Archives for November 2017

Amazon offers BOPIS at Whole Foods

By Ben Ames | November 29, 2017 | 12:59 PM

Log on to your favorite online retailer to do a little holiday shopping this week, and you will be wooed at every click with offers of free shipping for your purchase. However, nothing in life is truly free. One of my favorite high school teachers used to write “TANSTAAFL” on the blackboard each morning as an acronym for the phrase “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.”

So e-commerce companies are getting creative in finding ways to convince consumers to pay for “free” delivery. Now Amazon.com Inc., the 800-pound gorilla of online retailers, is trying a new version of the strategy known as buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS). The Seattle-based mega-store is offering free shipping to customers who are willing to pick up their packages at the nearest Whole Foods Market.

The approach is a twist on Amazon’s “Order online, pick up today” service, where the company delivers parcels to a centralized bank of lockers instead of covering last-mile routes all the way to consumers’ front doors. Here in Boston, for example, there’s an Amazon locker facility on busy Commonwealth Avenue, located a few doors down from a CVS drugstore and across the street from Boston University.

Both approaches cut the retailer’s cost of providing “free shipping” by turning the shopper into his own last-mile delivery driver. But installing those lockers in a grocery store might encourage some shoppers to pick up a bag of organic avocados and some cage-free eggs while they’re claiming their cardboard package of e-commerce books and electronics. After all, Amazon paid $13.7 billion to buy the upscale grocery chain in June, and its new strategy shows one way that the retailer is trying to the get full value of its purchase.

This reporter will give the new system a try this holiday season. On Cyber Monday, I joined millions of Americans in doing some online Christmas shopping, and opted for Amazon’s free locker delivery at my neighborhood Whole Foods. Time will tell if my parcel of books smells like manchego cheese and artisanal crackers.

MIT prez issues “call to action” on balancing robotic automation with human work skills

By Ben Ames | November 10, 2017 | 12:42 PM

The president of MIT says a wave of industrial automation is about to sweep over society, and it is up to the developers and deployers of that technology to find a way to balance the rise of robots with the preservation of human jobs.

“Automation will transform our work, our lives, our society,” L. Rafael Reif, president of Cambridge, Mass.-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), wrote in an editorial today in The Boston Globe. “Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, fair or laissez-faire, is up to us.”

Faced with a culture where many Americans are worried that widespread technology in the workplace may trigger economic inequality or unemployment, business leaders must strike a balance between its costs and benefits, he said.

“Those of us leading and benefitting from the technology revolution must lead the way. This is not someone else’s problem; it is a call to action,” said Reif. “It is up to those of us advancing new technologies to help make certain that they do wind up damaging the society we intend them to serve."

One way to provide new skills for people whose jobs were replaced by technology is to provide “continuous uptraining,” a process that allows employees to acquire fresh skills every week, month, or year, Reif said. An example of that approach is the online “MicroMasters” course that MIT itself provides in supply chain management, as well as other topics, he said.

Some of Reif’s additional strategies for “reinventing the future of work” include:

  • ensuring every graduate is computationally literate,
  • encouraging students to design technology solutions that improve other human values than just efficiency,
  • creating machines that make humans more effective instead of obsolete, and
  • reinvesting some of the profits achieved through automation in job development.

The opinions expressed herein are those solely of the participants, and do not necessarily represent the views of Agile Business Media, LLC., its properties or its employees.

Thoughts from our editors.

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