Author Archives: CONTEXT

Is Amazon’s bid for Whole Foods a big blunder, or another brilliant Bezos strategy?

In the past couple of weeks, the news from the United States has been filled with headlines about Amazon’s pending acquisition of Whole Foods.

Amazon’s current bid for Whole Foods is the largest acquisition deal attempted by far. CEO Jeff Bezos is paying a premium price ($13.7bn USD) for a marginally profitable retailer who has not been growing. And the price may go higher if other suitors consider higher offers for Whole Foods in order to block Amazon’s acquisition of a nationwide retail food store chain.

As omnichannel shoppers continue to seek convenience of home delivery, a major obstacle has been the vexing problem of the “last mile” – moving quality fresh food from the warehouse to the customer’s house. Will this be the magic marriage that enables Amazon to leapfrog the competition? Or is Amazon’s move to owning stores a recipe for failure by reaching too far beyond its core business?

In this piece, we explore the pros and cons of the Amazon deal with a perspective by Context’s Global Managing Director Adam Simon, and omnichannel strategist Chris Petersen.

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Reasons why Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is a recipe for failure – Adam Simon

  1. Amazon’s business model is ecommerce, not running stores

Amazon has built a tremendously successful model based upon online ecommerce. It specializes in warehouse, distribution and logistics to deliver items directly to consumers. Aside from a couple of pilot stores, it has no experience, team or systems in place to turn around a chain of 440 bricks and mortar stores with relatively flat growth and marginal profitability. Rather than be saddled with a retailer’s legacy systems and real estate, Amazon would be better off growing its own version. Or it could have acquired a chain with smaller format stores which would have better fitted the click and collect model.

  1. Whole Foods is upscale pricing and not consistent with Amazon’s strength for the masses

The standing cliché is that when people shop at Whole Foods they spend their whole paycheck. By design, Whole Foods offers very unique items and fresh organic foods at premium prices. Amazon is aggressively competing with Walmart in the US who is focused on the mainstream and value pricing. Whole Foods product range and high prices do not offer Amazon a competitive advantage in acquiring stores with broad customer appeal. Whole Foods brand and pricing is also inconsistent with Amazon’s own “Fresh” approach already in market.

  1. Mixing Amazon and Whole Foods cultures are like oil and water

Previous Amazon acquisitions like Zappos were designed to expand categories (shoes and apparel) but were also consistent with and built upon Bezos philosophy of “customer first” and ease of use. It’s not that Whole Foods is anti-customer, but the stores and culture were built around product differentiation and segmentation. The management philosophy and pay scales of Whole Foods are quite different from Bezos’ empire in Seattle.

Why Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods is brilliant retail disruption – Chris Petersen

  1. Bezos is investing for 2024 … the play for Whole Foods is not about grocery stores

If you follow Jeff Bezos the CEO of Amazon, he operates with a long-term vision. He has discussed how teams are in the process of planning the first half of 2024 today. Dennis Berman from the Wall Street Journal perhaps best summarized the Whole Foods acquisition:

“Amazon did not just buy Whole Foods grocery stores. It bought 431 upper-income, prime-location distribution nodes for everything it does.”

To underscore the value of an Amazon total integrated play, Whole Foods 440 stores gives Amazon to refrigerated warehouses within 10 miles of the about 80% of the US population. That kind of reach goes a long way of delivering fresh food the last mile to your door.

  1. Whole Foods enables Amazon to rapidly disrupt with its ecosystem

The Whole is greater than the sum of the parts [pun intended] and the parts of the Amazon ecosystem are formidable. Amazon has 100 million Prime members. Imagine what they could offer Prime subscribers in terms of preferred discounts and services in 440 stores. Amazon just announced a $20 version of an Alexa device built for ordering food and getting recipes … a perfect recipe for the Whole Foods concept and persona of fresh and organic.

  1. A core category of all households and the Prime subscription model is “food”

Half of Walmart’s core business is food and consumables, and it drives more than 100 million customers through its doors every week. It makes perfect sense why Amazon would buy grocery stores as opposed versus another type of retailer. As far as Whole Foods notoriously high prices, Amazon is the world’s best at shrinking supply chain costs and negotiating with suppliers. What better way to launch retail stores than to go after a category that drives weekly traffic and is synonymous with a subscription model augmented by Alexa and Dash reorders.

The future of retail is “hybrid”. Bricks and mortar retailers have been racing to build an online presence. Ecommerce realises the need to build a physical presence to complete the customer experience and establish an outpost for the last mile, especially in categories like food.

Will the Amazon big bet of 13.7 billion USD on grocery stores pay off? Chances are we won’t have to wait 7 years to find out. The “food wars” are already underway and we have a ring side seat.

It’s a great time to be a consumer! A very challenging time to be a retailer bridging both the digital and physical world.

 

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GTDC EMEA Summit – Positive at the midpoint of the year

At the recent GTDC EMEA Summit, the CONTEXT data and team were in evidence as the preliminary results of its annual 2017 ChannelWatch survey were unveiled in a dedicated workshop, and the GTDC Rising Star awards were selected using the CONTEXT data.

There was a real buzz this year with over 175 attendees, a record number of vendors, and senior executives from across the industry. The location was excellent with top class hospitality in the Kempinski Hotel in Vienna.

The conference opened with an upbeat introductory speech from Tim Curran, the CEO of the GTDC. Europe is on the move, growing faster than the US, and with excellent results in Q1 2017. Curran also took the occasion to remind members of the services provided by the GTDC.

We were then treated to a fascinating glimpse into the future by “futurist and humanist” Gerd Leonhard. Bringing together a myriad of ideas about the current technology explosion, he closed off his speech with a slide which really sums up the challenge ahead. Humans can only advance at a linear pace, whereas technology capabilities are advancing exponentially. We need to deal with this so that we don’t become “useless humans” and we must channel the new technology to the benefit of all mankind.

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From GTDC Keynote Presentation by Gerd Leonhard, 13/6/2017 ©

The final session of the morning, before breaking off into workshops and 1-to-1 meetings, was a Distribution panel, hosted by Peter Ward. On the panel were Graeme Watt, formerly CEO of Avnet Europe, now SVP Value at Tech Data; Jeremy Butt, Executive VP of Westcon EMEA; Ilona Weiss, CEO of ABC Data; Eric Nowak, President of Arrow ECS EMEA; Svens Dinsdorfs, CEO of Elko; and Anton Herbst, Head of Strategy at Tarsus.

The discussions were broad-ranging around the future of Distribution, the impact of recent consolidations, and there was a plea from Graeme Watt for vendors to think solutions not products, in order to get the right results for customers. An interesting debate took place about the importance of recruiting and retaining the best talent in the tech industry, a challenging area. One of the panellists said that often when people have been trained up in a specialist area, they are subsequently targeted for recruitment by resellers or vendors. This is definitely the stuff of future discussions for this audience to grapple with and find solutions.

In the CONTEXT workshop the preliminary results of the ChannelWatch survey for 6 out of 17 countries – UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Poland – were presented. A number of questions were asked by attendees at the GTDC conference who were curious to know more. As Andy Dow, Group Marketing Director of Tech Data UK said, “The more deeply you dive, the more you understand that you need to dive even deeper.”

In this year’s ChannelWatch survey we had an overwhelming response of nearly 7,000 resellers, supported by our distributor partners who shared the survey with their reseller clients. The respondents were mainly owners, CEO’s and senior management, covered a broad spectrum of resellers, VAR’s, etailers and retailers, as well as small, medium and large sized companies.

Overall resellers in these countries are confident about 2016 and optimistic about 2017. This has been confirmed by a stellar opening to 2017 with 5% growth in Q1 panel revenues in these countries compared to last year, ranging from 13% growth in Spain to 1% in the UK. The outlying country for optimism is Spain (71% think that 2017 will be better than 2016) and the country with the highest number of doubters is the UK where 20% see 2017 as being worse than 2016.

