• Amazon is working to optimize its cashier-free technology for larger-format stores. So far, the company has limited the tech to its Amazon Go stores in Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco and says it won’t bring the tech to Whole Foods. Amazon Go stores are typically smaller than 2,500 square feet, compared to a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods, which sell around 34,000 SKUs.
  • J.Crew is terminating its discount line Mercantile after less than three months of selling exclusively on Amazon. Former long-term J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler avoided selling on Amazon for years, and the brand’s foray onto the ecommerce platform was struck by Jim Brett, who resigned as CEO last week.
  • Instacart cut prices, threatening to attract more Whole Foods customers to its delivery service over Prime Now. Currently, a Prime membership is $119 a year and offers two-hour free delivery on orders over $35 or $4.99 delivery for smaller orders. Instacart reduced its annual Express membership from $149 to $99 with no service fee, and delivery costs fell from $5.99 to $3.99.
  • Some parents are harshly criticizing Amazon for planting highly imperceptible ads in their Amazon baby registries. Failing to see a small “sponsored” label on some products in these wish lists, family and friends purchased unwanted items for parents. Now Amazon says this experiment will be discontinued, but it’s not the first time the company’s advertising business has peeved shoppers and vendors alike.
  • As Amazon extends its foot in the healthcare industry, it is selling software that reads and analyzes patient records, aimed at reducing costs and advancing medical treatment. Amazon Web Services already offers similar services to be used in the travel industry, as well as customer service and supply chain management, and also piggybacks on the company’s acquisition of PillPack earlier in 2018 and its attempt to beef up medical supplies sales, including with a new app for doctors. (The healthcare industry is worth $3.2 trillion.)
  • Amazon and WeWork’s partnership to test Alexa for Business was discontinued, only a few months after launch in November 2017. The pilot program, which brought Alexa to the WeWork headquarters in New York, was Amazon’s attempt to integrate its smart speaker in spaces outside the home—WeWork members could speak to Alexa in order to reserve conference space or adjust the thermostat. It’s not certain why the partnership ended, but a major hurdle of the project is confidentiality—it makes sense to use Alexa for information like temperature, but not when it comes to more classified information.
  • The dominance of ecommerce sites like Amazon is sculpting the form of products to streamline packaging and delivery—Tide’s new laundry detergent box looks like a box of wine. Though Amazon has functioned on the premise of improving customer experience (usually price) over all else, this is one change that makes backend operations easier, without necessarily upgrading the experience for shoppers.
  • As more vendors seek to gain more autonomy within the ecommerce marketplace, Amazon may be attempting to consolidate operations under a single system called One Vendor. The system would unify the backend of Amazon’s operations, which currently includes Amazon Retail and Amazon Marketplace. This would give the ecommerce retailer more control over prices (lowering them) to enhance its competitive edge, while cutting out inefficiencies in the customer experience and Amazon’s supply chain.
  • Amazon is seeking to buy a minority stake in the company Future Retail, tightening its hold on India’s brick-and-mortar market in the face of Walmart, which purchased a 77% stake in India’s ecommerce behemoth Flipkart earlier in 2018. Future Retail is one of India’s largest physical retailers, operating more than 1,000 stores in the supermarket and home goods realm, and the deal allegedly will allow Amazon to fully buy out the company over a long-term period, abiding by the country’s laws. Amazon also purchased a minority stake in the company Shoppers Stop in September 2017 and in More, a chain of supermarkets, both of which are based in India.