Alignment used to be limited to the front wheels on your car. Today the term describes unusual changes in retailer behavior trying to be at the intersection of customer wants, product location and time.
Look at the Aetna/CVS merger. Aetna is a large health insurer and CVS is a delivery vehicle for products consumed in health care. Their alignment provides specific deliverables to a captive customer base.
Amazon and Whole Foods do not have such handcuffed customers, but they are working together to bring products to the customer at whatever time or place is convenient. Recent Whole Foods shelf stock issues show that this endeavor is indeed complicated. Amazon Fresh has struggled to right size and right locate its facilities amidst the changing landscape.
What about the apparel and home goods giant Kohl’s soliciting food purveyors to take over excess space in their expansive brick and mortar locations? They are hoping to capitalize on their locations while providing a broad array of goods just like Walmart/Target/Meijer. Once you are in the store they want you to stay for as many items as possible.
What will be next? What alignment will bring disparate entities together to serve the changing customer preferences? Nothing is off limits or out of the realm of possibility. Disruptive technology will change just about every aspect of our lives. Keep watching for trends to emerge then jump aboard quickly. Always be alert and ready to embrace the next change that spawns new alignment.