The preliminary ChannelWatch data supports the encouraging opening talk by Tim Curran, and we look forward to a positive second half of the year.

The full results of the ChannelWatch survey will be made available in the coming weeks.

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by AS

 

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Filed under Enterprise IT, Home automation, IT Distribution, IT Pricing, Market Analysis, Mobile technology, PCs

Apple’s Public Secret: Macs and PC Gaming

For those financial analysts who took the time to comb through Apple’s fiscal fourth quarter results last year, it was noted that despite overall declines, Apple Services – the division which includes Apple Music, Apple Pay, and the App Store – posted very healthy growth of 24% up to $6.3 billion. If this growth continues the Services division is on track to become a Fortune 100 company in its own right later this year. A decent proportion of that revenue will come from mobile games. It’s fair to say that mobile gaming has a far wider market reach than console or PC, partly due to cost and accessibility; the success of apps like Angry Birds and Pokémon GO are a testament to its appeal. Indeed, mobile gaming is generally seen as socially more acceptable than PC or console gaming, which still has a reputation (at least in many European countries) as being the preserve of the youth and hobbyists where a much larger financial commitment is required.

Despite the importance of gaming to the mobile platform, and increasingly to the stagnating PC market, Apple has resisted overtly marketing towards gamers, instead leaving that up to individual app studios. This is understandable for a brand which positions itself as luxury/lifestyle, the technical equivalent to a designer fashion label, allowing for Apple products to perpetually command high ASPs. Just as the iPhone/iPad is now the gaming platform of choice for many consumers, Macs can be considered a PC gaming alternative. According to the latest survey from Valve’s Steam cloud gaming platform – the most important global online shop for PC games – Mac OSX now makes up 3% of all users, with 50% of those users being Macbook Pro owners. Back in 2015 Valve stated that Steam had over 125 million players, meaning that even two years ago there were 3.75m Mac OS gamers on their platform alone. Looking further into Steam’s data, the top selling games for Mac OSX include all of the world’s biggest eSports titles such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

A common question repeatedly asked by channel and vendor partners is why CONTEXT includes Macs as part of the PC gaming market. The simple answer is that when the PC market is segmented according to what is gaming capable based upon system specs, Macs are part of the gaming market. At the low-end of the market, Apple has a healthy share thanks to the high number of iMacs utilising the AMD Radeon R9 M390 and similar GPUs. This configuration will not allow for full GFX settings on many AAA game titles, however it will still run popular games with acceptable framerates. Thanks to Apple’s announcement in early June that high-end VR-ready GPUs would soon be available either as a tethered add-on or as a standard system spec, Macs will be better equipped to compete in the enthusiast-end of the PC gaming market. In the case of the Thunderbolt 3 external GPU, this allows for a VR-ready upgrade at $599. This might seem steep given that AMD’s Radeon RX 580 retails for $300, however $599 is still cheaper than buying a new VR-ready notebook, and the dev kit also comes with a $100 discount on the HTC Vive.

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In the fashion world, high-end products are sometimes adopted by a non-target market – the story of Burberry’s clothing in the UK is a good example – and PCs have a history of being co-opted for purposes beyond the vendor intention. In the end, consumers will always have the final say on how they want to use a technology; as the Apple Services financials show, a vendor may wish to keep their success a public secret.

by JW

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Filed under gaming, Mobile technology, PCs

WannaCry Ransomware Outbreak Drives Surge in Security Software Sales

It’s that time again when hundreds of exhibitors showcase the most relevant IT security solutions and discuss the issues that keep businesses awake at night at this week’s Infosecurity Europe show in London. Ransomware, IoT, Business Email Compromise, these are just some of the hot topics being discussed at the annual event.

It’s been over three weeks since WannaCry caused widespread chaos as it wormed its way through servers and PCs across the planet. The threat itself has at this stage largely been contained, but now the dust has settled on one of the highest profile malware campaigns in recent memory, we thought it would be useful to examine whether there’s been any impact on channel sales.

The 4000% year over year increase in Week 20 security sales is a strong indicator that organisations have indeed been prompted by the ransomware outbreak to invest in cybersecurity tools.

