Amazon’s Just Walk Out (JWO) technology uses a combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning to allow customers to shop as they normally would, then leave the store with the items they’ve collected without going through a checkout line. Customers do have to either scan their palm, a QR code from the Whole Foods or Amazon app or insert a credit or debit card upon entering and leaving the store, but that’s the only thing that is scanned. (Seven Whole Foods locations in the Seattle area already are using the Amazon One contactless payment solution, which allows customers to pay by scanning their palm.)
Amazon-owned Whole Foods is hardly the first retailer to feature Just Walk Out. The tech first launched at Amazon Go convenience stores in 2017, was then expanded to Amazon Fresh grocery stores and is now used by a number of other retailers with no affiliation to Amazon including Hudson and CIBO Express.
However, the Whole Foods locations will be among the largest stores to have ever deployed the cashierless solution. In a blog post, Dilip Kumar, VP of Physical Retail and Technology at Amazon said that the JWO computer vision algorithms had been expanded to “support all of the Whole Foods Market selection people have come to love.”
“Since Whole Foods Market was founded more than 40 years ago, we have focused on finding new ways to surprise and delight our customers and improve the shopping experience,” said John Mackey, Co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market in a statement. “We can’t wait for customers to experience this effortless, convenient new way to shop at Whole Foods Market.”
Customers at these new Whole Foods won’t have to use JWO if they don’t want to, they can instead choose to use self-checkout lanes. In fact, customers that want to use other forms of payments such as cash or gift cards, as well as anyone without an Amazon account, can still shop at the stores but won’t be able to use JWO.
Despite the fact that almost no staffing will be required for checkout at these two new stores, Amazon said they will still employ a “comparable number” of associates as existing Whole Foods stores of similar sizes. “How team members in the store spend their time is simply shifting, allowing them to spend even more time interacting with customers and delivering a great shopping experience,” said Kumar.
According to Inmar Intelligence, 76% of shoppers who have tried the Amazon Go JWO format prefer it to traditional grocery stores. The rollout of this technology at a traditional grocery store could “send ripples throughout the grocery and retail industry,” said Joe Scioscia, VP of Sales at VAI.
“For both large grocery chains and small local stores, Amazon has shown that consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with a tech-enabled and contactless shopping experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” added Scioscia. “In the next few years, I expect to see other grocery brands ramp up their abilities to offer contactless shopping experiences in connection with both grocery delivery services and curbside pickup.