Amazon Fresh needs to do better

December 12, 2013

Online grocery shopping may be here to stay, but only if important issues are addressed.

With all the press and hype that Amazon has received since Bezos’ 60 Minutes drone announcement and their launch in San Francisco, little has been written about just how well (or not) is Amazon Fresh’s customer experience. Being based in Santa Monica, The Lempert Report is fortunate to have firsthand knowledge, rather than those food pundits across the nation who can tout Amazon Fresh’s success without having to order, purchase and have their groceries delivered.

Amazon is an amazing concept and company, there is no doubt. It has changed the way many Americans shop, and certainly has changed all types of retailing forever. However, that does not mean they are perfect or get everything right. Case in point is Amazon Fresh. And to Dave Dillion’s now infamous quote that, “Kroger isn’t afraid of online grocery shopping,” he shouldn’t be.

Collectively, we have ordered full shopping lists from Amazon Fresh over a dozen times. Dairy, frozen, produce, canned goods, packaged goods, paper goods, cleaning supplies - everything that a typical shopper would purchase on a regular grocery shopping trip. Our evaluation of the service is not based on price. 

We have found many drawbacks to the service. First, and probably the biggest barrier to many shoppers is that you are forced to buy multi-paks for many products: McCain’s Steel Cut Qats come in packs of three or six cans only, Fisher walnuts came only in a box of 12-2 ounce packages and Kavli crisp bread is also only available in a box of 12-5.29 ounce packages. Other items, like cottage cheese while available as a single package, are available only in large sizes. Clearly, our shopping lists were much pricier based on the quantity.

Two of the deliveries (to two different people) were left outside the wrong apartments. And one quirk is that they use frozen bottles of Dasani water to keep frozen and refrigerated products chilled. Nothing against Dasani, but we have to wonder just how long Amazon Fresh, or Coca-Cola, can afford to give away a dozen or more bottles of water with each order (and by the way, they pick up the reusable bags and styrofoam containers anyway…so we have to wonder).

Most of the produce items were fine, although a couple needed to be credited since they were damaged in transit, and when ordering produce we found many items not available for next day delivery, and therefore had to push the orders another day later.

Will Amazon Fresh make it after all? Or is this just another iteration of the Webvans and HomeGrocers of the industry? It will all depend on how they address these types of issues. Peapod’s success (after more than twenty years) rests with the unflappable focus of Andrew and Tom Parkinson amid much criticism and failure. Yes, online grocery ordering and delivery is here to stay. Just as it is in a bricks and mortar environment… success will be built on just how good are the foods and the experiences.