By Curtis Silver
After my latest meet-and-greet date in which I learned once again how moderately insufferable cross-fit junkies are, I wondered “why doesn’t Starbucks make a dating app?” I mean, here we are, sipping our coffee drinks while sharing pointless and probably embellished tales of accomplishment while strangers buzz around us, the deep acrid cloud of caffeine and coffee beans in the air. Then the news broke of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and the possibilities suddenly became just as endless as that date.
There has been a lot of analysis done already on this Whole Foods deal. Amazon has bought like 80 companies, including Zappos, Souq.com and Twitch, but nothing like this. What this means for retail and specifically for your Whole Foods shopping experience is yet to be determined. Same hour Amazon Prime grocery delivery? Physical Amazon pop-up stores within Whole Foods? Will Whole Foods start selling HDMI cables? Time will tell.
Amazon is cutting out the middle man. Whole Foods is a successful brand unto itself, so why not keep that branding and simply enhance it with the best parts of the business? So in that line of thinking but flipping it around, Starbucks — where we all end up on first dates anyway — should totally buy Tinder. Or OKCupid. Walmart could buy POF.com. Some fancy pinky-out wine bar that I never frequent could buy Bumble (which has opened a physical location). But then, why stop there?
While I do of course shop at Amazon (the best way to assist in the death of Radio Shack) I’m a Walmart kind of guy (but not a Bonobos kind of guy). I’ve even taken dates there. I regret the publicization of that information, but there it is. We have fun. So why not theorize that Walmart at some point in the near future buys Fresh Direct? Walmart will need some way to peddle its designer cantaloupe and re-stocked Oreo O’s cereal and Zima.
There are some obvious mergers just waiting to happen. Google buying Twitter (even though that doesn’t really classify here as physical vs. virtual). Disney buying Netflix. Red Bull buying GoPro. Expand your mind a little bit. Think of these massive tech corporations and your daily life. How about where you live? Is it too outlandish to think Google won’t start buying up property management companies? Google could purchase a company like Equity Residential, turn your home into a literal Google home. Same for Apple or Amazon.
Consider the medical industry and how Apple is needling its way into your home health. “Apple should buy Liberty Medical, Dexcom and Omnipod and create an all in one diabetes solution,” says one area Apple enthusiast with pre-existing conditions.
“I really think medical/pharma is ripe for technology partnerships,” says another area Apple expert who suffers from an affliction causing him to leave terrible pun comments on Facebook posts. “Apple might be forward thinking enough to do this — maybe even develop better imaging technology that could be cheaper and more portable and even used at home minimizing doctor/ER visits.”
Facebook could extend its ad network into your commute by purchasing Lyft. “Facebook needs an auto play, every other major tech company has one,” says one area user who watches every Facebook live video, ad or not. “Lyft needs the reach to finally leapfrog Uber. Plus Facebook could extend its ad network into Lyfts with location based targeting.”
Facebook could expand that ad model even further by purchasing a convenience store chain like 7-11, using your demographic data to create not only the ultimate ad experience, but make sure your brand of tobacco is always in stock. I don’t think Facebook will get into the grocery business like Amazon, but the social network kind of seems to align with the convenience store model.
While we all sit and ponder the possibilities and what will happen to our quinoa and fancy hipster cheeses at Whole Foods, Amazon is probably planning its next physical acquisition. Ace Hardware could be next on that list, or a company like Winmark, which specializes in stores that sell used goods (Play It Again Sports being one). That would be a great funnel for Amazon to push its user-based used items inventory. The point is that the death of brick and mortar could be averted by tech companies. Though I don’t think Amazon (or any company) wants to buy JCPenny.
Clearly the physical world and the online world is colliding when an internet company purchases a brick and mortar operation at this scale. That’s it. There are no more lines. Every car wash could be Apple, every time you walk into a major hair salon chain, Microsoft’s Cortana might ask what celebrity you want to look like today. At one time I believed that in the near future every restaurant could be Taco Bell, now I believe that every restaurant could be Amazon.