think is a really good discussion - recorded at the United Fresh Marketing Association conference in Chicago - about where fresh marketing is going in the future, especially as it relates to self-care, but because of an exchange - not related to the core subject - that I think is really important.
One of my guests was Michael Stebner, who is in charge of all things culinary at the Sweetgreen fast casual restaurant chain. He told me that he lives in Los Angeles and was a longtime Whole Foods shopper.
For years, because he has a busy live, Michael ordered online from Whole Foods, via Instacart; Whole Foods was an early Instacart customer, and even put some money into the then-fledgling delivery company.
When Amazon bought Whole Foods, as we all know, the Instacart relationship was doomed to end. That was no problem for Michael - he just switched over and started ordering from Whole Foods and Amazon made the deliveries.
Not everybody makes that decision. Last week in my “Innovation Conversation” with Tom Furphy, we discussed a new Barclay’s research paper, “Dissecting The Instacart Addiction,” which made the point that more than four out of 10 Instacart shoppers say they would switch retailers if Instacart stopped being available at the retailer where they’ve been using it. In other words, they essentially think of themselves as being Instacart customers, not customers of the retailers that signed on with Instacart.
But not Michael.
This is where it got interesting.
Michael told me during the podcast that he got an email from Instacart explaining that it no longer had a relationship with Whole Foods - and then the email listed all the purchases that Michael had made at Whole Foods via Instacart, and identified current Instacart partner retailers where those same products could be bought.
That’s right. Instacart basically weaponized Whole Foods’ shopper and transaction data to use against - wait for it - Whole Foods.
Now, I have no idea who or why a contract was signed by Whole Foods that gave Instacart ownership and use of its data. I have no idea how many other retailer contracts give Instacart those same rights … though I’d be willing to bet that more of them do than don’t.
But this is nuts.
It gets even more nuts. I totally believe the rumors that Instacart plans to open dark stores in certain markets, which will give it the ability to serve shoppers who see themselves as Instacart customers without the participation of any local retailer.
Instacart, in other words, isn’t a service provider. It is a competitor … at least based on the scenario that Michael Stebner sketched out for me.
Why would any retailer essentially sign away its customers?
In this case, Instacart made retailers an offer they could not refuse - an inexpensive and easy way to get into the e-commerce business and to compete with the likes of Amazon. Lots of people took this offer - Instacart has said that it was almost a godsend when Amazon bought Whole Foods, persuading even skeptics that they had to do something, and Instacart was standing there with an accessible and attractive solution.
Remember the line from Mark 8:36…
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
That’s what is on my mind this morning. As always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: