Amazon Grocery Gets Big Fast – Spotlight #355

Good Monday morning. It’s September 21st. Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. Our friends at Clean Air Moms Action have a great resource for voting and volunteering this year.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,418 words — about a 5 minute read. 

1. News to Know Now

a.  Citing a lawsuit regarding First Amendment concerns, a judge has temporarily blocked an order that would have prevented new downloads of the app We Chat. Meanwhile President Trump told reporters Saturday that a business deal between TikTok owner Byte Dance, Oracle Corp., and Walmart “has his blessing” although it was not immediately clear which clause in the Constitution describes the process for an executive branch blessing by the president.

b. Political activity online continues to highlight a sharply divided electorate. This week privately held outdoor retailer Patagonia acknowledged that the tag on the company’s shorts has the phrase “Vote the Assholes Out” stitched on the reverse side. Meanwhile Twitter, often criticized for allowing President Trump to violate the company’s online standards, removed a tweet by Kanye West that provided an editor’s phone number and asked his followers to call “a white supremacist”. Facebook joined Twitter in suspending and removing accounts made by teenagers who were paid by Turning Point Action to amplify conservative political messages.

c.  California has enacted the Genetic Privacy Information Act following a similar law passed last year by Florida. The law requires consumer DNA testing companies like 23 and Me and Ancestry to receive a consumer’s permission before disclosing DNA information to third parties including insurance companies and law enforcement agencies.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers
Covid Tracking Project — useful for its annotations
Johns Hopkins Dashboard or Animations — the gold standard
COVID-19 Forecast Hub — Collects multiple models
Google Mobility Reports — county level info on people locations
Long-Term Care COVID Tracker

COVID-19 Tech News
5 Things COVID-19 Experts Get Wrong About Stats – The Next Web
Hologram Teaching Tech Launching in Response To COVID – CBS 21 DFW
In South Korea, COVID-19 Comes With Online Bullies Risk – NY Times
Internet Search Results Predict Hotspots Weeks Later – Science Alert
Lack of Internet Access Has Become Critical For Students – MSN
Senior Living Tech Spending Skyrockets Amid COVID-19 – Senior Housing
Smart Thermometer Company Kinsa Predicts Local Surge – Springfield News

3. Search Engine Optimization News

Those domain names that seem awfully explicit and chock-full of keywords are called exact-match domains. Google says they’re unnecessary for success. Google exec John Mueller offered that guidance during a recent Ask Google Webmasters video. That’s consistent with years of Google messaging and directly contradicts some SEO software and studies that suggest otherwise. 

Google is also continuing to roll out its green checkmark to local businesses in home service categories. Those badges are earned in the Google Guaranteed and Google Screened programs. The latter program is available for attorneys, financial planners, real estate agents, and tax specialists. Search Engine Land’s Justin Sanger has nice coverage here.

Google My Business listings, a mainstay of the home services and professional industry, now offers video conferencing integration via Google Meet, Webex, Skype, and Zoom. There are details at Search Engine Roundtable.

4. Also in the Spotlight — Amazon Grocery

The quaint days when Amazon purchased Whole Foods and threatened to disrupt food retail are over. It’s done. Amazon is an important component of e-commerce infrastructure and is even labeling its own private food products across ten different brands including Wag for pets, Happy Belly and Wickedly Prime for snacks, and Mama Bear for child products. 

Last week, the company opened its first Amazon Fresh grocery store in Los Angeles’ Woodland Hills neighborhood. The latest store opening incorporates elements of the company’s automated Go stores, Whole Foods’ focus on experience and quality, and the company’s Dash Carts and ubiquitous Alexa assistant.

Amazon also has a separate delivery service also called Amazon Fresh that directly competes with other online grocers such as Walmart, Target, and Peapod. Its Amazon Prime Now service still offers grocery delivery in some areas within one hour for an $8 fee or fee-free in two hours. 

Amazon’s grocery retail empire spreads through North America, Europe, and Asia. There are nearly 30 Amazon Go stores with pre-pandemic planning calling for 3,000 stores by 2021. Amazon Go is also testing a larger footprint location, this time in Redmond, Washington, home to Microsoft’s global headquarters. There are still 500 Whole Food Markets serving upscale areas. Online shoppers can also simultaneously shop at Amazon Prime and Whole Foods at the company’s separate Amazon Prime Now website and app.

The explosion into grocery from 2017’s purchase of Whole Foods mirrors Jeff Bezos’ “Get Big Fast” mantra. Now under pressure from Walmart Plus, Amazon announced last week that it will open 1,000 small delivery hubs throughout the U.S. A rumored takeover of sites housing J.C. Penney and other bankrupt department store chains appears to be on hold because they are frequently on multiple levels and would need extensive remodeling to be delivery hubs.

The company is growing big fast in yet another sector by disrupting an established industry with technology. That strategy worked more than twenty-five years ago when Bezos launched “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” and shows no signs of abating now. The video below shows how Amazon sees its blending of technology in a familiar yet different supermarket setting.

What’s next? Amazon and Walmart are racing to see who can scale up drone delivery. Both have real world testing going on, including Walmart delivering groceries via drone in Fayetteville, NC, home of Fort Bragg. 


Amazon Fresh Grocery Store Opens — Retail Wire
Amazon Fresh Now Open to Everyone —
Amazon Opens First Cashierless Grocery Store — TechCrunch
Amazon Opens New Go Grocery in Microsoft’s Neighborhood — Geek Wire
Amazon Plans to Open 1,000 Warehouses — Bloomberg
Private Label Retailer of the Year — Grocery Dive
Walmart Now Piloting On-Demand Drone Delivery — Walmart

5. Following Up: Criminal Databases

We wrote extensively last week about the pitfalls in current law enforcement technology. Slate has an excellent followup for you to consider about racial and other disparities found in criminal databases. 

The NYPD’s gang database is 99% Black and Latinx.

6. Debugging: Spot the Troll Quiz

This is a great quiz put together from real social media content assembled at Clemson’s Media Forensics Hub. Your job is to guess whether the poster was a legitimate account or from a troll farm.

Most industry folks seem to get 5 or 6 correct.  Can you do better?

7. ProTip: How to Automate Transcription

Note taking is so old school. The nice Lifehacker folks have posted a primer on how to use Google Docs or Microsoft Word to transcribe your next meeting.

Google’s version is free to boot!

8. Spotlighters Ask:  Wikibuy

Remember: press reply and email a question about integrating the online world into your life. We research and answer them all. We also publish one each week.

Do you use Wikibuy? I was wondering if it’s legit?

I don’t use the service, but it’s legit in that it is not two Romanian guys in a warehouse somewhere who are trying to get your information. Capital One bought them a couple of years ago. There is a similar browser extension called Honey that is owned by Paypal. 

The strategy for Cap One and Paypal is to insert themselves into the ecommerce process. Services like these can save you money, but the savings may not be huge, and you may not have an account with the company offering the cheaper price. And don’t forget that you’re likely sharing your data with the service provider too.

Screening Room: Panera Meets Bolton

Singer and Panera Enthusiast Michael Bolton revises an old classic to sing about Panera merging its Broccoli Cheddar Soup with its Macaroni & Cheese. It’s a familiar shtick that hasn’t grown old yet.

10. Coffee Break: Sandwich Optimization

“I set out to work on something completely meaningless,” wrote data scientist Ethan Rosenthal who created an algorithm to optimize the placement of banana slices on the PB & Banana sandwiches his grandfather introduced to him. Take a picture of your ingredients and the algo does the same for you.

He succeeded in meaningless AND optimization.

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