After more than a year of testing, Amazon finally let everyday consumers into its Amazon Go checkout-free convenience store in Seattle on Jan. 22. The 1,800-square-foot store was first unveiled in December 2016, but had only been open to Amazon employees.
The Amazon Go store mostly sells food items, including the company’s exclusive meal kits.
In the store, shoppers use the Amazon Go app, holding their smartphone near a scanner as they enter a store. Once inside, the store’s “Just Walk Out” technology — a combination of sensors, computer vision and deep learning — detects what’s taken off and returned to shelves, keeping track inside a virtual cart. Once finished, shoppers can leave the store and are automatically charged on their Amazon accounts.
For now, Amazon is testing the concept on a limited basis and has no plans to implement the technology in Whole Foods stores. But expanding the technology would certainly be beneficial for the retailer and the consumer if the technology is as successful as advertised.
Amazon would continue to collect consumer data from every shopper based on their in-store shopping decisions, and use it to deliver more relevant offers online. Shoppers could pick up the merchandise they need and simply leave the store, without waiting in line for a cashier or having to scan items at a self-checkout platform.
Cashierless Shopping Set To Become A Reality
Now that it is no longer in pilot mode, the Amazon Go store is likely to push the “cashierless” trend further ahead. It already has received attention from major retail players such as Walmart and Kroger. The underlying “Just Walk Out” technology also has competition from a lesser known company, Standard Cognition, which has already labeled itself as an “alternative to Amazon Go.” The Standard Cognition platform is designed to enable shoppers to shop and pay without scanning or shopping at checkout. The startup has been in advanced talks with multiple retailers to deploy the technology since August 2017.
Starbucks is getting into the mix as well. The coffee giant is testing a store where shoppers can’t use cash, and can only pay with a card or with a mobile device.
“Will other supermarkets follow Amazon’s example?” said Terry Hunter, UK Managing Director of Astound Commerce, in commentary provided to Retail TouchPoints. “In the short term, this is unlikely. Amazon’s market-leading position and online businesses will provide a financial cushion to support its push into physical retail. The new approach will also take some getting used to by shoppers: the camera identification and tracking technology in use in the store has experienced teething problems, and many consumers will likely see the move as a surveillance step too far.”
Of course, the cashierless technology developments would result in one loser — cashiers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said more than 3.5 million held cashier jobs as of May 2016, with 867,000 of them working in grocery stores and 283,920 working in department stores. If the technology expands enough so that fewer cashiers are necessary, these retailers must figure out a way to efficiently hire people for other positions throughout the store.