Data Sheet—Amazon’s Multi-Pronged Whole Foods Attack

August 25, 2017, 12:35 PM UTC

Digital transformation is all the rage. With few exceptions, every business now grapples with how the digital economy changes how things were done in the past. Traditional industries wonder worriedly how they’ll be able to keep up.

Take note, then, that a master class on digital transformation is about to begin. Amazon announced Thursday that it will complete its purchase of Whole Foods on Monday. The screaming headlines focused, rightly, on Amazon’s promise to transform “Whole Paycheck” to affordable organics. Amazon will apply its consumer-friendly cost-cutting regimen to a range of Whole Foods products.

The bigger news, though, was how Amazon intends to make Whole Foods into a digital powerhouse—or least how it’ll integrate Whole Foods into its digital engine. The high-end supermarket’s loyalty program will become Amazon Prime, instantly boosting the value of the Whole Foods shopping experience and of Amazon’s free-delivery-and-other-benefits program.

Amazon also plans to put many Whole Foods products onto its online platforms, including many that hadn’t previously been available through e-commerce. This will be a possible step function up for Whole Foods and a boon to Amazon too.

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Lastly, for now, Amazon plans to test its delivery “lockers” in Whole Foods stores. This drop-off location service is good for Amazon’s shoppers and also enhances the traffic potential for Whole Foods.

Each initial innovation that Amazon is bringing to Whole Foods is something the grocer either couldn’t or didn’t do for itself. At the same time, Amazon is able to “synergize” its e-commerce machine with one of the premier non-digital brands in the country.

Let the transformation commence.


Ready, set, go public. Spotify signed a new deal with the third major record label, Warner Music, completing the triple play it needs before going public. Alongside earlier agreements with Universal Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment, the deal should help the streaming giant attain profitability sooner.

How much is that phone in the window? After rumors that the price of Apple's new high-end iPhone might be as high as $1,500, the New York Times reported on Thursday that the device will start at about $999, in the same league with Samsung's new $950 Galaxy Note 8. Apple is also going to update its long-neglected Internet video box, the Apple TV. Bloomberg reports that the update, the first since 2015, will feature 4K resolution, better integration with live TV, and, hopefully, a brand new remote control to replace the misfire Apple created last time around.

Do not pass Go. Samsung's leader Jay Y. Lee was found guilty on Friday of bribery and embezzlement and was sentenced to five years in prison. Lee's lawyers said he would appeal.

Big bucks. Is the goal of SoftBank Group's almost-$100 billion Vision Fund to bail out every highly valued private startup? On Thursday, the fund run by Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son invested $3 billion in office sharing startup WeWork with another $1.4 billion going to WeWork's Asian subsidies.

In need of big bucks. Maybe Son will get interested in consumer virtual reality hardware next and bail out struggling smartphone maker HTC? The Taiwanese gadget maker is thinking of spinning off its Vive VR unit amid plummeting sales of its smartphones, Bloomberg reports.

Big bucks at stake. VC firm and Uber investor Benchmark went to court on Thursday to thwart former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick from filling two vacant seats on the company's board of directors. Kalanick's potential continued involvement is messing up the effort to replace him, Benchmark claims. "Mr. Kalanick’s actions are chilling the search process," the firm said in a filing.

Fix it. HP Inc.'s revenue grew 10% to $13.1 billion in its most recent quarter, despite the slightly different figures I included in yesterday's newsletter. Apologies for the error.


Burger King Now Has Its Own Cryptocurrency—the ‘Whoppercoin’—in Russia by Natasha Bach

Why HP Inc. and Deloitte Are Going Big on 3D Printing by Jonathan Vanian

Facebook and Twitter Will Stream College Football This Season by Chris Morris

Mark Cuban’s New Blockchain Project: The Future of Social Media and Messaging? by Jeff John Roberts

What Google’s Deal With Marketo Means for Its Cloud Wars With Amazon and Microsoft by Barb Darrow

KFC Employees Can Fry Chicken in Virtual Reality by Jonathan Vanian

Why Bluetooth Headset Sales Are Booming by Aaron Pressman


If most of the manufacturing jobs that left America are gone for good, what's the answer for millions of displaced workers? University of Virginia professor Ed Hess says workers need new skills, and they're not the usual computer coding or other STEM-related know-how typically being promoted.

To avoid being replaced by smart machines, workers need to become more human than ever, with a focus on "the ability to tame one’s ego and connect with others creatively," Hess says. He explains further:

These traits are what it means to be “smart” now. It’s a new definition that reflects the increasing cognitive capabilities of smart machines, so it’s measured not by quantity—how much you know—but by the quality of your thinking, learning, and relating to others.


A few interesting longer reads I came across this week, suitable for perusing over the weekend.

The Great Silicon Valley Land Grab
For the residents of East Palo Alto, each new building the tech industry throws up, bringing with it thousands more software developers, adds to the encroaching gentrification—and gives another turn of the screw to the housing crisis the city shares with much of Silicon Valley.

Meet the Streamers Using Twitch to Pay for College
As she neared 24 straight hours of playing Dead Space, Kaitlyn Richelle watched in shock as a $250 donation flashed across her screen. “That’s the goal,” she shouted. “That’s the tuition.” She paused her Twitch stream, struggling to get a full sentence out. She had just raised $5,000 to help pay for medical school.

The Great Pot Monopoly Mystery
Some very powerful people are trying to corner the market on legal weed and turn their company into the Monsanto of marijuana. Who are they? And can they be stopped?

1 million People Pay Nothing for Cellphone Service, So How Does FreedomPop Make Money?
FreedomPop has raised $109 million in venture capital, and the company could become self-reliant soon if, as expected, it generates profit for the first time this winter. Stokols declined to provide specific financial figures.


Like many of the best science fiction writers, William Gibson is actually a brilliant observer of our current condition. In an interview with New York Magazine this week, he offered a new observation about the pessimistic way we view ourselves now.

Seriously, what I find far more ominous is how seldom, today, we see the phrase “the 22nd century.” Almost never. Compare this with the frequency with which the 21st century was evoked in popular culture during, say, the 1920s.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.

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