In the world of ecosystems and platforms, a balance is maintained nowadays by Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon. Microsoft has recently been added.
All companies mentioned offer more or less similar services, media sales and lending, synchronisation of different devices via cloud services, app stores and terminals, which only work with the respective service. The successful features of an ecosystem are taken over relatively quickly by the competition.
Voice-controlled assistants on the morm
A quiet new feature of the various platforms is a “personal assistant”, which is language-controlled and has to do different tasks. Also here are “Google”, “Siri”, “Cortana” and “Alexa”. You can set alarm clocks (the feature for most users), enter an address into the navigation system (a killer feature for the Moscow taxi drivers), query weather, and play media.
Up to now, these language assistants have had these more or less useful gimmicks, but they lack a real use case, because today, users are still rarely using their smartphones in public. At home, this is rather the case. In the meantime, you can network the house so that you can adjust the heating and the light with the voice assistant. Amazon responded, using “Echo” and “Echo Dot” to create stationary devices on which the language assistant “Alexa” is installed. Other platforms would like to follow Apple with Home Kit and Google with Google Home.
Siri does not go shopping…
But there is a simple question that only one of the assistants can answer: “Siri, can you get milk, eggs and flour?” Siri acknowledges “I can not.” Only Alexa, in conjunction with Amazon Prime Now, runs the order, in some metropolitan areas even within two hours.
This ability, which can not be met by other wizards, could make Amazon the dominant platform of the future, alongside the market power of Google and Facebook will be very modest. Why could the food and drug delivery with Alexa be the breakthrough, which could be as dangerous to the stationary supermarkets as Web2.0 the journalists?
Food shopping via the web is already possible today, but quite cumbersome. You are not at the computer in the refrigerator-inspecting and then the products, which one would like, enter into the order forms. Sitting in front of the refrigerator and scrolling through dozens of variants of milk is not everyone’s business.
Likewise, the beginnings fail that one regularly receives a fixed basket of food. On the one hand, you are not always at home, on the other you would also like to vary.
All this is possible with Alexa: sitting in front of the refrigerator you order the fresh products, from the bathroom you order the drugstore articles, a brief check of the order and within two hours it rings at the door and you get the goods delivered.No trolling of bags, no search for products on the shelves, no traffic jams before the entrance or exit, no queue at the checkout, no shopping restrictions by opening hours.If this form of shopping is as fast as the smartphone spread, there will be impacts that will overshadow the smartphone revolution. Let’s look at some implications:
- Loss of most food and drugstore brands: When the user orders milk, he usually does not say what brand he wants. The maximum fat content or the bio attribute play a role. Only the fewest will explicitly state Landliebe, Ehrmann or other dairies. The same applies to practically all products. Amazon will choose from whom the standard milk will come from. This will contribute to monopoly development, the product diversity will be significantly reduced.
- Special offers will disappear: As you can see on Amazon Dash buttons, it does not matter whether washing powder is cheaper. It is always the same brand re-ordered as soon as the user presses the button. It is also difficult to communicate the special offers. Unless Alexa could read out a list of special offers from which you can then choose.
- Existing supermarkets are being replaced by delivery warehouses: How exactly deliveries will happen, how many warehouse operators and drivers will be employed, will certainly change the course of the expansion of automation, rather to the detriment of human labour.
- The amount of cash will decrease: cash payments are popular in the area of food shopping. They will be eliminated, which in turn will have an impact on the banking sector.
- The remaining stores will focus on the inner city, for example, to provide travellers with food or to occupy specialised niches such as the KDW, Galerie La Fayette or Dallmayr. Also, the food shopping will be an experience.
- The roadmap will change: If robot vehicles of different sizes are delivering the goods, the roads and paths have to be adapted accordingly. I do not believe in massive drones because too many noises arise and it would be visually too disturbing. But for the robot vehicles, it would make sense to create special traces or even roads or tunnels, which can be used exclusively by such vehicles.
What it means for Germany
Is Germany prepared for these changes? A clear “no”.
There is no company in Germany or in Europe that gets the entire chain from the voice-controlled assistant to the cloud in the cloud with the help of Artificial Intelligence (KI) via logistics for the delivery of food within a few hours. The big grocers such as Rewe have online platforms for food delivery, but as already described, the order process is quite complicated.
Even if the food trade succeeded in developing a language assistant, for example at the Deutsche Telekom, the assistant also has to master home automation in order to be superior to the Amazon platform. In addition, he should have all the features that today’s cloud platforms provide, because Alexa can do that already.
And it has to be done quickly because here the principle of Internet platforms applies: “The winner takes it all”. It is unlikely that a user will have two different assistants at home, even if they are given away. And Amazon already has a lead that is hard to catch up.
What the trade can do
There are two possibilities how the German trade can react:
- Merge with other ecosystems, such as Apple. When Siri orders milk, for example, Rewe delivers. It is unlikely that operators of digital platforms such as Google or Apple will be able to build their own delivery structures in a short time, so they will need partners. However, the number of ecosystems is limited; there is room for a maximum of three to four partners.
- Regulation on access to the digital assistant: The user should be able to choose from whom he would like to be supplied. “Always the Germans with their regulation” I already hear the complaints. In this case, regulation must be carried out as quickly as possible, because the regulatory process takes time and if the policy does not see in two to three years what has emerged as a market power and then only begins with regulation, it is too late. The German supermarket landscape is then irreparably damaged. Only in this way, for example, regional organic food stores can be maintained, which then provide the user in the vicinity with high-quality and environmentally friendly products. What needs to happen in this case is an open standard and an interface to the “personal assistants” (some of which may be some), so the suppliers can adapt their systems, so there must be an online shop for “Personal Assistants “
In contrast to autonomous vehicles, which are so often referred to, food deliveries are already possible with the aid of voice assistants. It is estimated that Amazon Prime Now has already implemented EUR 40 to 50 million in Munich, “Echo” and “Echo Dot” are now entering the German market. The order is currently still being invited and it takes several weeks for the invitation to be received. AmazonFresh will be launched in 2017 in Germany.
Will Germany oversleep another trend?
It is a multi-billion-dollar market that is changing disruptively. If Amazon alone takes this market for itself, because it is the only player who is able to do it at all, Germany will have to be reproached for having overslept another digital revolution.Looking at the future, the next logical step is to link “echo” to a screen and a camera. Then it is the textile trade, when the clothing is superimposed on the camera image by means of augmented reality and can be put on virtually without leaving the house. This is much more intuitive than scrolling through online shop pages and thinking about what might suit you. Zalando, do you hear the signals?
Looking at the future, the next logical step is to link “echo” to a screen and a camera. Then it is the textile trade when the clothing is superimposed on the camera image by means of augmented reality and can be put on virtually without leaving the house. This is much more intuitive than scrolling through online shop pages and thinking about what might suit you. Zalando, do you hear the signals?
About the Author: Anton Klotz founded two startups, one of them, spar-radar.com, is located in the mobile environment. He is a graduate in microelectronics and is now the University Program Manager at Cadence Design Systems. Other interests are Eastern Europe, slanting music and clever books on the world order.
This entry first appeared on mobile zeitgeist.