In its latest bid to take over the (consumer) world, Amazon is slated to offer private label groceries. The retail monolith already sells home essentials like toilet paper, so adding food could be seen as the next step toward biological vertical integration. Selling in-house groceries might mean a tricky adjustment in product standards and shipping. However, the value of the Amazon brand doesn’t come from the quality of its inventory, but the quality of the buying experience. Customer service is Amazon’s product, and it’s a good one.
Sure, #PrimeDay will always feature prominently in the Seattle retailer’s blooper reel, but the good experiences have far outperformed the bad for me personally. In fact, it’s not even close. The disparity looks like a Cavaliers-Raptors box score. I’ve had a package taken from outside my door, and in 7 minutes I had explained the problem and re-ordered the product at no additional cost to me. Free two-day shipping, video streaming, and rapid assistance are all part of a carefully-crafted customer service suite.
It’s no surprise then that Amazon has spent a few years developing its plan for releasing private label groceries. And it’s not hard to see the business taking off. House brand groceries are often cheaper than their name brand counterparts, and they typically offer more adventurous flavor combinations. Plus, Amazon can use the customer service brand loyalty it has built to attract new buyers, rather than having to bolster the value of its individual products.
But even if they had to do the latter, they’ve got some pretty cool names to work with. Happy Belly, Wickedly Prime, and Mama Bear are just a few of the labels TechCrunch listed in its rundown of Amazon’s new offerings. Wickedly Prime sounds like a righteous brah’s description of the surf conditions at South Beach. Perhaps in Amazon’s case it will be a fictional quality grade for steak. Happy Belly will almost surely be the name for the retailer’s baby food line, and the implication for anything called “Mama Bear” is that it fits just right.
Perishable foods aren’t all sunshine and rainbows though. Is it possible that Amazon is headed for some choppy waters? (Wickedly Prime!). Just ask Blue Bell — or any of the dozens of major industry players that have dealt with food safety incidents in the last year alone — how tubular issuing a recall is. Food borne illness happens, and outbreaks can be incredibly harmful to more than just the poor souls consuming Listeria monocytogenes. Having to recall product is super expensive, and the damage done to the company’s reputation can often be (business) life-threatening.
Amazon already had to handle a design flaw in their line of baby diapers in 2015. They did so based on customer feedback they had gotten about the product, and they offered a $25 credit to those who had purchased the diapers. And that’s the point: Amazon is well-equipped to handle customer service issues. They’re the company’s best-seller.
Food processors make and market food. A recall is a shock to the system that disrupts the entire business. Amazon was born asking you to rate your experience with the Shenzhen In-Drawer Bamboo Knife Block on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. If any business is ready to field the array of questions and complaints that come with perishable groceries, it’s Amazon.