How Amazon can revolutionize the American business model, again

How Amazon can revolutionize the American business model, again

How Amazon can revolutionize the American business model, again
June 26
21:55 2017

In this age of small businesses versus big corporations, the businesses you give your money to can reflect your views on pretty much anything. Are you boycotting Hobby Lobby or Starbucks? Do you prefer to shop at your local farmer’s market instead of Kroger? There’s a constant tug of war between accessibility and spending money at the right kinds of places. Then there’s Amazon, which seems to stand wholly outside the realm of business, towering over every other company.

What started as an online bookstore has turned into a sort of lifestyle, with Amazon offering almost anything you can think of. Now, it has organic food after the company’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods.

Last July, Amazon introduced plans (still in beta, according to Forbes) to open a brick-and-mortar grocery store in Seattle without cashiers or check out lines – you just click and go. What does that mentality mean for Whole Foods? What does Amazon’s drive to decrease human interaction and increase its scope mean for consumers?

In the interest of full disclosure, I have an Amazon Prime account. That’s no surprise since, according to The New Yorker, it’s estimated about 80,000 American households do, or over 60 percent.

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, began the company in 1994 and spurred the 21st century into one of immediate service and easy delivery. Publishing houses dislike him, especially after Amazon jumped on the self-publishing bandwagon. People claim millennials are the cause of Macy’s going bankrupt, but I’d bet we can trace the decline of department stores back to Amazon. Grocery stores are currently sprinting to keep up – Kroger just started a delivery service called ClickList to compete – which may be why Whole Foods recently decided to join Amazon instead of beat them.

This uber-popular organic chain started in our very own Austin, Texas. It blew up – similar to how Amazon did – by predicting consumers’ desires for accessible, healthy food. The company has faced its fair share of scandals though, most notably about their high prices. Whole Foods was also cited by The Associated Press as one of the companies that buy slave labor shrimp from Thai Union, though CNN later reported Whole Foods’ claims that it was not. Yet it did confirm its use of prison labor to make its gourmet cheese, sources at NPR said. The sale of Whole Foods to Amazon is just the latest in a series of news-making moves for both companies, and may finally solidify Amazon in the brick-and-mortar world.

Forbes speculates this merger is designed to create “an omnichannel combination of online and in-store goods, where customers can come into their local Whole Foods and pick up their entire Amazon order.” This theory fits with Amazon’s business model of everything all at once, and Whole Foods employees may now find themselves working at mini-Amazon warehouses. In the grand scheme of employment and technology, however, this merger asks the bigger possibility of whether Amazon will eliminate jobs or not.

If the company sticks to its plan of click-and-go stores, the presence of cashiers will decrease. True, we already have self-checkouts people use in abundance, but the concept of an entire store without a cashier is new. Amazon strives to take the middle man out of almost every interaction with customers – cashiers, retail sales employees, publishing agents and editors. These have always been considered somewhat expendable jobs, but technological unemployment is a big deal that companies like Amazon benefit from and consumers rarely think about. Except when it comes to the coal industry.

Perhaps it’s a stretch to liken Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and subsequent industry takeover to the hopeful elimination of the coal industry, but the similarities are there. With the rise of eco-friendly energy sources, workers in the coal industry are anticipating unemployment.

Progress can be made without human employees in mind. Even if the progress is essentially good, companies also need to dedicate time to creating a flexible workforce. If employees are only taught the skill it takes to do their one job, they are not given the resources to adapt once that job is eliminated by new technology. A study done by the Martin School at Oxford backs up this idea, stating 47 percent of jobs are at risk of being eliminated or replaced in the next 20 years.

The plea for companies to see its employees as more than just disposable labor may be far-fetched, but if massive conglomerates like Amazon lead the pack, it’s possible. Capitalism thrives on the decisions of consumers and corporations as groups instead of individual humans with needs. Amazon benefits from this, and now that it has Whole Foods it can take the company into another progressive direction. But what if, like he did all those years ago, Jeff Bezos anticipated the needs of the American employee and gave them more than just speedily-delivered organic strawberries? Here’s to hoping.

Featured Illustration: Samuel Wiggins

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Amanda Dycus

Amanda Dycus

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