What Amazon does sometimes sends ripples throughout the business world, even the beverage world.
Gary Thompson thinks Amazon is having more than a ripple effect on beverage distributors. Thompson, the COO of Michigan-based beer distributor Powers Distributing (and Beverage World’s 2014 Beer Wholesaler of the Year), spoke at Beverage World’s BevOps supply chain conference in April on the challenge of managing the growing number of SKU’s coming into a beverage distributor’s operation.
He opened his talk with a short video clip of the recent 60 Minutes interview of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, the one during which Bezos broke the news that the online retailer was testing drones for delivery. It was also the interview in which Bezos proclaimed that it was Amazon’s strategy to figure out how to “sell everything to everyone.”
For Thompson, Amazon’s impact is undeniable. “The changing consumer expectations about how they search out and purchase products are having a profound impact on beverage distribution,” he told his fellow beverage distributors in attendance. “Amazon sets expectations among consumers that beverage distributors have to realize and compete against.”
Last month reports broke out of California that fed directly into Thompson’s point. The reports said Amazon is on the verge of testing a new concept: a drive-thru grocer that will allow consumers to order grocery items online, then schedule a pickup at a dedicated facility, the first of which seems to be under construction in Silicon Valley. Amazon didn’t confirm the reports, but it didn’t deny them either. To many observers, the idea seems more plausible and immediate than delivery drones do. “We are seeing the emergence of the next generation of the food distribution system,” Bill Bishop, a retail and e-commerce consultant told CNBC.
Few experts doubt that Amazon can pull off the drive-thru concept. Amazon already is distributing groceries, including beverages, and even perishables through its limited AmazonFresh service in major cities, and the drive-thru concept would seem to ramp up its ambitions.
Amazon of course is an expert in logistics and order selection, using robots in distribution centers to fill orders in minutes. Experts also say that Amazon has been experimenting with physical pickup spots, such as the Amazon Locker program where goods can be delivered to unmanned drop boxes at retail partners like 7-Eleven.
The drive-thru grocer concept also plays directly into Amazon’s strategy of getting goods into consumer’s hands through any means possible—including aerial drones, which leads us back to Thompson’s comments on Amazon’s disruptive effect on beverage distributors.
Even the potential of the Amazon drive-thru concept should put traditional brick-and-mortar grocers and the companies that supply them on notice because the potential disruption would be formidable. Disrupting traditional business models also is what Amazon does best. And, as Jeff Bezos said to 60 Minutes, “Complaining about it isn’t a strategy.”