A global incident
Cyber attack campaigns don’t come much bigger than WannaCry. The exact scale of the incident is still not fully known, but after less than two days the ransomware had infected over 200,000 users and organisations across 150 countries, according to Europol. In fact, the total number of infections could now be in the millions, according to reports. It featured two NSA exploits, dubbed DoublePulsar and EternalBlue, which had been published online by a group known as the Shadow Brokers. It’s widely believed that another group then took these and repackaged them so that, once on a target network, the malware searched worm-like for other machines to infect, both inside that network and externally.

The speed and scale with which WannaCry spread raises some interesting questions about the state of security in many organisations. For one thing, it exploited a known Windows vulnerability, patched weeks earlier by Microsoft after the NSA informed the company. That tells us many organisations and consumers fail to follow best practice security by keeping their systems up-to-date at all times.

It also highlighted the catastrophic real-world impact that malicious code can have. Scores of NHS organisations were affected and had to shut down key IT systems, causing the cancellation of operations, chemotherapy sessions and other patient appointments. For companies, a similar outcome will have led to lost productivity and service outages, impacting the bottom line and brand reputation.

Prioritising security
It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that CONTEXT data tells us the WannaCry outbreak generated a significant rise in cybersecurity channel sales. We tracked license sales for two categories: Security Suites and Mail Security. The combined figures reveal that sales increased by 4,090 times from week 20 in 2016 to week 20 in 2017. More telling still is the fact that 1.2 million units were sold in the weeks post-WannaCry, compared to a normal run-rate of 20-50,000 units per week.

Cybersecurity specialists need to tread a fine line when engaging with prospective customers, between educating the market and straying into the territory of over-hyping threats to sell products. Yet the uptick in sales following WannaCry shows us that such incidents can certainly focus the minds of IT buyers, and move certain purchases up the priority list.

by MK

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3D Printing: Myths versus reality; today versus tomorrow

3D printing continues to be one of the most disruptive technologies of the era: it looks set to transform everything – age-old manufacturing techniques, hardware supply chains (why warehouse parts when you can print them on demand?), healthcare etc. Just a few years ago, the hype said everyone might have a 3D printer in their house one day, but the reality is that the technology, while ground-breaking, is still complicated. We take a look at a few areas covered recently under the 3D-printing banner in the popular press.

Can you 3D print organs?
No, you cannot 3D print organs today. There are some printers which can extrude (i.e. print) biological matter, and there are indeed research and development efforts to print human tissue, but, in 2017, these represent a very, very small portion of the $5B 3D-printer market. However, the technology is catching on big-time in other aspects of the medical world. One of the key advantages of 3D printing is that it can be used for mass customisation, meaning that one machine can make many subtly unique things. The best examples of this are hearing aids and clear dental braces, both of which have been made by 3D printers for more than fifteen years.

prostetic-1273183_1920There are many of these items produced, and each is unique to an individual patient. Likewise, orthopaedics is a big market for 3D printing. You are probably aware that plastic limbs are 3D printed, but super-high-end metal printers are being used more and more often to make internal prosthetics as well. Hardly a day goes by without a story being written about the production of a titanium skull section or another bone being replaced with a custom-manufactured metal part. These are realities today, not just R&D projects for tomorrow.

Can you 3D print food?
Sort of. This was one of the things all the hype focused on a few years ago. Most of the printers simply extruded different pastes into shapes. True 3D printing is also sometimes called additive manufacturing (the seven core technologies referred to above are actually defined by a manufacturing body called the ASTM). Today’s food 3D printers are not really used for mass-manufacturing, and the number sold to-date is so small as to be hard to count. So the 3D printing of food is really a PR activity rather than a real market (or even sub-market).

Can you 3D print cars?
While a few companies have showcased their ability to 3D print cars, there isn’t yet a car you can buy that that is completely made this way. That said, there is hardly a car you can buy today which doesn’t use 3D printing for some element or part of its construction: the technology may have been leveraged for prototyping the vehicle at all stages of development, or – more and more often – the intricate metal components may be mass-produced using 3D printing.

