After obliterating neighborhood book stores, Amazon is coming for local grocery stores next. The online mega mall has plans to roll out their AmazonFresh grocery delivery service to the Bay Area by the end of the year.
The service has already been bringing fresh produce, meats and other sundry items to Seattleites via a fleet of private delivery trucks for the past five years and will debut in L.A. as early as this week. The Bay Area debut is expected to follow in the next few months. If the rollout goes well, AmazonFresh could hit 20 other cities in 2014.
Of course, that is assuming Amazon doesn't run into the same problems that crushed Web 1.0 grocery delivery service Webvan in the late 90s/early aughts. Like the short-lived Kozmo.com or Pets.com — the poster child for Dotcom Bubble flameouts — Webvan lasted a mere two years as it expanded way too quickly and disappeared after leaving their logo behind on every cup holder in the brand new AT&T Park. In 2008, Webvan beat out Pets.com to become CNet's largest dotcom flop in history.
As supermarket analyst Bill Bishop explained today, Amazon's offering has the chance to add virtually endless impulse purchases to a shopper's online cart — not just gum and trashy magazines. With five years of Seattle deliveries under its belt, Amazon has already managed to outlive the Webvan nightmare, at least in the Pacific Northwest and "that's an awesomely scary prospect for the grocery business." We'll have to wait until the service kicks off in San Francisco before we can tell how it will stack up against the city's beloved farmers markets and carefully curated neighborhood grocers. (On the other hand, we long ago abandoned Costco runs in favor of buying bulk soap and TP online.)
Also testing the waters is Google's own same-day delivery service — which includes groceries from at least one San Francisco grocery store. Google Same Day Express is still in the testing phase in the city and the peninsula. Your local neighborhood Safeway store will also save you the embarrassment of buying a family pack of toilet paper with same-day home delivery service.