TECHNOLOGY

Amazon Prime perks to go national at Whole Foods Market

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The countdown is on.

Amazon will launch its Prime perks discounts at all Whole Foods Market stores nationwide starting Wednesday, June 27. The savings include an additional 10% off sale products, along with deep discounts on some of the grocer’s most popular products.

In May, Amazon announced its Prime discounts would replace benefits initially offered through Whole Foods’ year-old rewards program. The natural grocer discontinued its loyalty program on May 2. By the end of May, Amazon debuted the discounts in 121 Whole Foods Market stores across 12 states, as well as across all Whole Foods Market 365 stores nationwide. In June, the online giant expanded the program to Whole Foods stores in 10 additional states.

“Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – in fact, Prime members have adopted this benefit at one of the fastest rates we’ve seen,” said Cem Sibay, VP Amazon Prime. “Since starting this rollout in mid-May, Prime members have already saved millions of dollars on everything from seasonal favorites to popular products.”

The Prime discounts also coincide with groceries delivered from Whole Foods Market stores via Prime Now. Both Prime member savings and Prime Now grocery delivery are available in Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco. Prime Now offers free two-hour delivery on orders over $35. Delivery from Whole Foods Market is currently available in 10 cities and will continue expanding throughout 2018.

“Since launching Prime savings at Whole Foods Market, we’ve seen excitement and momentum from both Prime members and our supplier partners,” said A.C. Gallo, President and COO at Whole Foods Market.

Whole Foods customers who may not be Prime members can join the program for $119. (Amazon increased the price from $99 in April. However, this was the company’s first annual price increase since March 2014. The price was originally $79 before it jumped to $99.)

The program also complements the discounts Prime members earn when using their Amazon Prime Rewards Visa card. Prime members earn 5% back on any purchases they make at Whole Foods. Non-Prime members that have the Visa card are entitled to 3% back.

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TECHNOLOGY

Microsoft, British retail giant in artificial intelligence deal

BY Marianne Wilson

Marks & Spencer Group is exploring artificial intelligence through a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp.

The collaboration is focused on testing the integration of Microsoft AI technologies into M&S’ customer experience, stores and wider operations. The two companies will work together to explore how artificial intelligence can be used the retail environment to improve customer experience and optimize operations.

As part of the deal, a team of AI engineers and product personnel from Microsoft will partner with the M&S retail labs team to accelerate M&S’ digital transformation. The initiative is in line with M&S’ five-year transformation plan that it unveiled last November, with a goal of become a “digital first” business.

“We want to be at the forefront of driving value into the customer experience using the power of technology,” said Steve Rowe, CEO, M&S. “Working together with Microsoft to understand the full potential of how technology and artificial intelligence can improve the in-store experience for our customers and the efficiencies of our wider operations could be a game changer for M&S – and for retail.”

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TECHNOLOGY

On Prime Day, members will buy…

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

While the official date of Amazon’s Prime Day has not yet been announced, Prime members are already making their shopping lists.

Home goods and electronics are once again tied for the most popular products consumers plan to shop for this Prime Day, with 41% of shoppers eyeing this merchandise. However, consumers would rather see sales on electronics than home goods (47% vs 45%), according to the “Amazon Prime Day Survey 2018,” a study from BlackFriday.com.

According to data, 28% of consumers will be in search of clothing/shoes/accessories, 20% will purchase toys and games, 16% will buy tools, and 10% will buy groceries. Women are more likely to buy home goods on Amazon than men (50% vs. 39%). Men are more likely to buy electronics on Amazon than women (43% vs. 33%).

Twenty-five percent of consumers will spend over $100, with 9% planning to spend $250 or more.

However, consumers are becoming more financially savvy this year, and doing all that they can to maximize savings when shopping online. Almost half of those surveyed (49%) always compare prices before buying on Amazon, with 33% only comparing prices occasionally.

Despite Prime members taking a more cost-conscious approach to Prime Day, they are not swayed by Amazon’s recent Prime price hike. Almost half of survey respondents (48%) said they’ll keep their Prime accounts, even with the price hike. Thirty-two percent plan on canceling their memberships.

And while 20% are upset about the price increase, they still want to participate in the sales. Thus, they will cancel their memberships and create trial accounts just for Prime Day shopping, the study revealed.

Compared with last year, the number of Americans with Prime accounts increased by 4% (480 out of 1,000 respondents had one in 2018 vs. 460 out of 1,000 in 2017). Another 7% plan to get one just for Prime Day. So by the end of July, this means that at least 55% of shoppers will have Prime.

Millennials (age 25 to 34) are most likely to already have a Prime account leading into Prime Day. The youngest consumers surveyed (ages 18 to 24) are least likely to have a Prime account (45%), closely followed by consumers aged 65+ (44%). Among those who don’t currently have a Prime account, males ages 18-24 are most likely to get an account just for Prime Day (10% vs. 7% overall).

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