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The Future of Food Retail: How Amazon Fresh and Dom’s Kitchen & Market are Transforming the Grocery Industry

Amazon Fresh and Dom’s Kitchen & Market are two leading food retail concepts that have emerged in the US over the past year. Look up either retailer and you will find search results that hail both concepts as the “future of grocery” and the “store of the future” even though the two brands have markedly different approaches to serving their customers. We explore the unique ways that Amazon Fresh and Dom’s Kitchen & Market are pushing the food industry forward.

Amazon Fresh leverages Just Walk Out technology to remove friction from the shopping experience

Since the first Amazon Fresh location opened its doors last fall, McMillanDoolittle has been closely tracking the evolution of the grocery concept. We summarize the typical Amazon Fresh store experience in the following video:

Nearly a year after emerging on the supermarket scene, Amazon has grown its fleet of Fresh stores to 15 locations across California; Illinois; Washington; and Washington, DC. The earlier versions of the store offer camera-equipped smart shopping carts that allow customers to skip the checkout lane. Amazon has continued to push the limit on the role of technology in the in-store shopping experience, borrowing the “Just Walk Out” technology from its small format Amazon Go stores and implementing it in a full-sized 25,000 sq. ft. Amazon Fresh location for the first time.

Located in Amazon’s own backyard, the new Bellevue, WA location ditches the Amazon Dash smart shopping carts for a completely “Just Walk Out” shopping experience fueled by ceiling cameras, sensors, and machine learning. To begin shopping, customers enter through the Just Walk Out gates via one of three methods: scan the QR code in their Amazon app, scan their palm using Amazon One biometric technology, or insert a card payment linked to their Amazon account.

Amazon Fresh scan to enter

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Once inside, customers can begin shopping as they normally would while overhead cameras and sensors track their virtual shopping carts. Any item customers pick up is added to their virtual cart and any item returned to the shelves is removed from the virtual cart.

Amazon Fresh shopping instructions

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Signage throughout the store reminds customers to return unwanted items to their original location on the shelves or risk being charged, which is an effective way to reduce go-backs. The only area within the center store that requires employee interaction is in the liquor aisle, where an employee is staffed to scan ID’s and track entry to the age 21+ department. Once customers have completed their shopping, they can simply scan their entry method again to leave through the Just Walk Out exit gates and a digital receipt is emailed to them shortly after.

Amazon Fresh signage

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Among the shifts in retail that we have observed, Amazon Fresh epitomizes the shift to Extreme Convenience. Brands that embrace Extreme Convenience remove barriers in the shopping process to enable customers to make a purchase more quickly and, in recent times, more safely. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology has raised the bar when it comes to Extreme Convenience and we expect to see retailers continue to invest in this trend as pandemic-behaviors linger on and retail technology continues to rapidly evolve.

Dom’s Kitchen & Market indulges the senses with rich culinary experiences and curated products

Dom's exterior entrance

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New to the Chicago food scene, Dom’s Kitchen & Market is a first-of-its-kind kitchen and grocery concept that is betting that the post-pandemic consumer will be more eager than ever to engage in experiential dining and shopping.

Dom's coffee counter

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Led by Chicago grocery industry veterans, including Bob Mariano, Don Fitzgerald, and Jay Owen, the executive team was intentional about leading first with restaurant-quality food experiences at the center of the store and complementing those experiences with local and unique pantry items around the perimeter of the store.

The Stackup at Dom's

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Within The Kitchen, guests will find 5 concepts offering artisanal coffee, made-to-order salads and sandwiches, Bonci pizza and rotisserie meats, and sushi and rice bowls. In the surrounding Market, Dom’s customers can shop for fresh produce, curated finds, and local brands like Farmer’s Fridge and Stan’s Donuts.

The produce department at Dom's

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“For Tide, Cheerios, and Corn Flakes – those traditional grocery items – we knew people would be fulfilling those online or with mass merchants,” Co-CEO Don Fitzgerald explained. “We have a pantry area that is a curated assortment… Frankly, people are enjoying the discovery component.”

Offering a sense of discovery embodies another retail shift McMillanDoolittle has been tracking: the shift toward Extreme Experience. For retailers, the Extreme Experience trend is all about building a relationship with customers, immersing them in the brand experience, and offering them reasons to linger and come back to your stores. The Dom’s event calendar, which includes product samplings, holiday brunches, and cooking demonstrations from a rotating list of local guest chefs, exemplifies how Extreme Experience comes to life in brick-and-mortar retail.

“The ability to be more interpersonal really fuels our environment,” said Fitzgerald when describing the vision behind the Dom’s concept. This is a stark contrast to Amazon Fresh, which is focused on leveraging technology to reduce interaction and increase efficiency for customers and employees.

The liquor selection at Dom's

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The future of retail is a shift toward the Extremes

Both Amazon Fresh and Dom’s Kitchen & Market lean into their deep-rooted areas of expertise to offer customers two very different shopping experiences. Technology is at the heart of Amazon’s best-in-class operational efficiencies, fueling the Extreme Convenience that the retailer can offer to its customers. Dom’s Kitchen & Market is the brainchild of seasoned Chicago grocery and retail veterans whose decades of retail experience have centered on offering customers a sense of discovery and Extreme Experience.

Whereas Amazon Fresh leverages Just Walk Out technology to remove friction from the shopping process, Dom’s adds friction to the shopping experience to encourage guests to slow down, linger, and learn. Two different strategies tackle two different Extremes, but both Amazon Fresh and Dom’s Kitchen & Market offer a glimpse of what the future of food retail will look like in a rapidly shifting retail landscape. To learn more about our work in retail strategy and digital transformation, simply contact us.  If you’d like to stay up to date on our latest retail insights, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.

Amanda Lai

Amanda manages McMillanDoolittle’s food retail practice and supports strategic planning, retail concept development, consumer research, and real estate analysis for a wide range of global retail clients. Since joining the team in 2017, Amanda has worked with brands across the Grocery, Restaurant, Apparel, Consumer Electronics, Automotive, and Real Estate sectors. She has been featured as a subject matter expert on TD Ameritrade, CBS News, and Chicago’s WGN Radio, and has been quoted in publications including The Chicago Tribune, Crain’s, Progressive Grocer, Drug Store News, and Convenience Store News.

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