The automotive industry at large is ripe to make greater use of 3D printing as the falling cost of technology and materials allows additive manufacturing to move beyond the prototyping that was once its niche application, into the much larger market of general manufacturing or mass-production.

The crossover point, where it is less expensive to use 3D printing than traditional manufacturing techniques (such as injection moulding), can be hundreds of thousands of units or, now, even tens of thousands. Mass production in the automotive industry generally refers to much lower volumes than for manufacturers of say smart phones or televisions: if you consider specific companies and their distinct models of car (many of which do not share common components), then mass production can mean tens of thousands of parts (versus millions) – a volume now viable with the reality of today’s 3D printers.

Can you 3D print buildings?
This one continues to catch a lot of media attention, especially in the Middle East and emerging markets. You can indeed use some of the techniques of traditional 3D printing at VERY large scales to, for example, extrude cement instead of plastic. To be honest, however, this is not really part of today’s 3D printing market, and with the references to “3d printing” made mostly to help describe the technique used to create structures layer-by-layer.

Can you 3D print jet engine parts?
For sure. The best use case of 3D printing today, the poster child if you will, is in GE’s jet-engine fuel nozzle. This complex, unique part can only be made by metal additive manufacturing – traditional techniques are not capable of creating such an object. GE continues to be one of the world’s biggest users of 3D printing and is so bullish about the technology that it is buying metal 3D-printing companies to make machines not only for their own use but also to sell to others. The aerospace industry as a whole is one of the largest markets for 3D printers today, with the technology now being leveraged for true mass-production of parts as well as prototyping.

by CC

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SH&BA – Convergence of the transformation of our digital lifestyle

The SH&BA – Smart Home and Builders’ Association – Retailer & Manufacturer Panel met this past week in London. The attendees were truly a reflection of the convergence of the devices and technology in our homes and lifestyle. Participants represented a variety of industries and sectors including: manufacturing, vendors, retailers, associations, government agencies as well as academia and industry experts. What does such a diverse group of attendees gather to discuss?

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Smart Home – The hub of a digital lifestyle
IoT (internet of Things) devices have been in existence for a couple of decades. They enable connecting a variety of devices to the internet to send and receive data. That capability is not very exciting for most customers. But the ability to use IoT to monitor household utility connections to save money becomes a much more compelling reason for consumers to consider a “smart” home.

Many of the examples discussed in the SH&BA forum were about the increasing ease of use for consumers, and the value the smart devices play in making life convenient. Steve Moore from Dixons Carphone illustrated how their Honey Bee becomes a hub to connect many devices in the home. And even more importantly, it becomes the homeowners’ support centre where they can get answers to questions about devices they own. Steve Moore perhaps best summarised the key to Smart Home expansion by saying that we are at the stage where our “Goal is to take the friction out of life”.

Maybe we shouldn’t be calling it “Smart”
Rick Hartwig from the IET (Institute of Engineering and Technology) made the interesting point that we shouldn’t be using the term “Smart” home. Smart implies futuristic … a long way off. Mr. Hartwig argued that in many ways aspects of the digital “smart” home are already here. Most customers who are online already have at least one device beyond a PC connected to an internet. In the near future, energy and power consumption will be prime drivers for the home owner to adopt “smart” connected technology which adapts its settings to hours of the day in order to save energy.

The Power of Voice is rapidly accelerating adoption
One of the most exciting buzz factors in the smart home arena is the power of voice control. Initially propelled by Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple and Microsoft are all rushing ahead with voice control speakers which become more humanised “hubs” for a variety of smart devices throughout the home.

Keynote speaker Theunis Scheepers brought some cutting edge examples from the evolution of the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. The speaker is the “human portal”, but the real genius is the Alexa cloud platform. The Alexa cloud is essentially an API system that enables partners to connect their devices to Alexa for voice control. In reality the Echo device is an array microphone and speaker – the “smart” is in the cloud that enables the customer to interact in a very natural way of using their voice to direct their digital lifestyle.

