Four years ago, we started to wonder—what would shopping look like if you could walk into a store, grab what you want and just … go?
That's how the ad for Amazon Go begins. Released late last year, it promises an idyllic grocery store experience in which you no longer have to queue and fiddle with your wallet to pay for pork loins and cereal. Everything happens automatically, and the goods are delivered to your door.
In case you don't remember, here it is:
The video is filled with cutesy touches that follow shoppers who emanate peace and serenity, unencumbered by ghastly lines, payments and remembering the damn reusable bags.
There's been much ado about that technology since. But if you're rolling your eyes, you're not alone. French grocery chain Monoprix and agency Rosapark have released a video that follows Amazon's ad nearly line by line … to show people it's been delivering on Go's promise for a while now.
Scenes from the original are repeated, down to the last à la carte indulgence … with two cents added in a French accent. To get a sense of how tightly Monoprix cleaves to Amazon's script—the better to overturn it—here's the first line: "Over 10 years ago, we were wondering—what would shopping look like if you could walk into a store, grab what you want and just go?"
Seriously. They could've just sent this directly to Amazon and kicked off with, "We've got six years on you, losers!"
It also highlights the pretentiousness of all that tech-vaunting. Amazon compared its Go technology to what you'd find "in self-driving cars"—a magical mix of "computer vision, deep learning algorithms and sensor fusion" that culminates in something it calls "Just Walk Out" technology.
"We had a vision," Monoprix's narrator says. "We learned about our customers' needs and combined those learnings with Monoprix DNA. We call it human technology."
The message comes across loud and clear: Where Amazon is all bells and whistles, Monoprix is actually in the business of the grocery shopping experience, listening to people who already shop there.
And it didn't even have to make an app for it.
We like the snark, but it's hard to gauge what Monoprix is actually conveying to customers. It oscillates between suggesting it's been doing this longer, and positioning Livraison à Domicile+ (the service's name, which translates to "Home Delivery Plus") as an upgrade from, well, normal home delivery.
In a way, both positions are true, partly because the service is so vague that not everyone knows all the rules: Monoprix does offer free home delivery—in certain stores, once you've spent over 50€ (about $52), and apparently only if you're pregnant, disabled or holding a store card.
You may be charged a negligible packaging fee (1€). Some stores may charge an extra 5€, and the website specifies it won't deliver frozen products, certain fresh ones, or items that are "exceptionally heavy."
A separate register manages these purchases. You do have to wait in line—watching, bleary-eyed, as a cashier rings up each item. Delivery sometimes happens within the hour (as the narrator promises) but usually within about three (which the website—and experience—verify).
Here's where that special "Plus" comes in: People can, if they wish, opt to pay the delivery guy at home if they don't want to pay in-store. But it's unclear who knew about that perk before today, or even whether all participating home delivery stores offer it.
With all this in mind, it's hard to like the ad, which rings defensive and deceptively simple—more a message to Amazon than to customers. It also sheds unintended light on the hole Amazon is threatening to fill in the first place: That "more human touch" Monoprix claims to have mastered is actually not a commodity yet, but it could be if retailers get nervous enough.
Amazon may have global resources, lots of technology and piles of investment cash. But Monoprix already has the stores, the customers and (yes!) a home delivery service that works reasonably well. So instead of hyping it up—and throwing sand at some brand that isn't even on the ground yet—Monoprix could focus transforming on Amazon Go's promises into a universal standard, well before the latter opens house on French soil.
Because we don't doubt that Monoprix has a good handle on what people want. The danger is in focusing too much on a potential competitor (a strategy that historically tends to fare poorly) and not seizing the opportunity to just be better.