Amazon is changing Whole Foods at the speed of Silicon Valley

Fresh, piping hot Echos for sale.
Fresh, piping hot Echos for sale.
Image: AP Photo/Joseph Pisani
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Amazon kicked off its ownership of Whole Foods with deep price cuts and full-throated in-store promotions of its smart speakers.

Shoppers at the 57th Street Whole Foods in Manhattan found price reductions on Fuji apples (to $1.99 from $3.49 per pound), avocados (to $1.99 from $2.79 each) and organic rotisserie chicken, which dropped to $9.99, or the original price of an e-book, from $13.99, according to Bloomberg (Costco famously sells its chickens for $4.99). Large displays touted “farm fresh” smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo and Dot, also deeply discounted, to $99.99  from $179.99 for the Echo, and to $45.99 from $49.99 for the Dot.

Analysts see Amazon’s entry into the grocery business as an attempt to digitize an exceedingly analog market. Many people buy the same groceries each week; a system that learns users’ food preferences and then automates their delivery or provides sales based on that knowledge would resemble Amazon’s ability to provide subscription deliveries via online purchases of nonperishable goods.

Amazon may, for instance, tell its users, “we’ve seen you place an order for milk every week in the last seven weeks, and now in this case, why don’t we proactively prompt that?” Amit Sharma, CEO of retail software company Narvar, told CNBC.

The new grocery player hasn’t announced the ability of Alexa, its voice assistant, to help people shop at Whole Foods, but its placement of its smart speakers in stores suggests that may be coming, too.

As the stickers on newly-disounted Whole Foods produce say: “More to come.”