Theunis Scheepers

The Future of Smart Home
Adam Simon, from CONTEXT and Chair of the SH&BA Association, updated the group on the latest CONTEXT Smart Home Survey. The trends are clear, and consistently upward.   More consumers are aware of “smart home” and more plan to purchase a device for their home, but the patterns vary significantly by country.

From a consumer perspective, smart home adoption is still a “mid-term” play with purchases planned on 3 to 5 year horizon.   The exception is in the builder market where whole house adoption is accelerating because it is “built in” as the backbone of the home and constitutes a relatively small part of the overall home market.

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If there was one clear consensus and predictor for Smart Home it is that the power of voice will rapidly accelerate adoption. Amazon reported that Echo is now selling at 9X the holiday rate, and the Echo Dot is being bundled as a 6 pack so consumers can cover every room of their house. With the speaker hub and API cloud system we have now reached a stage similar to that of the smartphone with apps that make a connected life possible and convenient.

The next Retailer & Manufacturer Panel will be on 14th November, 2017.

For more information about SH&BA or if you are interested to attend the SH&BA panel please email marketing@shaba.eu

Guest blog by Chris Petersen, IMS

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Filed under Connectivity, Home automation, Mobile technology, Retail, Smart Home, Smart Technology

At the heart of the CIO’s agenda: Business analytics is the stand-out technology investment in 2017

The recently published “State of IT” 2017 annual survey by Salesforce reveals that IT in industry is experiencing the biggest historical shift of its role to date, from a straightforward cost centre to a service delivering value and innovation, the “central nervous system” of modern business, “partnering with departments to orchestrate experiences with connected data sources and new capabilities”.

With this has come a significant change in the role of the Chief information officer (CIO). No longer just there to keep the lights on, the CIO is increasingly at the heart of the enterprise providing more customer-focused business analytics. Vala Afshar, Salesforce Chief Digital Evangelist, writes that “to be successful, modern CIOs must abandon their tendencies toward control and adopt an outlook that is more collaborative and customer-centric than ever.” There is evidence already that this attitude is becoming commonplace, with 61% of IT leaders saying that providing a single view of the customer is a high priority over the next 12–18 months.

Despite this shift, there remains an uncomfortable mismatch between business strategy and expectations, as CIO priorities are evolving rapidly but traditional views of the CIO as chiefly an operational role are yet to be shrugged off. The Salesforce survey found that 77% of IT leaders now view IT as an extension/partner of business units rather than a separate function. Yet a CIO survey by Deloitte’s found that while 78% of the CIOs polled said that strategic alignment on IT was essential to their success, only 36% ranked their organisation as “excellent” or “leading” in this capability.

A look at IT distribution
Like the business CIO, technology distributors worldwide are intent on making analytics a key area of investment. GTDC’s recently published report, “Insights into 2017 – Channel Executives and distribution leaders share their partner perspectives”, considered analytics as a key focus for distributors. Far from being a new area, analytics in 2017 promises distributors further innovation, incremental revenue and profit potential through the development of complex business intelligence (BI) solutions. As one Distribution executive put it:

“We’re using Analytics to identify opportunities for our business partners. For example, bringing new products to partners. We continually do an analysis of customers for the last two years. We have to move faster in investing in some next-generation areas and help our partners learn how to monetize these new opportunities. That’s really key for us.” — Miriam Murphy, Senior Vice President, North Region EMEA, Avnet TS.

Key questions for CONTEXT’s upcoming Channel Research Group
CONTEXT will be exploring the role of BI and analytics in the inaugural meeting of its Channel Research Group on May 30th in London, UK, asking the following questions to its Distribution, Reseller and Vendor partners:

  • What kind of opportunity is BI/Analytics to your business?
  • Has your company benefited from BI/Analytics information provided by a 3rd party?
  • How are you currently investing in BI? Is this for your own business or to help your partners develop BI solutions in their business?

For more information on CONTEXT’s Channel Research Group, please contact us!

by CS

 

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Filed under Enterprise IT, IT Distribution, Market Analysis