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Just after Amazon Pantry’s launch at the end of 2015, research was conducted to see how Pantry stacked up on price against the major UK supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons, Waitrose and Ocado) on its selection of approximately 4,000 grocery products.
We discovered that those competing grocers were priced between 16% and 29% higher on identical products.
And while Amazon does not typically disclose exact numbers for services like Pantry, Amazon UK boss Christopher North confirmed that it would be adding thousands more products to Pantry this year given its initial success.
In light of these comments – and Econsultancy’s previous post on whether Pantry will succeed in 2016 - we reassessed Amazon’s price competitiveness (it’s still the lowest-priced, by far), as well as continued to monitor its ratings and reviews situation.
In our previous analysis, just 28% of Pantry products were reviewed.
This blog also examines the creative promotions available to brands on Pantry: ways to improve findability outside of the typical search rankings and category placement pages.
1. Amazon Pantry still the cheapest - by a wide margin
Based on our latest pricing data from January 2016, Amazon Pantry has maintained its significant price advantage: UK supermarkets were priced between 18% and 26% higher on 2,774 identical items.
As in December 2015, Asda remained the retailer closest in price to Pantry – albeit 18% more expensive, on average, compared to 16% in December.
The biggest change came from Waitrose, which went from 29% more expensive than Pantry to 24%, and from Morrisons, which went from just 20% more expensive than Pantry to 25%.
Across most categories, Amazon also remained notably less expensive than the average price compared with the major UK grocers.
The takeaway is clear: Amazon Pantry items are priced as aggressively after launch as they were at launch.
2. Amazon's reviews engine has picked up steam
One of Amazon’s historical advantages is its massive database of customer reviews, which play an important role at every stage of an online shopper’s path-to-purchase: reviews influence search results, impact which product page links shoppers click on, and influence shoppers’ purchase decisions at the key decision point.
Early in December, only 28% of products listed on Amazon Pantry were reviewed, with an average of 50 reviews per product.
By January, the number rose to 38%, which means close to 300 additional listed products gained their first reviews. (The broader base of products with reviews is the reason the average review count per reviewed products dropped from 50 to 40 in January.)
The new reviews were, on the whole, more positive than negative: the average star rating improved slightly from 4.4 to 4.5.
However, while Pantry’s products still lag behind Amazon's best sellers from other categories, it does have some stand-out products, such as this Pampers item which has over 1,000 reviews.
3. Amazon offers creative promotional opportunities on Pantry
A brand’s findability is typically measured through search ranking and category placement.
Amazon Pantry, however, offers creative opportunities for promotions that can improve your products’ visibility, especially in the early stages of this program.
There’s a nice feedback loop that results from findability: the more easily shoppers can find your products, the more sales you will get, the higher you’ll likely rank in search results, the more reviews you’ll get, the more findable you will be, and so on.
'Themed banner promotions' typically entice shoppers to add a few select items – four Pepsi products, for example – to get free delivery.
Beyond the added visibility, these promotions can entice trialists and promote your broader portfolio (by encouraging shoppers to buy both your hand lotion and face wash, for example).
In comparison, 'themed boxes' present shoppers with selections of themed items to add to their Pantry boxes. Like brand-sponsored recipes, themed box promotions help shoppers be fun and creative - importantly, with your products.
These boxes are typically designed for first-time shoppers in mind who might be intimidated by filling up a Pantry box, or shoppers looking for creative ideas to stock up their cupboards.
Boxes can be unique to specific brands, such as the Dove box below, or boxes can be themed and include products from multiple brands.
What does 2016 hold for the UK online grocery market?
Whether Amazon chooses to go it alone with AmazonFresh or through acquisition (Ocado CEO Tim Steiner has recently denied any Amazon-Ocado deal), expect to see lots of change and continued developments within the UK online grocery sector this year.
With the recent announcement that Sainsbury’s has agreed terms to buy Home Retail Group, 2016 is already off to a very interesting start.